When I first started reading comic books back in 1974, the average issue was 20 pages of story and art within a 32 page (counting covers) magazine for 20 cents.

In contrast, the Golden Age of Comic Books began with 64 pages for TEN CENTS.

The first major format change was reducing to 52 pages while maintaining the ten cent cover price.

Further format changes reduced the overall page and content counts while slowly raising the copy price. From ten to twelve cents. Then 15, 20, 25 cents and onward. At one point we were as low as 17 pages of story and art within the average issue for between 25 to 35 cents.

Of course page SIZES also shrunk along the way too, with today's books being even smaller than their Bronze Age counterparts.

What I want to know is:

1. Was the Golden Age page count including covers? If not, that would make it 68 instead of 64.

2. Did going to 52 pages include the covers or were they counted separately?

3. I remember special events like the 9 cent issue of the Fantastic Four, but in this day and age would it even be possible for any comic book company to produce a regular title with all new material for less than $3.99 per issue?

Do we really need the fancier glossy pages of today? It didn't seem to matter back in the late 1980s toward 2000 with offset presses, Baxter format, etc. instead of the general "newsprint" paper that was used before then.

With COVID already the current catalyst for inflation on things like food, gas, etc.; can you imagine what the next price increase for a regular issue of any comic book could be?

The floor is now open to civil discussion(s) on the subject.

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I've said it before and I'll say it again: Getting rid of the glossy paper in comics is like TV and movies going back to black-and-white. It ain't gonna happen.

And as far back as when The New Teen Titans was doing the hardcover/softcover experiment -- new stories in the "hardcover" title printed on Baxter paper and reprints of same a year later in the "softcover" Tales of the Teen Titans title printed on newsprint -- the cost of the paper itself made a negligible difference in the sale price of the comic. 

I don't have much to say about paper quality, nor do I know much about the page counts being an issue. 

However, Weekly Shonen Jump outsells most American comics by a wide margin. I'm pretty sure it's cover priced at 300 yen, or about $3.00. Digital subscriptions cost less. That's for 500 pages per issue, at least half of which are new comics. So, yes, comics can definitely be sold for less than $3.99.

For more information: Shonen Jump Plummets to Lowest Circulation Since 1970s

To save money, I'm reading a lot of comics digitally nowadays. It's not quite the same as physically having that issue in your hands to peruse and enjoy though. However I have noticed that some places seem to think that a brand new/current digital issue should be at least the same price as a physical issue.

I can understand this to a point since creators should be paid for their work, but where do you draw the line in regards to years old back issues? What is an accurate/fair price for a digital copy of an issue from then versus now?

Does age matter, or is it more a question of popularity/history in regards to either a character, creator, or event within that issue?

I have heard that the slick paper is a must in order to use the modern color palette.

I believe that charging cover price for a digital issue is to keep the brick-and-mortar comic shop owners happy. Unless it's a creator-owned title the money is going to the publisher, who didn't have to print and ship it.

Interestingly enough, I think it may be color that is the big expense, not paper quality.

I know I keep bringing up manga, but neither the magazines nor the tankubon feature color outside of the covers (as I understand it, there are occasional color pages for big moments in the most popular Manga but that's a big deal). 

I just think comparing the American market to the Japanese market isn't an apples to apples comparison. I mean Weekly Shonen Jump in an anthology series that has been published consistently for over 50 years.

Not too long ago there was the anthology series It Came out On a Wednesday, it was printed on the old paper and was $1.99 an issue. It didn't last very long.

Randy Jackson said:

Interestingly enough, I think it may be color that is the big expense, not paper quality.

I know I keep bringing up manga, but neither the magazines nor the tankubon feature color outside of the covers (as I understand it, there are occasional color pages for big moments in the most popular Manga but that's a big deal). 

Unfortunately, comparing comics sales in the US to those in Japan runs into the fact that reading for pleasure in the US, including comics, has fallen off a cliff in recent decades. If this wasn't the case, the enormously popular Marvel movies would have created more readers.

Of course, being required to seek out a specialty store in order to buy comics is part of the problem. Even if a potential new reader is willing to pay $4-5 for a "pig-in-a-poke" they will likely be in the middle of a continued story and give up.

I do agree with you that they are very different markets for a number of reasons:

* An eye towards generating new readers. Japanese comics publishers have a really good understanding oc their demographics. In the case of Shonen Jump, it's boys 12-18. The content reflects that with stories aimed at that demographic. American comics seem to have abandoned that demographic. There are Manga for older readers, but it's a smaller demographic. 

* Collections. Tankubon (trade paperbacks) are big business, but from what I can tell, back issue collecting isn't really a thing. 

* Availability - you can find Manga in bookstores and convenience stores, both of which are plentiful in Japan. There are specialty comics shops, but I believe they deal mostly in tankubon and foreign imports. 

Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) said:

I just think comparing the American market to the Japanese market isn't an apples to apples comparison. I mean Weekly Shonen Jump in an anthology series that has been published consistently for over 50 years.

Not too long ago there was the anthology series It Came out On a Wednesday, it was printed on the old paper and was $1.99 an issue. It didn't last very long.

Randy Jackson said:

Interestingly enough, I think it may be color that is the big expense, not paper quality.

I know I keep bringing up manga, but neither the magazines nor the tankubon feature color outside of the covers (as I understand it, there are occasional color pages for big moments in the most popular Manga but that's a big deal). 

Richard Willis said:

Unfortunately, comparing comics sales in the US to those in Japan runs into the fact that reading for pleasure in the US, including comics, has fallen off a cliff in recent decades. If this wasn't the case, the enormously popular Marvel movies would have created more readers.

Of course, being required to seek out a specialty store in order to buy comics is part of the problem. Even if a potential new reader is willing to pay $4-5 for a "pig-in-a-poke" they will likely be in the middle of a continued story and give up.


Randy Jackson said:

I do agree with you that they are very different markets for a number of reasons:

** SNIP **

* Availability - you can find Manga in bookstores and convenience stores, both of which are plentiful in Japan. There are specialty comics shops, but I believe they deal mostly in tankubon and foreign imports. 

You're both right, but one additional wrinkle is that the very existence of bookstores has been precarious. We lost Borders, Books and Music 10 years ago, but at the time, it was a race to see whether they or Barnes and Noble would go under first. Newsstands are totally a thing of the past, and convenience stores devote little shelf space to anything but the local daily newspaper, supermarket tabloids, gossip magazines and specialty pubs full of things like crosswords puzzles and word searches.

This is a great discussion, and I don't want to derail it, but ...

Most publishers dropped from 68 pages to 60 by 1943.

Most publishers dropped from 60 pages to 52 by 1944.

Most publishers dropped from 52 pages to 36 by 1946.

After that, it's a dog's breakfast.

The weirdest thing to me is Fawcett, which would go 52 pages for 3 months, then drop to 36 for one issue, then back up to 52, for most of its titles.

Some of the gyrations may have been due to the availability of paper during the war.

JACK KIRBY (paraphrase from 1985's "Masters of the Comic Book Art"): "The way I understand it, the editorial cartoon came first. Add a couple of panels to that and you've got the comic strip. Add a couple of pages to that and you've got the comic book. As to what we can add to the comic book...? Well, we may have to think about that."

When I think of different formats, I don't think strictly in terms of the number of pages. I think in terms of "prestige format"  or archives or essentials or omnibuses. Sometimes I think of size: BWS's Storyteller or Lone Wolf & Cub or LOAC "Essentials" or "Artist's Editions." My favorite new format is Marvel's reimagined "Treasury Editions" with the plastic covers. 

 

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