On Comics Pricing and Holding the Line

Got on a bit of a musing tonight re: complaints about how a particular comic I read (yeah, it’s MTMTE) has been doing an increasing amount of stuff off-panel, and it’s gotten me wondering, on account of a lot of those complaints tending to come AFTER the pagecount went down from 22 pages to 20 (which was a VERY recent thing; to IDW’s credit they held the line for awhile).
Comics fans often make a lot of noise when prices go up. It’s something they show a distaste for – the whole “HOW DARE YOU raise the cost of this book” with ignorance to how real world economics such as inflation work. And as such you get stuff like comics companies cutting the pagecount.

The pagecount cut preserves that price, because it lowers expenses for the company. What that also means is that they’ve effectively given all the writers/artists/colorists who work on the book a pay cut. Given a lot of comics are all a work-for-hire model without a huge amount in residuals, this is a pretty big hit.
(With stuff like indie books at Image, it’s an incomparable pricing model because artist/writer income is DIRECTLY linked to sales income rather than any front-end payments; as such if you can sell your book, thanks to the lack of overhead you can do pretty well for yourself. Which is probably why, if you notice, a successful Image title can be priced at a lower rate since the writer gets an actual backend cut + full residuals on future sales)
The real harm of this whole page reduction thing for readers though, the way I see it, is it just delays the inevitable but in the long run makes the experience worse. 2 pages here and there is a lot; over 4-5 issues that’s an entire subplot right there. And once the pages are cut, they’re not going to magically come back when prices inevitably rise; rather, you’ll be paying more for the same inferior page count you got instead of an earlier price increase.
Anyway, these are all my musings as a fan who, while he hates when stuff costs more money like anyone else does, understands that there’s valid economic motivators for these increases. And as I muse I can’t help but think this “HOLD THE LINE NO MATTER THE COST” mindset re: comics prices is, in the long run, detrimental. Ultimately the industry would probably be healthier with smaller, more frequent price increases.
As a final observation, to go back to IDW’s Transformers books for a second. In 2006, we got 22 pages on high quality paper (with REALLY good cardstock for the covers, rather than the same paper as interiors) for what was then a premium cost of $3.99 (the industry standard was $2.99 at the time, I believe). First thing to go was the paper quality just becoming “really good” without any thicker covers, and mroe recently it was the page count. All the while $3.99 is now the standard for most books, unless they’re indie titles or digital-centric.
So yeah, just saying.
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