I have been collecting comic for the best part of 20 years. Since my first toe-dipping into the world of comics with 2000AD, Buster, Beano and Dandy in the early 1980s thanks to my Nan working in a newsagents through to Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars and Spiderman and Zoids and the Mighty World of Marvel, I have been an avid reader of comics for as long as I can remember. I even wrote my A-Level thesis on comics and the importance and influence this form of graphical storytelling has had across the globe. I was there waiting back in the 90s for Jim Lee and Chris Claremont’s first issue of X-Men to hit the shelves, I bought Image books in abandon and was a sucker for folium covers and embossed collectors editions, I even bought the entire Spiderman Clone Saga which really shows my dedication to the art form and how long my passion for this hobby has been.
I have over the years read thousands of comics, written many articles about them and continually paid homage to DC, Marvel and all the other publishers of comics out there, making a weekly pilgrimage to one of the numerous comic shops in Birmingham every Thursday, dragging partners, friends and work colleagues with me as I pottered down rain or shine to pick up a bag of comic goodies from the groaning shelves.
However, I think now it’s all over. This isn’t because I have had some epiphany or complete change of heart in collecting comics as a hobby. In no way have I become bored of the characters and plots that inhabit the printed pages. It’s just that for all my passion, dedication and collection of over 10,000 comics, the cold hard facts of economics have come into play and made what was always a costly hobby into one that cannot be justified.
I know people are talking about credit crunches and the woes of the world’s finances and it seems that even the cold light of a bad economy have hit even the most unlikeliest of areas, which includes collecting comics. I haven’t got a bad job and after paying out the needed expenses in life (biscuits, sweets and coffee) have always had enough to be able to splurge a little on my hobby. Some people collect CDs, others trains or stamps; my fiancée collects shoes and bags (at many times, at my expense) and collecting is a natural enjoyable hobby. However, it seems no other hobby has been affected so much by outside forces and also it seems publishers really don’t want people to carry on with collecting.
I am, of course, talking about Marvel who, over the past few weeks, has upped the cost of comics from an average of $2.99 to $3.99, which is a vast increase in price. It’s understandable that raw materials have increased and that Marvel has to pay the bar bill for people like Mark Millar, but, really, this vast increase both on ongoing and new titles has forced the hand of a lot of people to look at their ‘pull-list’ and really see what could be cut.
Of course, it wouldn’t be so bad if this was done when the exchange rate of the dollar was in our favour; $3.99 would, a few years ago, equate to just over 2 quid, which isn’t too bad. However, now most comic shops are charging over 3 pound something for a 22 page comic. It’s not their fault they have to make a profit, however it seems that for the 20 odd pound or so I was putting in the tills, I am getting a lot less comic for my hard earned cash. So over the past few months I have been cutting down, saying bye-bye to long time favourites such as Hulk, X-Men, Iron Man and Captain America as well as avoiding special events and limited series such as X-Infernus and X-Men Noir and not picking up new titles such as Ghost Rider and Deadpool, two characters in the past that would have been on the top of my ‘Must Read’ list.
With the new line of ‘Dark Reign’ books hitting the shelf such as Dark Avengers, Thunderbolts and Secret Warriors all looking nice and juicy, I am afraid that it is time to draw a line in the proverbial sand and say, “Yup, that’s it.. It’s time to wait for the trades,” which is something I have been loathed to do with the likes of Civil War and Secret Invasion but with this last event being somewhat of a let-down and taking up vast sums of cash, it is just time to say this is enough.
I have had enough and, sadly, to say my goodbyes to Marvel and the great guys and girls at the comic shop and instead look for cheaper alternatives in getting my comic fix such as the aforementioned trades via online retailers or even looking into the viability of digital comics. And while I might have paid for comic shop workers’ kids to go through Uni due to the amount of cash I have parted with over the years, it seems that myself, like a lot of other collectors, are beginning to see that as a hobby, loved by many, the days of the comic are coming slowly to an end.
23 January 2009