Monday, April 2, 2012

Minimum Wage Comics

So last week I started reading the first incarnation of Batman and the Outsiders, and it got me thinking. Not about Mike Barr’s stories or Jim Aparo's adept art, but rather about the price, which was only .60 cents.

In 1983 (the date of publishing) you could buy 5 comics for an hour’s worth of minimum wage ($3.35 an hour).
As that was all I was making back then at the various jobs I was able to get at the time (Amusement park employee, Used Book Store clerk and Cafeteria worker), that economic relationship would have been of critical importance to me at the time.
Now, however, with the price of comics running more like 2.99 to 3.99, you can really only buy, at best, 2 comics for an hour’s worth of work at minimum wage. I wonder if that relationship (5 to 2) might not be proportional to the amount of comics sold now?
Meanwhile, movies [] have stayed in line with minimum wage, more or less, over the years.

So, in the 80's, the value of a movie and 5 comics were about equal with each other, whereas now, movies have the edge. (Unless you prefer 3D movies, which I think are a horrible waste of money, but that's a topic for another post.) 

NOTE: I've heard that publishers used to keep the prices of comics artificially lower in previous decades than they do now. Can anyone confirm this?

- Jim


Trey said...

Certainly, I think comics have grown quicker than the rise in minimum wage. The question is, what has been the rise of inflation over that period? It may be minimum wage that has fallen behind not comics getting disporportionally pricey.

Movies being "more or less" in line with minimum wage is sort of dubious. Federal minimum wage is between 7 and 8 now--at best that's a non-3D matinee price, and a lot of places not that.

cash_gorman said...

There is a reason for the un-even rise, at least somewhat.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s two things happened in regards to color printing that would effect the cost. The most direct was there was a dramatic increase in the cost of paper, obviously a big component of the cost of printing. The other was the rise in popularity of offset printing, epitomized for the newspaper industry by the popularity and competition presented by USA Today. Offset printing meant using better newsprint paperstock (whose prices would be climbing) as well as more ink and possibly even better quality ink.

Depending on where they printed their comics, slowly moving the line over to offset, may not have been much of a choice. With the increased demand for better printing than the old letterpress, it might have been harder to even find letterpress printers as printing companies began updating their decades old presses to either offset or to flexo (which I think Marvel used for a time, a little before it really came into its own). Nowadays, finding presses that print full color on the old newsprint (and finding that in bulk), it's probably no longer a feasible option for a major publisher.


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