By Bon Alimagno
Do you believe in $1.99 comics? It’s a simple question, right? Yet we all seem to be trapped helpless in a world where the average price of a comic book creeps ever upward toward $4. If someone had figured out how to stop the momentum of this oncoming train, he or she would’ve done it by now.
It’s a dilemma we’ve wrestled with for a while as we considered the pricing of our next Vampirella comics, a four part monthly miniseries, Vampirella: The Second Coming. You see, this September marks the 40th Anniversary of Vampirella and we knew we needed to do something special. When we examined the character’s place in the industry we felt that Vampi wasn’t where she should be, firmly lodged in the Top 100. Simply put, Vampirella’s fan base wasn’t as large as it once was, and definitely wasn’t as large as it should be. We needed to broaden the pool of support.
So we set a goal: break back into the Top 100 for the first time in years. But we knew what we were up against. Even armed with a stellar, game changing story by Phil Hester and art by future star Daniel Sampere, we faced an army of torch-bearing doubters and critics. We needed to do something radical, something that would break through the pollution of hype and nonsense that fills your daily intake of comics news and assorted mumbo-jumbo. So we put our money where our mouth is: we’re pricing every issue, yes, EVERY ISSUE, of this miniseries $1.99.
So again I ask: Do you believe in $1.99 comics? Because $1.99 comics is not easy, it may prove impossible. It is quite frankly a matter of faith. We need you to believe in us and we need to believe in you. You need to believe that we can deliver a high quality, thought provoking, riveting story for half the price you may now be normally paying. We need to believe that you will give us a chance, that the now old saying is true, “If you build it, they will come.”
Because we need you, each and every one of you. I know we haven’t made it easy over the years to be a fan of Vampirella. We’ve done our best and if we’ve fallen short in your eyes it’s not because we set out to do so. But now we want you back.
As is said, this isn’t easy. Most comic book readers don’t think about how much money goes into making a comic book, even before printing costs. I won’t go into it since it’ll probably scare you off and make you wonder how any comic in this day and age can make money. But when confronted with this difficult choice, we made the decision that we feel would bring us new readers, even with sacrifices on our part involved.
Frankly I don’t think many companies can do this, certainly not Marvel and DC. We can do it because our staff is incredibly small, cutting overhead costs. We can do it because we don’t make most of our money through comic book sales in the direct market, but through trade reorders, online sales through our website, Vampirella.com, on eBay and through our fan club – though we know none of that would be possible without a foundation set in the direct market. And perhaps most importantly we can do it thanks to talented and creative people who are willing to work with us and within a limited budget because they believe in what we are doing.
With all of that the rest is simple: use the so-called slimline or Fell format (20 pages, self-cover with subtly thinner paper stock), publish with four covers and a 1-in-40 retailer incentive and hope for the best. This could backfire of course, backfire royally. But we have faith in our product and we have faith in you. In the coming weeks I’ll talk more about Vampirella: The Second Coming. If the price has at least got your attention, then when I start talking about all that you’ll get for it, we hope we’ll have won you over.
We teased this last week with a promotional piece inspired by Shepard Fairey’s oft-copied HOPE poster of Barack Obama. Sure, associating yourself in any way with our new president has become a bit of a tired, yet effective, means of grabbing attention. But for us publishing $1.99 comics is a statement of hope – for our product, for our fans and for the comic book industry as a whole. Now it’s time to turn hope into action. Go to your retailers and tell them about what we’re doing, ask them to order you a copy. Join our Facebook fan page and our twitter (@realvampirella) and help us spread the word. Let’s see – together – if the comic book industry really does believe in $1.99.
See you next week… for another surprise…
Bon Alimagno is Director – Publishing & Editorial for Harris Comics, publishers of Vampirella.