Comics Creators

The cost of living...


I live in NY btw, and when I looked at the price of Hitch’s new JLA comic at $5.99 it made me wonder about the past when comics used to be 12 cents. It may have been 12 cents back then, but then again the price of everything was scaled down ie, a loaf of bread was less than 50 cents, the subway fare (public transportation) was about a quarter, and making $165 a week was good money back then.

Some of you old timers here may want to get into a “those were the days” discussion and I invite that. When I used to tutor Economics a lot of the young students found it hard to fathom that making $165/week was good money for a grown man. They understood when I used some economic indexes to measure wealth and income then and now.

I don’t want to get into a lesson about inflation and stuff now but basically if what you make and the raises you get at work keep up with or go higher than inflation you are OK, but if your income is below the price of everything going up then you will feel the pinch as everything is more expensive to you.

So getting back to comics, the issues being 5-6 dollars each may or may not be expensive relative to your situation. The price definitely went up but it has to be taken into consideration that EVERYTHING has gone up too.

Interestingly, in the States there is news about raising the minimum wage and in NYC, there is news about rent going up and people being priced out of their neighborhoods. If you want to rant and rave about the price of beer, bacon, etc. going up too, fine. I welcome it.

Any thoughts? Opinions?


It has long been noted, through, that increases in the prices of comics are outpacing inflation considerably. So while everything is going up, it’s not all going up at the same rate.


We have to look at absolute value and relative value. We compare the wage of a worker doing job X in Year Y and compare what one is paid for that amount of work at that time with what one can purchase (relative value). More, less or equivalent buying power? The closer the ratio of what X is worth in work value to products/services purchased the more accurate the comparison. Absolute value is like absolute zero; a recognized point but you don’t want to get there. Due to the nature of these “absolutes” the effect of the absolute would not occur (e.g. lowering all temperature it touches also to absolute zero, so it reproduces itself, sorta - if i could remember proper terms at the moment!). The closer the ratio becomes to zero the more effect it seems to have.

Is that the kind of thing you wanted to avoid, Al-X? :laughing:

(That’s kind of a mean-looking “laugh”.)

The number $165 is coincidentally funny. That was the rent I paid for my first apartment. That would be right around 1974. I was making $1.79 an hour, if I remember right, so $71.60 for a 40-hour weeks, minus taxes and such. $143.20 per two-week paycheck. $286.40 a month. Housing should come in at about 30% of net. Call the tax bite just about 30%, as a single male I was in the eat-me-raw bracket. I learned what deductions were about real early, though (owning a house before renting an apartment), so let’s say $50 a month. That takes us to $236.40. And also reveals why I worked as much overtime as I could and discovered the mistake about a year later. No, no, it’s 30% of net. Ouch.

With $1.79 an hour, base, as above in 1974, that was a whopping $14.32 a day. (This should put “a dime bag” into absolute perspective for you now - that was a standard item for a long time.) Working in TV for a while in 1980 at lowest pay (to relieve burnout, so small pay was okay, as different job was my form of therapy) was $50/day, flat. Minus. Taxes. Not near enough pay, about a 70% cut or so from nursing pay rate. Unclear memories of such details, hard time for moi.

1993 crazy times. One job was $150 an hour, but rare, maybe 4-5 hours a week. Regular McJob was $10.01/hour. Yes, I fought for the few cents to take it over the $10 mark! Good thing I bumped the bracket - it became worth about $30/month now, as it depends on last five quarters worked. Other job (was years into multitasking jobs by then, plus buying selling stuff like comics and antiques and cars a couple of times) was a high rate / low days kind of deal doing OSHA paperwork for small businesses to get them up to code. That was usually weekends.

Out of all of it I found the most consistent indicator of an absolute value to be that of a gopher - a production assistant, and assistant to a somebody, the lowest paid and paid on a day rate (for 18-hour days, when shooting) minus taxes. Early Eighties that was around $50 a day. Late Eighties, starting with the gasoline shortages early-mid-Eighties, it went to between $75-$90 a day. The ninety bucks is usually for people who drive their own trucks. (All runners also have to have an operating licensed vehicle with insurance. Entry level work in the entertainment business costs one money. This is why so many day jobs, waitressing and so forth.) Now it’s 2015, and TV production assistants are at $100/day.

I think that’s a bunch of numbers. Those with more facility and ease with numbers should be able to plug in relative prices, like a standard comic in 1975, 1980, 1985 and so on.

After all those numbers, I need a nap! :sheep: :sheep: :sheep: :sheep: :sheep: :sheep:


When I first starting collecting comics in the early 70s, I was able to support my habit with a $5 per week allowance. Of course, back then comics had just gone up to 15 cents each, and we really only had to deal with Marvel and DC. When they jumped up to 25 cents and then settled at 20 cents, I had to make some sacrifices but could still deal with it.

My first real job, during sophomore year in high school, was four hours a week at $1.50 per hour “off the books”. My parents immediately stopped my allowance, so I went from $5 to $6. That job, in a local deli, actually helped pay my way through college, back in the days when a semester’s tuition was only $2,500, so I graduated with no debt. For better or worse, I had to choose between comics and Friday nights at the local, and beer won out.

First job post-graduation paid me $275 a week, which was enough for me to move out of my parents’ house and rent a studio in Queens (NY) for $550 a month. A year later I bought a 1-bedroom co-op apartment, and a year after that (around 1985) I started buying comics again. At that point the average price was 75 cents, which was fairly reasonable after the runaway inflation of the late 70s/early 80s.

Jump ahead three decades, and now I’m financially secure enough that the price of comics is not a concern; but I see my son struggling to finance his comics habit when the price of many Marvel and DC books are $3.99, and higher for “event” issues. He purchases most of his comics through internet vendors that offer heavy discounts, but even then it is a struggle. You have to wonder why a young boy or girl would make the effort to become a regular collector at this price point.


I’d say something about minimum wages and such, but we know that goes elsewhere!

Trying to be a good example.

Let me know if I ever make it.


A few things have gone down. I bought my first single in 1982 for a pound, now the equivalent on iTunes is 69p. A lot of electronics are much cheaper, I bought a computer in 1998 for $2000, the equivalent level of model now would be more like $500. My 42" TV is was about half the price of the 28" CRT I bought a decade earlier. Phone charges have dropped a lot too.


True, not everything. I was paraphrasing Al’s original post, but clearly there are some things that are cheaper now.

(VHS cassettes can also be picked up for pennies these days, I’ve noticed.)


Ah, but you got TWO songs for a pound, assuming the B side wasn’t blank. :slight_smile:


Which is true and I also got a fold out poster of Adam and the Ants but it’s as close as you’ll get and it is rare that anything after 33 years would actually costs less, not just in relative terms, but the cash amount.

It’s an interesting area, Paul Krugman wrote a book, mainly looking at incomes and income equality in the US over the last century and one of his major findings was on that point. While incomes have been effectively dropping since around 1980 they have been hidden somewhat by a lot of ‘things’ we buy getting comparatively cheaper because of off-shoring and savings in the manufacturing process.

That has reached the bottom though and many other less physical items like rent, utility bills and services have continued to rise. Which is the ‘crunch’ people are feeling now.


$5 a week in the 70s?! I bet you had to mow grass and shovel snow on the same day to get that! :wink:


The funny things with the price comparisons is in the UK the pound suffered massive inflation in the 1970s due to the oil crisis and resulting messes.

It’s still one of the most valuable currencies now but before that it was just crazily valuable.

You’ll get people recalling the 50s and 60s and they used to go out for an evening with a shilling, the equivalent of 5p now, and went to the cinema, had a takeaway and still had change left. When Action Comics launched in 1938 it was 10c but The Dandy comic in the UK that started around the same time was 0.83 of a penny!


Most comics professionals are barely earning enough to get by. Not the folks on indie comics that sell 8k issues, but the guys who work for Marvel and DC. The labor force for 95% of all comics earn less than the typical college graduate, and most of those professionals have had to grind it out for years earning next to nothing just to get to this level. Sure a few guys can make great salaries, but that’s maybe a dozen or two out of the hundreds involved. And yes they work for billion dollar corporations, and yes they generate intellectual property that generates millions that they don’t see a piece of. There’s something terrible at the heart of the industry right now.

The hobby is underfunded these days. More people trade wait, or illegally download, or buy from discount merchants. It’s a tough business. I don’t know how much longer the numbers can hold up.

I recommend everyone check out this survey. But here’s some choice results from it:

It needs to be made clear. Industry professionals typically work more hours than they should, earn not far from minimum wage, have no benefits or income protection, and basically sacrifice to follow their careers. Careers which in the most part don’t even last a decade. The big comics publishers aren’t so different from Wal Mart or Nike. They make billions off the backs of an oppressed class that barely gets by, and who are one step away from financial ruin.

It might be that the current comics market is simply unsustainable. It feels like a crunch has to come, that it’s being driven by the dreams of professionals getting that one big hit that’s optioned and makes them famous, but for many that payoff isn’t coming and they face financial struggle for the rest of their lives.


The problem I have with that survey, which I saw a couple of days back, is there’s no indication at what stage any of these artists are at. A big chunk said they are getting less than $25 a page, if so they aren’t working for the big two. It says a lot of them are on webcomics which don’t pay page rates.

In any creative field there are usually a lot of people making nothing, most prose books don’t make any money, actors have to double up as waiters to pay bills. Every poet on the planet makes a living wage from lecturing and advising in academia, the book sales are really low.

I don’t disagree that many are likely getting a very bad deal if they are on big books but I’m not sure it is indicative of an industry that is unsustainable.


So true for every type of creative endeavor!

Which is why I think “coming to crunch time” may not be a bad thing. What we’re basically talking about here are “windfall profits”, an unexpected huge surge in sales or connected directly to expansion (here to TV and cable and movies). Think about how many TV shows have come and gone, how many never made air, how many never made it to pilot and naturally the denizens of Development Hell. How many shows made it to classic or anomaly status - like I Love Lucy and the original Star Trek and Twilight Zone are classics, and out of endless sitcoms things like MAS*H and The Brady Bunch would be anomalies. Who could guess that CHiPs would still be shown in reruns on a new digital broadcast network?

The paradigm does not need to be shifted, it has long needed to be re-written. The overall movement of society is towards increased fiscal equality and social safety nets. All the people working or unemployed are too busy living and surviving and easing themselves with entertainment that they have no interest in how it is made or the details behind it. They know what they like to provide an alternative to real life. They absolutely do not know about details of who gets paid how much.

When change comes to how all the arts are funded in general, and how windfall profits are handled so the hands-on creators get the big chunk (shared, of course) for the rare Big Hit, some will be surprised to see better overall products. It’s simple, no one can do their best under financial or health pressure(s). Folks try, but the result is always “something missing”. Thing is, it is art, so the state of the artist is intrinsically wound into the work. The work is the product, and it is on the quality of the product that it will sell or even become an evergreen.

Kinda complicated!



I have to agree with Mr. Wallace that comics have gone up considerably. I don’t have the data but I would bet that 12 cents to the average wage in the early 60’s is NOT like $5 to the average wage today.

Still, my pull list is very small only 1-2 issues every few weeks, so I splurged on Hitch’s JLA.

Then again in economics, there is a teaching about utility and in a nutshell it deals with spending your money where you will get the most enjoyment and use. JLA was worth it imho but I digress. The next few bucks for entertainment obviously will not go to buying the same issue again, but could go to another issue or a movie, or a video game, etc. On a side note, no wonder comics is going down because there are so many alternatives to spend your income on.


Not comics related, but cost of living is a major source of stress where I live and work (Silicon Valley). I can’t afford to live here without roommates. It doesn’t help when there are a ton of local articles about all these people making 6 figures and blah blah blah which completely ignores that the majority of the big tech companies workforce are usually vendors and contractors often making less than 40k a year. This in an area where a 1 bedroom apartment costs $2000 a month or more.

I love the area, but I’m very close to the point where I’m going to have to move away. If I do there are plenty of places where I could actually buy a house (never happening here)…and I could afford to buy comics again.


A lot of neighborhoods in Manhattan, most notably the Upper East and Upper West sides, are like that.


I expect the Denver area to climb that high next. A report just yesterday set the vacancy rate at 96.4%, availability <1%. “Vacancy rate” means the reverse, what rentals are not vacant. Anything less than 5% in either measure means everything is full. The <1% availability does not mean 1 of 100 is available, it means less than 1% is available. When availability is lower than <5% there’s nothing, as 5% is the rate of typical movement, people moving from one rental to another. Less than 2% means nothing, nowhere.

When I moved to Longmont (NW of Denver, some 14 miles from Boulder, AntiChris) nice apartments were $500-$600. That was 2000. First apartment here was $625, one bedroom. That apartment just rented for $1,100. 2006-2015, nearly doubled. That’s Longmont, which started as a bedroom community for Boulder. Now Longmont has its own industries and such (and is basis for the Wolf Pack on American Ninja Warrior). Denver is hurting. I hear apartments are going for $1,300 and up for a studio!

Right now I pay $500 a month for 1/3 of 1/2 of a duplex. Utilities are paid (except cable). Very few have found such a situation, it took me a year and a half. There’s absolutely no slack when it comes to housing, and I have the feeling it’s going to get worse!



I knew inflation took off in the US in the 70’s but never why. I guess that’s when that’s when the dollar was decoupled from a gold value.