The Blue Age of Comic Books

Collectors vs. Codes

The Ages system is not perfect; however, it offers insight into a major component of print comics culture: collecting. Gavaler writes that the system “is largely a product of the comics collectors’ market, with the annual Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, in its 46th edition as of 2016, maintaining its popularity” (9). The Ages might also be understood as being indicative of changes in cover price. A comic book in the 1930s sold for a cover price of 10-12 cents. With each age, the price has increased. Today it is not unusual to see a single issue sell for $3.99, but the print reader is not buying just the book: that price is reflective of inflation, increased production value, and, often, a digital comic code that one might redeem for one or more issues online. Comics are now produced (in some way, shape, or form) digitally, printed on better paper with better inks and sold in specialty stores, virtually reproduced and distributed through online storefronts by way of redemption codes or direct purchase, and sold to a niche market rather than a general one, albeit a market that now easily spans the globe through the World Wide Web. Digital readers are a viable, and diverse, market. What the comic book industry has struggled with, and will continue to struggle with, is how to not only market to a traditional, print based audience (largely made up of white men) but also a nontraditional, digital audience: one that is not concerned with collecting series or variant covers but with inclusive and accessible storytelling.

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