In the past nine months or so, Image Comics has priced some of their trade paperbacks for less than $10. Compared to Marvel and DC, this is pretty cheap. And, after doing a little searching, most Image trades are cheaper than their competition.
The trades that Image has been pricing for $9.99 are first volumes. That is to say the first story arcs of their comics, like “Saga,” “Lazarus,” “Sex Criminals,” “Sex,” “Black Science,” among others. Subsequent volumes have been priced at $14.99.
As mentioned, Image’s trade price range is cheaper than Marvel and DC. While most Image trades come in at less than $15, Marvel trades seem to average $15.99 to $24.99, as DC trades average $14.99 to $19.99.
One reason for this is probably licensing. Image focuses on publishing creator-owned comics, with Marvel and DC mainly publishing their own licensed properties. Marvel and DC have stockholders to answer to; Image’s creators answer to themselves.
But, Marvel and DC shouldn’t be let off so easily. Together in April 2014, they made up about 63% of the market (according to Diamond Comic Distributors), while Image only had about 9.5%. With that much of the market, one would think that Marvel and DC could afford to give buyers a break on trades.
Also, in recent years, trades have been published to bring more buyers into the fold. At Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million, there is more shelf space dedicated to trades than individual issues. For the publishers, the purpose is to get those who don’t by comics on a monthly basis to pick up trades. And, what easier way to do that than offering them at a lower price point?
I don’t know how trades get priced. Looking at three trades that reprinted 12-issue stories, it’s confusing. Marvel’s “Secret Wars” sells for $34.99; DC’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” goes for $29.99; and DC sells “Watchmen” for $19.99. Of course, the $15 difference could be in how the books are printed (thicker covers, better paper, higher-quality printing process, etc.). One thing to keep in mind is Image isn’t in the market of selling 12-issue event books.
I’m a fan of trades. I like being able to pull an entire story arc off the shelf and read it. My collection is too large to have to sort through and find a favorite story to read. I also like buying a trade for a good price. Right now, it looks like Image has the market on that.