In an earlier post, I explored my own reluctance to lay out $125.00 (or $100.00, after a retailer discount that was offered to me) for Kramers Ergot #7, a book that seems aimed square at the market I have been a part of for most of my adult life -- artcomix readers with a taste for experiment and a willingness to pay a little extra for the sort of comics I crave.
Off the top of my head, I have in the past paid $40.00 for books of sketches by Chris Ware, and $50.00 for hardcovers reprinting Love and Rockets comics I already owned, and I never once questioned such expenditures or regretted them in any way. Last year I spent $100.00 on The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, but that's not artcomix. At least, not what we typically think of as artcomix. But I bought it, make no mistake, because of the art, by Steve Ditko. If a Volume Two were to be published with an equal number of pages of John Romita Sr. art, I wouldn't even think about buying it. To me Ditko's entire Spider-Man era is worth a hundred bucks. I like Romita's work to an extent, but not a $100.00 extent.
I do think its very important for all comics readers to think about what they buy and measure their own enjoyment of it -- if we all bought what we truly valued and stopped buying bad comics out of habit or to "keep the collection complete," we would have a better comic book industry in very short order, I think. There's not a superhero title I am a completist about, except maybe Street Angel, but even then, if Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca turned the title over to Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver, I would have to call it a day and occasionally re-read my old Rugg and Maruca issues. And how does collector completism figure into this?
Well, I have the last few volumes of Kramers Ergot, you see. I think I have either three or four of them on my bookshelf. And I decided some time ago that, like Love and Rockets and Eightball and some other artcomix titles, Kramers Ergot would be a title I would always support and always want to read, craving as I do "what's new and what's next" in comics.
Then that philosophy met the $125.00 price point of the new volume.
I have always subscribed to Tom Spurgeon's axiom "The only comics that are too expensive are lousy comics," but I think I have finally met a good comic that is too expensive.
I don't think KE7 will be lousy comics. I don't think it costs $125.00 due to greed, or hubris, or cruelty. I hope it costs that much because it has to in order for the creators, editor and publisher to make a modest profit. I don't imagine anyone is getting rich off this book. I have no doubt Kramers Ergot #7 will be great, progressive comics. A beautiful book that may expand the boundaries of what is possible within the artform of comics. And costs more that what I pay for a week's worth of groceries for a family of four.
I think an expense like that needs to be considered. Weighed. Thought about and pondered. And given my decades of support for artcomix as a medium of expression, I have to believe I am not the only one unsure if it's a wise expense. The economy hasn't even begun to sink to the levels it ultimately will settle at. I ask myself if I have the right, as a father and husband, to be so selfish as to spend $125.00 on fewer than 100 pages of comics. "But they're great comics," I could tell my wife, as she beats me to death with the tombstone-sized hardcover (I don't imagine more than one or two whacks would be needed).
I'm sure many will want to read KE7, whatever constitutes "many" in the realm of boutique artcomix hardcover aficionados. 500 readers? 2,500? As a longtime observer of this artform and industry, I can see the book selling fewer than a hundred copies. And I can see it selling thousands. It all depends on the zeitgeist and the marketing, probably much more so than it does on the quality of the work. Because, while I do not believe Kramers Ergot #7 will be bad comics, neither have I yet been convinced that it, or any single anthology volume of any creative lineup or production quality, is worth $125.00 to me, personally.
Maybe as we get closer to the date of the book's release, we'll know enough about the book that my mind will be changed. I'd love to be convinced that this is a must-buy book for me, and that I'll forever regret not spending $125.00 (or $100.00, as noted above, if I buy from the one retailer that offered me a discount) on it. The way to make this book worth the pricetag is to make it an event, and I have no doubt that the very best comic book stores (opinions vary, but I doubt that there are more than fifty truly top-notch stores in all of North America) will be very successful in making a big thing out of this release.
But I don't know how many retailers will go to that trouble. So maybe KE7 isn't for me or readers like me. Maybe it's for shops that have paved the way for the future of comics and presumably made a nice living doing so. I hope the book is a big success in shops forward-looking enough to carry it and smart enough to market it right, to the people that can afford it. I hope Tom Spurgeon is right and that all these factors combine to make Kramers Ergot a monster hit.