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Jason Aaron Offers Straight Talk on Cutting Comic Prices and Pages

In his latest column at Comic Book Resources, bearded word-warrior Jason Aaron (Scalped, Wolverine) discusses the latest price moves at Marvel and DC with uncommon candor (as covered by ComicsAlliance way back here). The piece is a good read for anyone interested in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of this kind of industry shift, and should be required homework for all those fans who, without bothering to stop and think about whether they even remotely know what they’re talking about, regularly stand around comic shops or linger on message boards having loud conversations about how comics are or should be made.

Of particular interest in the column are Aaron’s personal reactions to DC dropping its prices back to $2.99 while cutting the page count of their comics from 22 pages to 20 pages, which will affect Aaron’s creator-owned Vertigo series Scalped. Aaron writes:

First of all…I didn’t hear about this change until the same time everyone else did. No matter how you slice it, this page reduction amounts to a pay cut for all DC creators.

A few of Aaron’s other works.

This kind of cold, hard, nuts-and-bolts discussion of economics and labor doesn’t usually get thrown around in comics circles. It’s refreshing to have touch-points like this to refer back to when discussing any aspect of the industry, if only as a reminder that comics people aren’t a monolithic block, with creators and companies acting in concert toward agreed-upon ends.

Aaron continues with some discussion of the effects of the page cut on the creative process as well:

Now you might argue…that doesn’t really have to amount to a pay cut. After all, you can just go right from one script into the next and continue working, making up the difference. True, but that’s assuming that it takes less work to write a 20 page script than it does a 22 page script, which I’m not convinced is true. I can almost guarantee you it takes Warren Ellis and Matt Fraction a lot longer to write their 16 page issues of Fell and Casanova than it does any of their 22 page comics. It’s sometimes hard enough to fit a story into 22 pages. Taking pages away does not make the job easier. Even just two pages. Instead it necessitates that you either take stuff out of your story or dramatically change the way you’re telling that story.

Now, pay-cut or no pay-cut, if losing those two pages is the only way to keep my series “Scalped” from bumping up to $3.99 (which I had already been told was going to happen, across the board at Vertigo), then I’m all for it.

I once had to have an argument with a co-worker in a comics shop (who was a smart fella and should have known enough to know better) who complained about Fell’s lateness on the grounds that, being only 16 pages, it should be the easiest kind of book to put out quickly. The more creators like Aaron put out solid information about what really goes into making these four-color funnybooks we all like so much, the less I have to yell at people who don’t know what they’re talking about. From one Jason to another, thanks.

The whole column can be read here.

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