About a week ago, Marvel Omnibus' were flying off of warehouse shelves thanks to a tiny glitch from Amazon, which made
the $75-$100 books (up to $160 Canadian,) go for the small price of $15 and eventually $8. This was a deal that seemed too good to be true. So I bought up 10 copies, not for the purpose of reselling, (to make an EASY profit,) but to study, because having an oversized book that is re-coloured is probably the easiest format to study the medium with. On top of that, there were more stories in them than any other comic book
volumes that I knew of.
Once Amazon gave out its inevitable refund, I was disappointed. I had read lesser reprinting of many of these stories, and I was excited at the prospect of getting them to enjoy. On Wednesday of the same week, it turns out that Barnes and Noble (B&N) had a similar glitch, causing many of the Omnibus to go down to around $10. Of course, I tried to get some of these, but by the time I had made a Barnes and Noble account, the books were sold off. As an extra punch to the gut, it seemed that B&N were honouring the deal.
Missing out on this deal was not too bad, since early Omnibus had a lot of stories in them and were worth the high price tag. Some even had complete runs of the writer or artist of a title. Grant Morrison's 40 issues of the New X-Men were all collected in a giant book. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's entire 37+ issue run of Spider-man was published in one giant volume. The Fantastic Four Omnibus has the first 30 issues of their run. All these were done in oversized format, with modern re-colouring but otherwise just as aired. The reprints from the 60's even have the original spelling mistakes and letters to the editor sections kept in.
There are a lot of bonus features as well, they could be introductions by authors, original sketches brought up, the pitch of the run to the editor, and a bunch of other crazy things that would never have occurred to me to add into the book. Granted, many of the extras are trivial, but if you're as big a fan of the medium as I am, than they
are a welcome addition to an already great purchase.
The problem is that as they are reprinted, these omnibus editions seem to be getting smaller and smaller. By that, I mean that they are putting few and fewer issues in. Lately, Marvel has decided that it should collect Omnibus' before the current runs of the writer are finished. This means that we are getting less and less stories per volume.
In Ed Brubaker's Captain America, the book covered issues #1-25 for $75 US (or $120 Canadian,) if it could be bought on sale, it would be an okay deal. The problem is that it left with a cliff hanger, (SPOILER?!) Captain America dies by the end of it. The rest of the run deals with how everyone copes with Captain America's death, and the series gets rebooted at issue 50, where the original renumbering (at issue #600) is re-introduced. It would have been a good way to end the second volume, however, consumers aren't so lucky.
The numbering went from around 40 issues in the earlier Omnibus editions, to 30 issues, to 25 issues, to around the latest trend of releasing Omnibus editions with fewer than 20 issues. With Marvel's latest omnibus editions, the Death of Captain America, The Invincible Iron Man, The Immortal Iron fist, and Volume 2 of Ed Brubaker's Daredevil, the number of issues in each fail to reach their predecessors. This is especially disappointing for Volume 2 of Daredevil, since if it had come out at the same time the New X-Men had come out, they could easily have fit all the issues into one volume. Instead, they expect to people to pay $75 ($93 Canadian) for 15 issues worth of material. This is slightly more than would be available in a traditional hardcover book, which are sold for around $30.
Now, since these Omnibus editions are coming out on current runs, I've started to see Marvel's oversized Hardcover editions disappear. If you want to study new graphic novels the way I used to, it's now going to cost you around twice as much as it originally would have.
While I'm all for having larger editions of runs that I really enjoy. I just don't think that I'd be able to justify the ever growing price tag. I'm even appreciative that Marvel has put a their mega story arcs into one book instead of splitting it over two or three, but I cannot in good conscience support a price hike of that magnitude. I'm hoping the average comic book consumer won't either.
However, what last week showed us is that there is a market for these books if the price is right. If the Omnibus price were cut down by half, or even a third, the number of people buying up the high quality books would more than double. In fact, with the quality of the art, pages, and storytelling of the Average comic improving substantially over the last 20 years, these cheap prices on top quality items would give comics an extra boost that they have not seen since the early 90's.
With the public interest in superheroes being the highest America has had since the 1960's, Marvel would be fools not to capitalize on this popularity and release high quality, lengthy books for a low price. Any profit that they'd lose in the pricing would be more than made back in the quantity sold. And the more they can make, the larger their consumer base will become. Sell an Omnibus to where it equals $1 to $2 for each issue reprinted in them, and fans will buy them by the truckload.
Of course Marvel could continue on their regular business model, which is charging their loyal customers more until they can't afford to spend as much to continue their hobby, or change priorities in their spending, or just die (of old age.) But it doesn't take an economic genius to see that this isn't a feasible long term sales model. I'm
hoping against hope that this glitch caused some lights to go on in Marvel's marketing departments' heads, but just like the Amazon sale, I know this thought is too good to be true.