First of all, DC Comics announced that it is lowering prices on its comic books. As an avid comic book reader, particularly of the DC Universe line, I'm mostly pleased by the announcement. However, there's a little more behind the story than just lower prices.
Last year, Marvel and then DC began raising the price on some of their comics from $2.99 to $3.99. Not all comics were affected by the price increase, but many were, and it made buying comics much more difficult, especially in this economy. DC tried to ameliorate the increase by adding backup features to their books, a delightful exercise in nostalgia, but even that didn't work very well for me.
Why? Well, because comic book storytelling has changed. When I first started reading comics, many more titles had one-shot stories, with only occasional multi-part stories running across many months. Even if a book was carrying a multi-part story, each issue had something of a self-contained tale in it; the multi-part story line was more like a story arc.
But nowadays, almost all comic stories are focused on the trade paperback market, which means that each issue you pick up is a serialized chapter in an ongoing story. I'm not saying that I don't like serialized fiction, but I sometimes wish more of the comics I bought would do an occasional one-shot every now and then. I want a little more variety back in my comics storytelling.
Also, although all the news is reporting that $2.99 will be the new price of the standard 32-page comic book, buried deeper in the new is that the number of pages of actual story, as opposed to advertisement pages, is dropping from 22 pages to 20 pages. Now, there's nothing sacred about the 22-page story, but this does mean (I assume) less money for writers and artists in the long run, since they get paid by the page. Also, it means writers will have to make some difficult decisions on how to take the stories or chapters they envision and recast them as 20 pages.
And don't let me put on my "old man" hat and start complaining about how I remember when comics first raised their price to 35¢. Someone else always tops me by recalling when their comics were only 10¢.
The other news story I ran across was this one: "Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children" by Julie Bosman. It opens at The Children's Book Shop in Brookline, one of the stores where Nomi and I have gotten picture books for Muffin and Squeaker, so I had an immediate personal interest in the article. Apparently, parents are opting to start their kids on chapter books earlier, and skipping the picture book altogether.
I may have more to say about this in an upcoming column for a local news site (more on that special announcement later), but I think it's sad. We have literally been reading to Muffin and Squeaker since the week they were born, and they have come to love their small board books – which include pictures, of course. As the article points out, picture books are not necessarily simpler than chapter books, and I think kids who don't get picture books are missing out on one important aspect of their reading development – which is learning how to read comics.