Why We Buy The Comics We Buy

By | Monday, February 05, 2007 Leave a Comment
There's an interesting post over at the Comics Should Be Good blog about what factors go into choosing which comic books we buy (or don't). I find the post itself to be interesting, but the responses moreso.

On a fairly superficial level, there's some basic data collection on the criteria that some people use to make purchasing decisions when it comes to comics. Some people buy for the the character(s), some buy for the creator(s), etc. Naturally, personal finances are a factor, but it's particularly interesting to note that the issue seems to go without saying initially. The apparently understood assumption is that everyone would buy everything they wanted if they had the resources to do so. But everyone does have some resource limits -- even with the absurdly comical supply of money that a Bill Gates or a Donald Trump might have, I doubt there would simply be enough time in the day to read each and every comic book published. Some people might only have three bucks a month to spend on comics; do they buy the same title every month, or do they follow a particular creator?

What's fascinating, too, is that there's some acknowledgement of multiple criteria affecting one's buying choices and rarely does one of those criteria ALWAYS win out over others. But there's little discussion about how the various criteria mix to form an ultimate decision. How much weight does any given author carry over a given character? Can a generally-low-ranking criteria (like, say, publisher) ever outweigh a high-ranking one?

I was trying to think of looking at this mathematically. Obviously, a different equation/program would be need be created for every comic buying individual, but could you theoretically write something that could tell you what you should be buying? It's possible, I suppose, but it would need to be fairly extensive. You'd need to assign values and weights to every possible variable; not just "author = 50% of buying decision" but something like "Warren Ellis = 90% of positive buying decision, Chuck Austen = 95% of negative buying decision, Kurt Busiek = 75% of positive buying decision..." and so on. And it would need to be constantly ammended/updated as new variables (new creators or new characters or what-have-you) came onto the field.

But it's interesting to think about it in those terms because it goes to show just how complex a process deciding which comic books to buy really is. Maybe that's why so few people really think about it very consciously -- the equation they've subconsciously created is simply too vast and complex for them to study.
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