On Business: Comics vs. Prints

By | Monday, October 27, 2014 Leave a Comment
This is a picture of Mike Gray, tabling in an Artist Alley. I don't know him and, as far as I can recall, never seen him at any shows I've been to, but it's clear shot of a pretty typical set-up. He's got his comics to sell on the right, and a portfolio of prints in front. From the looks of it, mostly superheroes done in his personal cartooning style.

One thing I've noticed the past couple years, and seen a few creators speak to recently, is that there's been a significant increase in the sales of prints over comics. Walking down some Artist Alleys this year, I couldn't help but notice that a number of artists didn't have any comics to sell at all, and were just selling prints. They were illustrators, not cartoonists. Comic artists, too, seemed to have more prints available than comics.

Now, from the creators' perspective, I totally get this. It's generally easier to do a single illustration than an entire comic, and there's a considerably higher profit margin on them as well. So that artists of all stripes have shifted their focus to what's easier to create, more likely to sell, and brings in more money makes complete sense. That's how capitalism is supposed to work.

What I don't get is why people are putting more money towards prints than comics. Like I said, I've seen/heard multiple artists speak to this lately. Where a customer will buy a $20 print, when the exact same artwork is included in a $20 book collection that has a bunch of comics in it as well. The print may be a little larger and easier to frame, but... what are people doing with these prints? I mean, how much wall space do they have to hang them?

My thinking is that if an artist creates a really cool image -- say, Blue Falcon giving Space Ghost a beat-down that harkens back to Frank Miller's Dark Knight -- I might save it as a background for my phone, or make it an image in my desktop's screen saver or something, but it would be something where I could display it fairly regularly and appreciate it. Now you can do that, too, by putting it up on your wall but, as I suggested, you have a pretty finite amount of wall space to hang stuff like this.

So what do people do with all these prints? Seriously, I have no idea. Are they regularly pulling artwork down off their walls as they buy new pieces? Do they just hold on to them and keep them in a portfolio or something? I understand creators working to meet the demand here; I just don't understand the demand in the first place.
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