Why manga is cheaper.

As a former comic store owner, one of the questions I get asked the most is why manga is so much cheaper than American comics.

I’ll preface this by saying I have done absolutely zero actual research into this answer. I’ve just used some common sense.

First off, manga tends to be printed in black-and-white, and on low-grade paper. American comics are printed on high-grade, glossy stock paper, and in full-color. Oftentimes, nowadays, with full bleed, meaning some of the artwork goes off the edge of the page.

Go to your nearest photocopy shop. Ask them to reproduce something in black and white on the type of paper used in manga, and then ask them to reproduce something in full color with full bleed on American comic paper stock. Notice how the American comic reproduction is going to be at least three times as much, because of the higher-quality product.

Secondly, let’s look at what companies are putting out: Manga publishers are re-printing translated material. American comics publishers are creating 20-24 pages of original, brand-new content, every single month. Now, both types of publishers are paying for printing, advertising, distribution, etc. But what different things are they paying for?

Manga publishers are paying for the licensed rights to reproduce already-created material and translations. Sometimes they pay for newly-designed covers.

American comics publishers are paying for original scritps, artwork, inking, coloring, cover design, editing, continuity checks (in many cases, as ignored as they may be), and, sometimes, even licensing. And every single person along that line needs to be paid enough to make a living doing their job.

Hey, reproduction is cheap. Don’t believe me? Compare the amount of advertising found in most American monthly comics with the amount of advertising found in their trade paperbacks and hardcovers. That’s right – Montly comics will have 8-12 pages of ads per 20-24 pages of comic, while the TPBs and HCs have NO ADS. Why? The creators have already been paid for the original work, and, until fairly recently, very few comics creators had royalty clauses built into their work-for-hire contracts.

Once the work is created, reproducing it is cheaper than creating new work. As a result, manga and American comics reprints actually end up being about the same price, when you consider the differences in paper stock and color versus black & white.

This isn’t to say that either is BETTER. I try to read stories that I think are good stories, regardless of their country of origin. Or even their cost, if I think the story is good enough.

So, manga is cheaper than American comics because, in the United states, manga costs less to produce. That’s all.