In case you’ve been cavorting out in the real world this past week and shut yourself off from everything geeky… You might not know that DC Comics, then Marvel (lamely)– stated that they are now committed to the $2.99 price point for individual comic books and that they would lower their $3.99 floppies to $2.99 starting January 2011.
The news took the Tweets, Blogs and Email servers by storm. Many rejoiced. Others shook their heads in disbelief… Even more simply couldn’t wrap their heads around it.
After all, who has EVER SEEN the cover price of comic books decrease?
EXACTLY WHY PRICES WILL BE LOWER
The August comic book sales figures came in… And the results of the price increase were ominously telling.
For the first time in the modern era— not one DC or MARVEL comic book broke the 100,000 copy sales plateau. Not one. No matter how popular the title– comic book sales were down across the board. New books launching for the first time at the $3.99 cover price were uniformly victims of extremely lukewarm sales.
The sales figures reflected an immediate repudiation of the price hike.
This news must have been very frightening to the Powers That Be— as they instantly and collectively realized they had been completely fucked by their own naked greed.
Several industry higher-ups also reported being shaken by stories of long time collectors who suddenly stopped collecting upon hearing the news that their favorite books would suffer an increase of over 30%.
Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley even went so far as to make the following statement/rationalization:
“I think it’s the appropriate price point for the entertainment value and quality that we offer in the books. The $3.99 price point was already the price point for limited series and one-shots before we moved some of our regular series up, and we still have several regular series that are at $2.99. If we want to continue to have the talent and the quality that we offer in those books, it’s a price point that we had to explore. What we offer from an entertainment standpoint is pretty solid and I think we should be proud of that.”
All well and good Mr. Buckley… But I have a few quick questions:
If a popular book sells more copies– why are you raising the cover price? Shouldn’t better selling books be lower priced since you are selling more books? Shouldn’t your increased profits allow you to afford the popular creative teams without an increase in cover price?
Since you say you have to raise prices to pay for quality talent— why are you also raising the prices of books that feature virtually unknown (therefore lower paid) creative teams? Why are those books also $3.99?
I mean, I guess what I ‘m asking is… Is this a legitimate price increase, Mr. Buckley? Or are you just attempting to baffle us with bullshit?
RUMOR HAS IT
The price increase issue has been shrouded in very persistent, negative rumblings. Most believe the jump had nothing to do with publishers incurring additional production costs… And was apparently just an arbitrary increase to squeeze fans. This thought drove a lot of people more than a little crazy. Virtually anyone who thought about the controversy for more than a second decided not to believe the Official Publisher Party Line™— that prices were raised to cover increasing production costs.
Then, of course, there was the added insanity of companies raising cover prices– for any reason— in the middle of a very long Recession/Depression.
THE BUCK STOPPED HERE
A lot of comic book pros are attending the high-profile New York Comic Con this weekend– the spot where DC Comics decided to evoke their price lowering mea culpa.
DC honchos Jim Lee and Dan Didio handled their announcement with a welcomed maturity and restraint… While some of the more brash Marvel staffers seemingly couldn’t be bothered with that. Many seemed intent on playing coy while “discussing” the important subject of rising comic book prices– as if the idea of comics being overpriced in a bad economy was barely a topic worth discussing. Not surprisingly, a couple of Marvel editors and employees seemed to delight in poking fun at DC’s decision to lower their books’ creative page count from 22 to 20… Like two fewer pages in a comic book is the sign of anybody’s fucking Apocalypse.
I sure do wish I was at the con. If I was, I would love to lob this question at one of those snappy Marvel employees:
Why does Marvel seem to consistently think that their fans are STUPID… Or that we don’t want to be treated like ADULTS?
You gotta remember that most comic fans are– what– 25 to 45 now? Why wouldn’t these adults want to discuss such a negative financial impact on their cash flow in a mature manner?
A LITTLE HISTORY
A lot of collectors have been known to drop in and out of this hobby as they move on– or are attracted to– different entertainment forms. Therefore, they are not completely up to speed on every bit of comic book history– including the esoteric study of comic book prices through the decades. Others simply forget history. Even more are too young and would not know the history unless they read a book that discussed the subject.
That stated, I know beyond a doubt that many now reading this article will not know the following two facts:
#1) Back in the day, only a poorer selling comic had its’ cover price raised– as low sales at lower price levels could not justify the continued publication of certain books. Better selling books always had lower prices. The rest of the books in a publisher’s line might be $1.25 each– and the less popular titles would be $1.75 (or whatever). This was the publisher’s way of catering to all of their fans… And the fans of the more expensive titles rarely complained because they felt that the companies cared. But now– as DC publishes 19 Batman books in one month or Marvel releases 46 Deadpool comics every 30 days– it is hard to believe that the companies care about anything other than money… And how quickly they can get you to part with yours.
#2 There was a time, believe it or not, when comic books only had 17 PAGES of original art and story in each issue. So this whole 20 story pages per book (a number DC is reportedly adopting) verses 22 pages (which Marvel is apparently sticking with… at least this week)– is a bullshit argument over NOTHING.
I truly believe the lower page count will force the better creators— the people who really deserve your attention and your money– to get rid of some of those horrific space wasting splash and double splash pages that the companies have become so enamored with… Pages that only exist to pad a story for eventual collection in a Hardcover or Trade Paperback.
Make a note here: if enough fans resist the lower page count, DC will add the 2 pages back to their books. If fans act like they don’t miss those two pages in DC’s books– Marvel will contract their comics by 2 pages quicker than one of their editors can say something stupid or snarky about the subject at a convention.
THE TRUE HEROES
Commentators like CCW*TV’s Jose Melendez should pat themselves on the back for selflessly using their pulpits to rail continuously against this stultifying price increase. While many uncaring retailers just shrugged off the issue and continued to fill their weekly You Tube videos with the usual self-promoting stupidity and lame book reviews… Other brave men and women led the way in exposing the unnecessary price increase as nothing more than a naked cash grab.
It was their protestations on Twitter, non-profit Blogs and Videos that caused thousands of fans to quickly rally against the price hikes. It was their words that caused thousands of comic book collectors to do something that the majority of fans had never done in the face of a price increase before… Many true blue collectors DROPPED EVERY BOOK but their core, must have titles– and took to the internet rejoicing in their new austere approach to comic book collecting.
So the commentators commented. The fans protested. Thousands dropped the more expensive titles (or refused to buy the new expensive titles)… Causing DC and Marvel to blink. Sounds good– exactly the way a free economy is supposed to work in a democratic society. People voted with their wallets and pocketbooks and the greedy corporations were forced to learn an unusual lesson.
So why are there still some people out there who think Marvel and DC only lowered prices because they care about their fans? There is no indication that this arbitrary price increase was anything but good old-fashioned corporate greed… So why would anybody think these companies lowered the prices to help their customers out?
It’s crazy. The people now forced to lower the prices are the same people who arbitrarily raised the prices just a few months before!
The bottom line is the bottom line and the only reason you saw your favorite books increase by a dollar overnight was because certain dolts at certain conglomerates got a little too full of themselves and thought you would all line up and gladly take a bite of their hastily prepared shit sammich. (Please note: This audio link is NSFW or Meddling Parental Units!)
Personally, I can’t wait to watch the inevitable fancy two-step that Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley will soon be forced to perform– since it was just last week he thought the price increase was perfectly appropriate.