Even Billy Complains About the Ads

Today’s Family Circus (update: found thanks to Bob) has a grumpy looking Billy reading a comic book.

Family Circus cartoon: Now even comic books have too many commercials!

He must be a Marvel reader. (Buh dump ba) Seriously, how weird to see that complaint make it into such a mainstream outlet.

18 Responses to “Even Billy Complains About the Ads”

  1. Dwight Williams Says:

    Very much so.

  2. Bob Says:

    You should be able to read it here at the Houston Chronicle site.

    I like how he’s reading a generic COMICS comic book.

  3. Pitzer Says:

    You know what’s classic? The “Buh dump ba”. heh.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Thanks, Bob! I knew somewhere had to have it, but I didn’t have time to do the search.

    Chris, I’m glad someone got that. I wasn’t sure I was spelling it right. :)

  5. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Bob, I think that is the same publisher that printed the generic Comix that Charlie Brown and company are often reading.

  6. Mark Says:

    But it’s true. This month I was reading a marvel single issue for the first time in quite a while (Iron Fist #1) and while I enjoyed the issue itself very much, the insane amount of ads just annoyed me to no end. I’ve decided to wait until a collected edition is published to decide if I actually continue reading the story.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Oh, yeah, it’s true. That’s why I found it funny — how often is the Family Circus timely and relevant these days?

    Retailers, based on what I’ve heard, are hearing complaints from readers, and it’s affecting purchases. It also makes the books heavier, so many stores are paying more in freight costs for the same products.

  8. Paul O'Brien Says:

    It’s probably not great for the advertisers either. Most response seems to fall into two categories – those who violently hate the adverts, and those who claim to be able to tune them out altogether. Neither response is exactly good news for the advertiser. Of course, there were a ton of complaints about this last year, which Marvel acknowledged, but the company is too short-sighted and greedy to act on them.

  9. ~chris Says:

    Just to be contrary… Where is the line between being “greedy” and keeping costs (and cover price) down?

    (I prefer publishers who put their ads in the back of the comic. And Mad magazine with advertisements is an abomination.)

  10. ~chris Says:

    BTW, I didn’t know Family Circus characters ever got angry!

  11. Johanna Says:

    When the number of ad pages approaches parity with the number of story pages, then that’s a significant marker. And the perception of “greedy” comes about because Marvel is damaging the reader experience. They’re also charging retailers more for a less satisfying product. Neither of those groups get any share of the supposedly increased revenue; instead, they’re paying more for less.

    (I agree with you about Mad — I was very surprised when I saw a recent issue.)

  12. Paul O'Brien Says:

    “Where is the line between being “greedy” and keeping costs (and cover price) down?”

    But they’re NOT keeping the cover price down. These last two months, they’ve shipping books with 12 extra pages of adverts, and they haven’t cut the cover price at all. They’re selling a dramatically worse product for the same price.

    Obviously there’s a balance to be struck somewhere, but Marvel are so far over the line into sheer, unadulterated greed that the question really doesn’t arise here.

  13. Paul O'Brien Says:

    Incidentally, Joanna, the number of ads isn’t “approaching parity.” It IS parity. In some books, the adverts actually outnumber the story pages – and that’s only counting the adverts between the first and last pages of the story.

  14. Johanna Says:

    I feared that was the case, but I wanted to err on the side of the optimistic.

  15. Matthew High Says:

    Well, who *exactly* is Marvel’s customer? Is it the readers of the comic book…or the advertisers inside the book?

    Although I do not have any hard numbers to back me up, I would be willing to bet dollars to donuts that Marvel gets much more revenue from selling the ad space, than they do selling comics to readers. Put in that perspective, as a publisher I’d be bending over backwards to keep the advertisers happy.

    A more extreme example would be daily newspapers. That 25 or 50 cents you pay for your local paper is a mere pittance compared to the newspaper’s primary revenue stream — advertisers. Which is why 70-80% of newsprint is devoted to ads.

    Of course, it’s a balancing act — too many ads equals fewer readers equals less money you can charge for those same ads. I’m sure they have plenty of highly-paid consultants who have worked out the exact percentage that maximizes their profit. And I’m sure that ratio they’ve worked out is much more ad-heavy than just about any diehard comics fan really *wants*…the ultimate question is just how much can the diehard comics fan *tolerate*.

  16. ~chris Says:

    “Where is the line between being “greedy” and keeping costs (and cover price) down?”

    Yikes! I hope my question was understood as a discussion starter, not a defense of Marvel policy. *peace*

    BTW, non in-house ads could enable a publisher to keep from having to raise prices when other costs increase, so the lack of a price decrease does not immediately prove greed. And for the record, I read very few Marvel comics (Astonishing X-Men and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane). Vote with your dollar.

  17. ~chris Says:

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I like to see prices kept low so that more kids read comics. Manga and Archie Comics (go read Sabrina!) are good examples. Marvel kept the price of Ultimate Spider-Man low for quite a while, so they can be good if they try.

  18. Dwight Williams Says:

    Just had a reminder that I posted this entry today…and it seems as true today as in 2006.

    Matt pointed out a basic truth that still holds up: Marvel’s customer base does come in two flavours: readers and advertisers. Has done so from almost day one, in fact. And it’s got to be a rather painful ongoing balancing act for them to deal with.




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