Marvel Comic Prices Move to $3.99

Noted comic retailer Brian Hibbs discusses the likely effects of higher comic prices:

there’s really no direct evidence that price has a whole lot of bearing on what [Marvel customers are] willing to purchase.

Which is the problem right there… you can’t bitch about superhero comics being $3.99 if it doesn’t cause you to change your behavior.

Unfortunately, Brian’s crystal ball doesn’t see much good. The likely results of stapled comic prices going up include

  • purchasers cutting back to only what they really want (decreasing sales)
  • even if they don’t, more complaints about comics that don’t satisfy at that price due to lack of substantial content
  • more people “waiting for the trade” collection (a particular bugaboo of Brian’s)
  • unless prices on collected editions go up as well, depressing sales of the one successful comic format

Brian does provide one potential reason for Marvel’s choice to do this so aggressively now that I hadn’t seen anyone mention:

[The possibility is that] this is being done in an effort to make Marvel’s digital initiative that much more attractive. With the price of a single new periodical now getting closer to an entire month’s “subscription” to everything they have on line, it certainly makes the digital program look a whole lot better.

8 Responses to “Marvel Comic Prices Move to $3.99”

  1. Guy Smiley Says:

    I’m definitely going to continue the cutbacks in periodicals that have already been triggered by (a) endless events I don’t care about; (2) sprawling stories I’d rather read in trade than keep straight in my mind over the one-month (or worse, lately) gaps; (third) crappy megaviolent extra-rapey slop I’d rather not read at all; (and) DC’s recent cancellation of several titles I probably should’ve moved on from already, anyway.

    The upside, I suppose, is that I’m going to make a conscious effort in 2009 to put some of the money I’m not investing in spandex into alt/art comics, which I really oughtta be paying more attention to than I already do.

  2. Johanna Says:

    That is a positive way to look at things, to redirect your purchases to make sure you’re buying things you really enjoy and feel good about.

  3. Trebbers Says:

    Brian’s just betting that the demand for Marvel’s product in the DM is fairly inelastic, which seems about right to me. I mean, the price of floppies has been ridiculous for years and years, but incremental price jumps have always seemed to generate far more grousing than loss of sales.

  4. Johanna Says:

    True, but I am surprised to see how large this particular jump was at this time. I don’t know why Marvel didn’t go to $3.50 (a price already used by some standard serial comics from Image) instead of raising an entire dollar.

  5. Charles RB Says:

    This big a rise, especially on top of Diamond UK upping _its_ prices, is a real pisser. I know I’m going to be less likely to start picking up any new titles in the short term, and I know of several people also in the UK who have decided from hereon to stop buying singles entirely.

    2000AD is the notable exception since that’s still £1.90 – it remains cheaper than pretty much everything else – and Titan Magazines’ Transformers as that just _became_ cheaper than any US title while being over twice as big!

  6. jdh417 Says:

    Or this move may drive more people to manga. Were I a Japanese publisher, I’d produce an American-style superhero comic magazine in the fashion of Shonen Jump for the US audience, and finish off Marvel and DC as periodical publishers once and for all.

    On another note, I picked up the latest Betty & Veronica Spectacular @ $2.25. Probably more entertaining than any other single issue comic I could have gotten on the stands.

    PS Love your website.

  7. Charles RB Says:

    Why would that finish them off? Is it likely to cost less than Marvel/DC? Wouldn’t the lack of “name” heroes harm it, since it’s quite obvious a large number of Marvel and DC readers want to read existing Marvel and DC characters/the Marvel U and DCU?

    More to the point, are manga digest sales staying the same or are they going up to? Because that might harm them, on top of a seemingly saturated market and US bookstore chains in financial difficulties.

  8. James Schee Says:

    It doesn’t really effect me that much, as I read so very little DC/Marvel and when I do its usually in trades.

    I actually kind of wonder if the price increase doesn’t bring the pamphlets more in line with Marvel’s current trade pricing. I was surprised by the sticker shock I got when looking at some of the recent trades (trades, not HCs!) that were over $25.

    Of course with options like Amazon and Ebay I never pay retail anyway. Which is probably something shop owners don’t want to hear.




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