DC Drops All Standard Comic Prices to $2.99 Next Year

Just as I was blogging about too-high prices comes this shocking news:

Beginning January 2011, DC Comics will implement a line-wide pricing adjustment, lowering the prices of all standard length 32-page ongoing comic book titles currently priced at $3.99 to $2.99, it was announced today by DC Comics Co-Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio.

“Today’s announcement re-affirms DC Comics’ commitment to both our core fans and to comic book store retailers,” said Jim Lee, DC Comics Co-Publisher. “For the long term health of the industry, we are willing to take a financial risk so that readers who love our medium do not abandon the art form.”

Bully for DC trying to keep the industry alive single-handedly. But there’s a catch. We’re losing two story pages in the standard-sized book — and there will still be oversized annuals and specials at higher prices.

As of January, … standard length ongoing titles, previously priced at $3.99 for 32 pages/22 story pages, will be priced at $2.99 with 32 pages/20 story pages:

20 instead of 22 story pages in a month will be a boon to artists, too, since that better matches with the number of workdays in a typical month. Co-features (aka backup stories) are going away, but DiDio promised hope that “Some of these characters will find a new platform.” Platform, hunh? Like digital?

Update: Comic writer JTorres reminds me that “losing two pages also means less income for the creators”, since they’re paid by the page. I should have thought of that when I mentioned a help to artists. They get more time, but less money.

Update 2: Marvel will follow suit, also lowering prices in January, according to Heidi MacDonald, as announced on digital panel at NY Comic Con.

Update 3: Clarification on the Marvel news: “Marvel Senior Vice President of Sales & Circulation David Gabriel confirmed that new books launching in January 2011 will not debut at $3.99.” So it’s new titles going forward — existing titles may or may not stay at $3.99. More surprising: turns out it’s because their digital sales are so successful, they can afford to do this.


15 Responses to “DC Drops All Standard Comic Prices to $2.99 Next Year”

  1. Thad Says:

    …sooo they can justify reducing the price by a dollar just by swapping two story pages for two ad pages, yet their argument on the backup features was “we have to jack the price up by a buck anyway, and it really doesn’t cost us much more to add 8 extra pages”?

    I mean, I don’t want to look a gift-horse in the mouth here; I’m thrilled to see prices go down by 25% and I’ve got no problem giving up 9% of my story pages in exchange — it’s just, well, their rationale for the $4 pricetag always WAS a little flimsy.

  2. Marc-Oliver Frisch Says:

    A very odd move, which looks a little desperate. It’s not like production and distribution costs can be expected to drop any time soon, so this won’t be more than a temporary solution.

    If anything, I’d have expected 40 pages with a $ 4.99/$ 5.99 price point to be the next step for print periodicals.

    Making the “monthly slab” even slighter than it has been, only to stick to a price point for a few more years at best, seems terribly wrongheaded.

  3. Johanna Says:

    Good point. This has been a problem for comics for decades — originally, they were priced similarly to magazines, and just as thick (back in the 30s). When mags raised prices, comics instead cut pages, making them cheap, and eventually driving them from newsstands because they weren’t economically competitive.

    In the 70s, comic story pages got down to 17 before rising again after a backlash. Creating periodicals with more value (my magazines are $5, but they’re at least 80 pages) may have been a better choice, but it would have required a lot more change from publishers.

  4. James Schee Says:

    Odd….

    Why not just put two more pages of ads, bringing the total page count up to 34 and drop the price?

    Or why not just drop 4 pages of story and make the price $1.99? If two pages of story for 2 ads = $1.

  5. David Oakes Says:

    I wish I could blame the fact I just finished teaching Linear Programming to my students. But I would have done this in the summer just the same…

    “$3.99 for 32 pages/22 story pages, will be priced at $2.99 with 32 pages/20 story pages”

    Converts to the system:

    22C + 10A = 3.99
    20C + 12A = 2.99

    With the solution:

    C = 899/3200
    A = -701/3200

    Meaning that we will pay DC $8.99 for a 32 page comic book, and they will pay us $7.01 for reading 32 pages of ads. (Or we pay $5.60 for 22 pages of comics, and earn $2.64 for reading 12 pages of ads.)

    Alternately, if we assume that DC can cover their expenses with the ads, then the Writer, Artist, Colorist, Letter et al can divvy up the 28 cents a page we pay. Puts the 99 cent digital comic book in a different perspective, doesn’t it?

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  7. ~chris Says:

    Additional ad pages are more incentive for me to wait for the trade. On the other hand, will they also discount a TP that collects, for example, six comics (which means the TP would have twelve fewer pages)…?

  8. Rivkah Says:

    I wonder if this will affect Dark Horse since they only recently bumped their prices up? Because I sure as hell will be buying my B.P.R.D. and Hellboy every month, same as always, in spite of there being cheaper comics alongside. Can’t imagine how this will affect my spending at all.

    Only price differences that really give me pause between one purchase or another, are hardcover prices because those vary so wildly, and it’s a lot of money to spend all at once…

  9. James Schee Says:

    Here’s a question.. if they are dropping the physical comics price, are they dropping the price of the digital version as well?

  10. Johanna Says:

    I doubt that. They seem to want $1.99 to stick, because 99 cents is considered too cheap.

  11. Hsifeng Says:

    James Schee Says:

    “…Why not just put two more pages of ads, bringing the total page count up to 34 and drop the price?…”

    Doesn’t the total page count including covers have to be in multiples of 4? For each 1 piece of paper you add to the floppy, that’s 2 leaves per piece of paper (1 to the left of the staples, 1 to the right) and 2 pages per leaf (1 on each side).

    In order to add just 1, 2, or 3 pages of something you’d have to add 4 pages total which would leave you with 3, 2, or 1 pages left over to fill up with something else or leave blank or whatever. I bet that’s why I’ve seen some blank pages at the end of larger books too (even if they’re sewn or glued instead of stapled, there still needs to be something on either side of the binding or else the paper will fall out).

    Now if you really want a multiple of 2 paper pages that isn’t a multiple of 4, you could publish that spiral-bound or soemthing similar instead…

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