- Posted by Johanna on November 7, 2010 at 11:04 am
- Category: Comic News
Marvel Doesn’t Want to Cut Prices?
During the New York Comic Con last month, the big news was DC’s price drop, coming in January. At the time, it was reported that Marvel was also dropping some prices, although since that was based on a panel announcement, clarification was needed. (Because we know how many mistakes can result from those kinds of announcements, as people hear things wrong or speakers even misremember what they said compared to what they intended to say.)
Fans eager to see the benefit to their budget have been looking for more information on just what Marvel books will be decreasing in price, although the first signs were very disappointing — a review of Marvel’s January solicitations showed very few price drops. Since then, Vice President and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort has claimed that the original statement was “either misreported or misconstrued”, saying that the correct message was that “beginning in January we’d be able to start pricing some of our upcoming limited series and other releases at $2.99.” (He goes on to blame readers for misunderstanding and then being upset they weren’t seeing what they hoped for.)
Heidi conducted an interview with David Gabriel, Marvel’s Senior Vice-President of Sales & Circulation, who puts so many qualifiers on what he originally said as to make it meaningless:
… for limited series in the Marvel Universe that we roll out, we will price as many of those as we can for $2.99 for a 32-page book. If someone has 30 pages they want to put into those stories or [special issues], especially a one-shot, those will be at $3.99 as they have been. If there is backup material, the book will be at the higher price. If a series is already is in the works, again, we never made any announcement that we were lowering prices on series that were out already. If the first issue has been solicited at $3.99, the second issue will be at $3.99. There’s not a strict policy thing that we’re lowering everything to $2.99 but there will be pricing structures that will help everyone stay profitable.
So to get the low price, a book has to be a new limited series with a short page count that hasn’t been announced or even started yet. Wow, that’s exactly unlike DC’s across-the-board cut! Gabriel continued on to say that the low price also didn’t apply to licensed books or Ultimate titles.
To an outside observer, this looks like Marvel wanting to try and snatch media attention from DC (which got a lot of praise and coverage for responding to fan desires, even if retailers weren’t as happy) and now walking back on the message, claiming it was our fault for not reading/listening properly. Perhaps it all was just a big misunderstanding, but you’d think that if that was the case, Marvel wouldn’t have waited so long to correct the misapprehension shared by so many.
It doesn’t seem like they have a clear message on this yet, so they’re saying the minimum they can until they can figure things out and get more sales without decreasing profits. Which is likely an incompatible possibility at this point, as more fans bail on comics at the too-high $4 cover price.
Marvel’s also said that they’re going to be reducing the number of titles they publish monthly. That’s needed, since there are too many similar comics coming out. Unfortunately, it’s the predictable big names — the Spider-Man, the Avengers, the X-Men books — that are doing ok. The quirkier books, the one that a reader like me likes — Atlas, Pet Avengers, Hawkeye and Mockingbird (which, in a particularly telling remark, they refer to only as “Hawkeye”) — are going to be the ones disappearing. We’ve already seen that with Young Allies and Hercules being cancelled. Looks like the Marvel universe will be a much less interesting and diverse place soon.
Instead, They’re Playing With Decimals
In another attempt to compensate for old readers leaving, Marvel is seeking to bring in new readers with a “Point One” initiative. To provide “jumping-on points”,
Beginning in February 2011, select Marvel comic series marked with a “.1″ after the issue number feature full-length, self-contained stories by Marvel’s top creators, laying the groundwork for the next year of storylines. From INVINCIBLE IRON MAN to AVENGERS to AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, each Marvel: Point One issue of the associated series not only begin major new storylines, but also seamlessly introduces new readers into the dynamic Marvel Universe and its popular super heroes. Additionally, each issue bearing the Marvel: Point One branding will be followed in the same month by another issue of that series, delivering new fans another exciting installment of the series they enjoy.
Bear in mind that there are two kinds of new readers — those new to comics, and those new to your comics. This kind of nit-picky effort only reaches the second. Instead of setting up something that would bring in truly new readers, Marvel seems to care only about increasing their sales at the expense of their competitors. Someone new to comics is only going to be confused by a dot number, wondering why the comic is 654.1 instead of 654 and not recognizing the significance. There is mention of a planned marketing push, hopefully outside the direct market, but even if that happens, and if potential customers are interested, it’s too complicated a message to succeed with.
Let’s also note that while all the .1 issues will be $2.99, there is no comment on the following issue that same month. I’m betting that they’ll be the now-standard $3.99. So if this unlikely hypothetical new reader does like their Captain America #615.1 in spite of the idiotic numbering, they’ll have quite the shock when they have to spend a dollar more for CA #616. That looks a lot like bait and switch to the new buyer. The books also cost too much for retailers to order them generously and use them as giveaways or bonuses.
Although promoting their top creators, no names are mentioned. (Apparently, some were mentioned at the press conference announcing this effort.) It also strikes me as extremely misguided that self-contained, satisfying stories that new readers can both understand and enjoy are so unusual in superhero comics that they deserve a press release and a marketing push.