Marvel Plays With Numbers: Backs Off Price Decrease, Confuses New Readers With Point One

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

Captain America #615.1

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.

7 Responses to “Marvel Plays With Numbers: Backs Off Price Decrease, Confuses New Readers With Point One”

  1. Eric Says:

    The original Marvel announcement said that only new title would be getting the new price point. This was pretty clear when it was originally reported so I do not really see where the confusion comes from. This just expands on that and lays out more detail.

    Hercules wasn’t exactly canceled either… The writer was kinda telling a story (which is still going on) that killed the character. I guess you could argue that the limited series that have been released to continue that story could have been in the on-going, but does that really matter? I completely agree though that Marvel doesn’t give new books very much time. It seems like they make a judgement based on sales of the first issue whether or not the book will make them money. If it won’t, they nix it.

    The decimal thing just seems silly. Is there going to be an Avengers #12 along side #12.1? I am assuming no. It is silly to restrict a book to a 1 issue self contained story, just as it would be silly to force every story arc to be 6 issues long. I’m not against stories of either length, I just prefer stories to come naturally and take the number of issues the writer feels is important.

  2. Johanna Says:

    The big change from the original announcement is the increased number of limitations they’ve put on the news. Now it’s not just “only new titles”, it’s “only new titles of limited length that aren’t licensed and aren’t Ultimates and aren’t already in progress in any form”. That’s a pretty significant change in terms of reducing how many books qualify.

    From what I’ve heard, there may be a 12 and 12.1 and 13. I’m not sure. I would like to see stories told in their natural length, too, but most writers these days start with the planned length and then plot around it.

  3. James Schee Says:

    Here’s the thing for me on the decimal point thing. Wouldn’t most people think its just an updated version of the issue, like computer programs do?

  4. Grant Says:

    I wish marvel would take these really good comics like Hawkeye and Mockingbird, Atlas, Guardians of the Galaxy, etc, that are all getting or have already gotten canceled and go back to the old double story format like they had in Tales of Suspense or Tales to Astonish back in the day. Better than losing them all together. Isn’t Action Comics doing somthing like that? Or doing a rotation type of thing?

    H&M is the only Marvel title that I’ve been buying on a regular basis lately. I hope it lasts long enough to make it to the planned crossover with Black Widow.

    Also, Dynamite just launched the first issue of a John Carter of Mars reboot for a dollar. A dollar. I don’t see why these Point One issues cant sell for the same price. And shouldn’t they be called Point 5, as in what ever the previous comics number was “and a half”?

  5. Johanna Says:

    I suspect they picked 1 because it suggests a starting point, but putting the decimal point in front changes the context. If I was doing it, I’d ignore the number games and just use text: a big “Start Here” banner or something.

  6. hardtravelinghero Says:

    Why not go with what Superman started doing again with New Krypton and have each issue’s cover feature some sort of symbol with what part of the story it is?

    I think it was an article you pointed out about decompressing stories and how one issue of Batman had 1 of 1, which was funny.

    I am also rereading some Superman comics from 2000/2001 when there were a lot of good stories sequencing through all four Superman titles at the time.

    This would be especially good since Marvel stopped using cover dates when, a decade ago? I wish they’d bring those back.

  7. Marvel: Wolverine 5.1, X-Factor 215, Spider-Girl 4, Captain America: Man Out of Time #3 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] think the Marvel point one idea is dumb, but darned if this entry didn’t work for me as a jumping-on point. That’s […]




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