Robot 6

NYCC ’10 | Marvel responds to DC’s price rollback

Price rollback!

Comparing new efforts by Marvel and DC Comics to lower cover prices isn’t fair to either publisher, a Marvel representative told fans Friday at New York Comic Con.

A day earlier, DC announced it will roll back prices on its standard-size monthly titles from $3.99 to $2.99 beginning in January, a move that will cut the number of story pages from 22 to 20 and eliminate co-features from eight series. Less than an hour later Marvel revealed that its new books debuting in 2011 will carry a $2.99 cover price.

Although some Marvel representatives, like Senior Vice President C.B. Cebulski, responded on Twitter to DC’s announcement — “Kudos to DC on their price drop, but boo on doing it by cutting story pages and adding more ads. Creators now losing monthly income.” — New York Comic Con presented others with their first opportunity to field questions on the topic from readers.

And they weren’t long in coming; at Friday’s “T&A Presents” panel, it took just three questions for Vice President-Executive Editors Axel Alonso and Tom Brevoort to be asked about the $2.99 price point.

“Question #3!” Brevoort said. “Who had that in the pool?”

Comic Book Resources reports that he reiterated Marvel’s pricing policy for new books, and disclosed that the publisher will be “contracting some of our line publishing.”

“We kind of get the sense that you guys don’t know which ones are the ones you should pay attention to,” Brevoort said, “so we’re going to be pulling back on that in the months ahead as well.”

The topic also arose at the “Welcome to the X-Men” panel, where an audience member asked, to some applause, whether Marvel would lower prices on $3.99 titles. According to CBR’s report, X-Factor writer Peter David “asked if fans who want to see titles drop to $2 would also like to see their local comic shops go out of business. As costs rise for retailers in terms of rent and operational expenses, he argued, books must also rise sometimes.”

Arune Singh, manager of sales communications, emphasized that many titles debuting from Marvel in 2011 will ship at $2.99, and said that comparing the publisher’s new efforts with DC’s isn’t fair to either company.

Alonso, meanwhile, noted that DC’s announcement “is not without controversy,” echoing Cebulski’s concerns about the reduction in story pages. “It’s not quite as simple as ‘Drop your books to $2.99, and everything will be okay’,” he said.

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23 Comments

I will not buy any more $3.99 books. My budget can’t handle it. And as much as I appreciate my LCS, I have to draw the line somewhere.

Nice try on spinning it Marvel, but “boo” for trying to cover your greed by pretending to be the heroes here.

It’s the $3.99 price point that got local comic shops into this hurt in the first place. Do you know how many books have been dropped by customers due to this extra buck over the course of the year? LCS will WELCOME this price drop. Customers will come back!

I am concerned that ultimately it is the cut the creators receive that will most be affected by the price cut…but I don’t think Marvel (Cebulski) is really that concerned about what creators earn. One thing is for sure whether or not you are DC or Marvel–your bottom line isn’t going to be where the money comes from.

according to a Newsarama article interviewing retailers…. it looked like all the retailers were very positive over DC’s move.

The $3.99 price point is making people leave comics altogether.

Marvel just needs to realize all this spin is getting no traction and give up. I bet Marvel was going thinking the would be the heroes and now thanks to their crack staff they just come off as a bunch asses especially Alonso. This is all just going be even more embarrassing when Marvel does follow suit.

Cebulski and Marvel are playing a very political “other party” comment in terms of trying to make this about the creators.

Creators don’t get paid by the issue – they get paid by the page rate. If they did 22 pages in a month before the price/page decrease, they’ll continue to do 22 pages in a month after. A month of work doesn’t not always mean a month devoted to one single issue.

In the long run, maybe this will actually GAIN them an issue/more pages to work on – since the need for a fill in artist after just 3/4 issues may not be necessary.

Leave it to Marvel to try and put a negative spin on it. When ultimately, the people who will know the truth and benefit from this, just like they did with the ring promotions Marvel tried to sour, are the retailers. It was because of them that this all happened in the first place.

Sorry Marvel – but in this you lose.

At least their old excuse was remotely plausible.

Oh man we lose 2 whole pages of story and then have to pay a dollar less. Marvel’s right! DC is stupid.

Of course I’m being sarcastic.

Peter David, blaming everything on the consumers… again. He is correct that prices need to rise sometimes, and I believe everyone here knows that. But the 33% percent increase is arguably too much for the entire market to support this quickly at this time. And it is not the fault of the consumers if local comic shops go out of business; the consumer’s only responsibility in the whole comic industry relationship is to buy things that they they, the consumer’s, choose to buy. That’s it.

As a retailer, who owns 2 shops in the Cleveland, area, I am insulted that Marvel is trying to drag us into the argument for $3.99 comics. My rent has not gone up 33%. My utilities have not gone up 33%. My employee and other costs have not gone up 33%. What has happened is customers dropping books because of the $3.99 cost. I have lost more Marvel buyers over the last year than DC buyers, because of the cost. DC has kept most of their titles at $2.99 and my customers responded. With the $3.99 cost, I have trimmed my Marvel orders to just what sells in a single two week period, with the exception of about 6 books. DC books I try to anticipate what will sell over 4 weeks. My next step will be too cut Marvel down to a one week sales window. With the cost at $3.99 per book, I can no longer stock even 1 extra copy of a title and hope it sells.

I’m all for dropping the price on the $3.99 books and removing the backup stories – I was always kinda annoyed at having to pay an extra buck for something I almost never read.

But going from 22 pages to 20 pages is not a good idea. I have often thought that just 22 pages makes it pretty tough to write a really great story. Waiting 30 days for a 20 page story would really be make me look seriously at what I wanted to keep subscribing to at my LCBS.

$2.99 for 22 pages of story is pretty much the best solution. I realize they can’t go much cheaper than $2.99, but they also should not reduce the number of story pages below the current 22 – doing so would probably be just as big a loss in sales as the higher $3.99 price.

I’m confused with the $2.99 vs. $3.99. Do they realize that the Treasury still issues coins? What about $3.25? $3.50? I realize there’s a psychological benefit to seeing the 2 in front instead of the 3, but comics were priced at $2.25 for years. There’s no reason they can’t do something similar again.

99 cents is standard practice, nothing is $3 even, (not just comic book but all) companies think we’re all stupid and can’t round up a penny and realize $2.99 is actually $3. They’d probably save money on ink selling books at $3 (not $3.00) instead of $2.99. Think about it! That’s two whole digits dropped save money on ink, make an extra penny on the book. Annoy me less.

Best way to save the world the hassle: Stop minting pennies, then no one can get one as change. Useless things, anyway. You can’t even buy penny candy for a penny anymore.

Fact: Marvel is going to be selling 22 pages of story for $3 and DC is selling 20 pages for $3, Marvel will be the better deal.

I know ya’ll love to hate Marvel, but facts is facts, you get more of what you’re paying for (who pays for ads?) from Marvel.

Note that Peter David is responding to fans who want comics to drop to $2.00. Not to $2.99.

In the wake of DC’s announcement, I’ve seen a lot of posts calling for that, and I think Peter’s right that it would be economically untenable.

But he’s specifically noting the call for a $2 cover price, while the others all seem to be talking about $2.99. I assume that’s what he was asked about.

kdb

Marvel will be selling their books at $3.99 for 22 pages as opposed to DC selling $2.99 for 20 pages. Read the article carefully. Marvel is not dropping their $3.99 books to $2.99 as DC is. Marvel will only commit to new titles released in 2011 at the $2.99 price. That means that all current Marvel titles will remain at $3.99.

A $2.99 Marvel comic with 22 pages will be a better deal than a $2.99 DC comic with 20 pages. This is true.

Having said that, a $3.99 Marvel comic with 22 pages will be a MUCH worse deal than a $2.99 DC comic with 20 pages, and Marvel puts out a metric shedload of $3.99 comics with 22 pages and they’re not intending to drop the price on any of them.

Let’s see, 20 pages of story content per 32 page pamphlet puts DC on a par with Marvel ca. 1964-1973 A decent enough writer and artist team can tell an entertaining story or chapter of a story in 20 pages. By the late seventies, as part of an effort to contain costs in rough economic times, story content again dropped down to 17 pages per 32 page pamphlet, and again, entertaining stories were told in that format.

There is clearly an upper limit the remaining comics market is willing to pay for their monthly fix, and $3.99 per 32 page pamphlet appears to exceed that limit. Yes, I know DC was, in fact offering 40 page pamphlets with 30 pages of story content at $3.99 in addition to other titles at 32 pages (22 of content) at $3.99, with others remaining at $2.99 but Marvel had pretty much gone to $3.99 across the board.

Various cost per page calculations at the various price-points are largely immaterial, as consumers don’t buy their comics by the page, but by the total package (usually a 32 page collection of story and ads). A higher page count/higher price-point package doesn’t work because – in this economy – the consumer’s supply of money is increasingly limited and he must now prioritize his discretionary/luxury spending.

In those circumstances a 32 page total package for $2.99 looks better than a 32 page package for $3.99 even if the advertising to story balance shifts a couple of pages in the direction of advertising with the lower price-point.

The typical comics reader is probably not thinking “Those money hungry scum took two pages of story from me.” He’ll probably be thinking, “Hey, I got an extra dollar I can put to buying a Coke. For the past several years, he has probably be thinking, “Man, it takes me five minutes to read this 22 page story with the huge two-page splashes and the three to five panels per page and it still takes me about 15-20 minutes to read this old 17 page story from the late seventies that I’ve had in my collection for thirty years. Why is that?”

I wonder why Marvel is being so aggressively obnoxious here. From a PR PoV, they are not doing themselves any favors.

And sad to say, most readers really won’t care if talent is being paid less. Anymore than if you lowered prices on anything else.

Scott Kurtz brought a point that hurts Peter David’s theory that cheaper comics will hurt comic shops. Scott says he’s spoken with retailers and was told what is really hurting comic shops are customers pull lists. People will visit a shop once a month, only to discover their pulls are too expensive and will either let it stockpile with future pulls or have shop owners put old comics on the shelves.

I have to say that I believe Scott’s point. I buy my comics a la carte, I’ll just take whatever’s up on the rack. If there’s something I wanted, but it’s not up, my comic shop guys will take it out of someone’s pull list. Mainly because I’m buying now, not weeks or months from now. Plus, I’m a loyal customer.

I’m not a store owner, but I think the companies are starting to realize how close they came to putting a lot of stores out of business. These observtions are based on purchases at 11 different comic shops in one metropolitan area in 2010.

1. When you have a 50% chance of finding a shelf copy of finding a lower selling Marvel or DC comic on new release day, comic shop’s money are stretched too far. I’ve seen this at mom & pop stores and the headquarters of a large chain. It sounds silly, but if I know you are not going to have a shelf copy of Doom Patrol, you’ve eliminated 12 weeks a year when I won’t go to the store. Maybe I’m only buying that book, but I could pick up other new comics or could find something else to buy.

2. Comic shops make no money on back issues unless they are 35 years old. Store owners could sell surprise hot issues like Thor #337, Longhsot #1 or New Teen Titans #1 to make up for the losses on unsold inventory. Now, thanks to trades, the only way to get that kind of mark-up is with variant covers. According to Diamond, one out of every four products they sell has a variant. Basically variant covers don’t mean anything any more. Where do stores have a high mark-up anymore?

3. It’s not just illegal downloaders that stores are competing against. Libraries have greatly increased their selection. People are selling collections on eBay. Trades are available online. If you don’t have a trade in stock, I don’t have to ask you to special order it. I don’t have to remind you to special order it when you forgot. I can get it at a better price online or free from the library. Also most collectors are older. They have their own collections to re-read. Also with stores struggling to survive, more books are going into discount bins. Sales are being held more frequently. Competition between stores is fierce.

4. It’s the economy, stupid. Customers college age and slightly above are hardest hit by unemployment this recession. The generation above them is faced with aging parents who haven’t saved enough for retirement, with kids or with both. These are the ages that buy the most comics. It was reported Loeb stated a few week’s back if you can’t afford $4 for a comic you shouldn’t be buying comics. If you buy one or two books a month, I agree. Most stores make it on subscription customers. Raise their cost by 33%, and they will notice. Comics are a hobby and a habbit. They are not a necessity, and for most they are not an addiction. So as consumer’s have been pulling back, publishers have put out more and at a higher price. Stores wanting to avoid the problem in Point 1 order more, but are forced to liquidate as noted in Point 3. With all the talk about growth in digital and collections and libraries, the publishers would face a huge contraction if the direct market contracts. Finally, the companies are realizing that the quick fix of raising prices and putting out unwanted comics in the hopes a short-term fix will bring about another contraction like the 90s.

funkygreenjerusalem

October 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Fact: Marvel is going to be selling 22 pages of story for $3 and DC is selling 20 pages for $3, Marvel will be the better deal.

Fact: Marvel is going to be selling debut books at $3.
There has been no announcement that any $4 books are becoming $3.
So DC will be the better deal.

“Senior Vice President C.B. Cebulski, responded on Twitter to DC’s announcement — ‘Kudos to DC on their price drop, but boo on doing it by cutting story pages and adding more ads. Creators now losing monthly income.’”

“Comic Book Resources reports that he reiterated Marvel’s pricing policy for new books, and disclosed that the publisher will be ‘contracting some of our line publishing.’”

There’s a bit of hypocrisy here.

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