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Quote of the day | DC’s John Rood on ‘Drawing the Line at $2.99′

“We’re of our word, in a day and age where not everyone is, we’re pretty proud of that. That doesn’t pay the bills and I had hoped, candidly, that there was going to be a commensurate growth in volume that made $2.99 undeniably wonderful as a business move but that has not yet been the case.”

John Rood, DC Comics’ executive vice president-sales, marketing and business development, talking frankly with Comic Book Resources about the publisher’s “Drawing the Line at $2.99″ initiative

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So what’s that mean; they’re going to stay with 2.99 but drop back to 18 pages?

Maybe the real problem is that, whether you’re paying $2.99 or $3.99, you’re only getting 1/6th of a story. Perhaps the comics industry went wrong when it began inflating stories so they’d fit the format of trade paperbacks. When you’re only getting one sixth of a story, it’s hard to feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

Maybe it’s time to wave bye-bye to the era of bloated “decompression”.

This just in from the Ministry of the Fucking Obvious: “DUH!”

Making cheap books isn’t enough to get people to buy them.

I’d say “They have to be GOOD, too,” but that’s obviously not the case. The truth is, of course, a lot more complicated.

Problem #1 is the economy. Even if your books are cheap AND good, people won’t buy them if they can’t afford them.

Trouble is, there’s nothing much DC can do about that other than do the best they can and hope things turn around. You know, like everybody else. It’s tough all over.

Problem #2 is that the major publishers have spent the post-speculation years catering to the whims of a shrinking fanbase, caught in the catch-22 of not wanting to risk losing their tiny audience on the mere POSSIBILITY of finding a bigger one.

DC at least seems to have some good ideas on how to deal with that. Vertigo has had some major crossover success stories. And a lot of the IDEAS behind the DC relaunch seem good, even if I fear the execution will ultimately turn out to be more of the same old crap.

Problem #3 is digital distribution, and nobody in any industry really seems to have that figured out yet. I’m an advocate of universal, DRM-free formats. Different, proprietary formats and DRM schemes present a barrier to entry; some people are willing to jump through hoops to give you their money, but I really don’t think they’re the new customers you’re trying to get.

(I’ve seen free comics advertised more than once on the Dark Horse site, but each time I’ve found I needed to sign up for an account and download a proprietary client that, near as I can tell, won’t run on Linux. Never mind the justifications for doing this with for-pay books; what possible reason can there be not to just offer a damn CBZ file if you’re giving it away for free anyway?)

Obviously there are a lot of people looking at these problems, and hopefully they’ve got some good answers. We’ll see how this shakes out. I, for one, quite enjoy going down to my LCS every Wednesday and hope to have the opportunity to do so for years and years to come, but the industry has to reach out to people a lot more casual than me if it’s going to continue to create any output at all.

The reason the initiative didn’t work was that the QUALITY wasn’t there. Paying a dollar less for crap is still paying too much.

The problem is that even $2.99 is still too expensive for a comic. Dont get me wrong, I love comics, but they’re too expensive nowadays and I think we all know that this “drawing the line at $2.99″ by both D.C and Marvel (most of whose books at still $3.99) is just a stalling tactic until they eventually raise the price to $4.99. Sooner or later it’s going to happen. At that point I believe readers will cut their pull lists drastically and/or leave comics altogether in droves.

By dropping the page count from 22 to 22, they actually cut one issue from every title per year (12×2=24). So yeah, you got 12 issues of, say, Batman, for $2.99 in 2011, but you only got 11 issues’ worth of content. They kind of cheated, but they probably saved a lot of money that way.

People don’t want to pay $3 plus for books that take 5 minutes to read. That’s why the industry is dying.
In the 80s, you could buy a comic for a buck that took nearly a half hour to read. These days, you’re getting ripped off.
All the reboots, renumberings, continuity wipes, shock deaths and the like can’t change that.
Get rid of decompression, tell stories where stuff actually happens in an issue, drop the prices and get books distributed outside of comics shops.

I say go back to printing monthly comics on a cheaper newsprint stock paper and save the higher quality paper for trade paperbacks and hardbacks. And maybe even provide 6 or 10 penciled pages of the next issue at the back of the current issue.

And there is a whole slew of extras that could be added to digital comics to give them added value.

What I don’t get is why on earth DC, the comic arm of Warners, doesn’t lower the price to $1.99? You might take a loss for a while, but I think the loss could be made up through their film, video game, tv (animated) divisions. Furthermore, digital comics for a buck less than the print version is straight-up profit. Anyway, I guess there is a reason why I am not a business guy.

I’ve dropped most Marvel titles since may are $3.99 I’ll take chances on DCs at $2.99. I won’t attempt The Annihilators even though I’ve been on board since the Drax mini since it figures to be $4.99. Captain America is my favorite so I’ll continue with it as well Justice League, Action (for now), and the IDW titles but the $3.99 comics that Marvel tries to pass off as X-Men and Avengers comics are too expensive for me now. Their quality doesn’t justify $3.99 to me. Thunderbolts and Avengers Academy are $2.99 so I’ll stay with them even though Marvel sneaks in the double shipping in order to fleece more money out of you. It’s frustrating because the first comics that I bought were 60 cents.

Thad has is pretty much right as do a few others above. But the main reason i’m laying out there is that the main audience reading comics is a much older audience than 10- 15 years ago when WE started collecting. The books are being written for an older audience of which no longer caters toward 11 year olds (that’s when I started reading comics.) Comics are no longer sold out side of comic shops (though in the past month or so – B&N has a whole rack dedicated to comics now). Sure $2.999/$3.99 is expensive – but all in all the world has changed – computers have taken over, thus video games. Nobody reads anymore. Book publishers and stores are having hard times selling their own books – heck even digital books at $13 are over priced (thought I’d spend $20+/- on a solid hard cover novel for my “library”. But even that has come to a stand still).

Unless a parent or relative takes the initiative to introduce comics to their kids – comics will fade away and die out. And I’m wagering that those parents dont read hardly at all and probably think comic books are long gone any way.

Regardless if comics were $1 or $2 the industry is on its last downward spiral.

Whether they go 100% digital years from now. The comic industry is dead. Its simply going to die a long slow death.

Nobody outside of the “original comic collector/reader” cares anymore. Most think comics died years ago. Printing costs are up, fuel is up, jobs are gone, unemployment is here to stay. All this as shown in the higher priced foods we eat will cause comics to increase in price. Even if stories return to the grand times of a good 80′s X-men book that took you an hour to read and absorb its contents – its too late for that.

Simply too late.

“Comics are no longer sold out side of comic shops”

Books-A-Million sells comics and so did Borders (RIP) but I agree that there need to be other venues. I bought my first comics at drug stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores before I ever set foot in a shop. The Big Two don’t believe that those places are viable now. I’d agree if you’re trying to sell a $4.00 comic.

If only bold pricing initiatives were paired with a deliberate effort to add current non-readers to the number of people buying those comics, through the use of one of those “ad-vertising” programs the carbonated beverage and moving picture industries are so fond of these days . . .

@Thad, dan, Kingston, and Angelica Brenner,
All of you are RIGHT ON THE MONEY. Maybe it’s just me, but I think the guys at the Big Two are just trying to be confident and put on a brave face, and do so because if they were actually honest about the industry, it’d already have imploded years ago. But why they wouldn’t consider the ideas the four of you came up with is beyond me, but you should actually collaborate and write them a letter/well-written email to get their attention on this subject. I’m serious, do it. Give them the slap to the face they need.

@Kevin
GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF, MAN! It’s NEVER too late. Why? Because as long as there are people craving for entertainment, we’ll be there….wherever there’s a need for a fun method of teaching children to read, we’ll be there….we’ll be the way Elvis brought R&B to a new audience….the way Oscar Meyer made frankfurters a hit with all ages….and when the people are flipping through the good reads brought to them…following the adventures they were introduced to…we’ll be there, too.

Yes, I paraphrased the famous speech from The Grapes of Wrath, but hey, seriously, WE NEED to introduce the next generation to this medium. We don’t need to show them all the stories out there–just the good ones, we don’t need to count the bad ones. For times like this, we need to follow the lead of Tom Joad more than the lead of Herbert Hoover.

I’m with Nigel. In a day and age where 6 issue stories are the norm – you just don’t get your moneys worth. $18 for one full story. Rip off city!

When I go back and read my comics from the 90′s and early 00′s – so much happened in any one given issue. And 4 issues stories meant something big was happening! We could get up to 12 seperate stories in a year. Now we are lucky if we get 2 stories in one whole year! And in some cases we only get 1 story! 1 story – $36. Its absurd!

@Kevin,

This “people don’t read anymore” thing is one of those things we see repeated so much we start to belive it. Actually, books like Harry Potter, Twilight and The DaVinci Code are a good example that peolple still read. For some reason, they don’t read comics. Finding out whatthat reason is would be the first step towards getting new readers.

I agree with people that it’s not the dollar amount, it’s the value. With all due respect to my writer friends (I’m sorry people), I want every issue to be a totally realized adventure. And that adventure can continue into future issues, but you NEED NEED NEED REQUIRE NEED to have each issue packed full of story!

I like Ed Brubaker and Brian Bendis but they need to write novels, not comic books.

Ok, let me rephrase “people dont read any more” comment i made above – people may read more novels (as I have been doing lately) than comics. I walk into my LCS every Wednesday and sometimes on Saturday. For the most part the store is beyond dead other than the masses at the Magic counter or the odd man at the coin counter. Wednesdays are the busiest as the hold slot members get there weekly comic fix and a friend of mine buys about $200 worth of comics EVERY week so he’s a big spender (he buys $1000 comic books anyway, so $200/ week is nothing.) Granted there are a few browsing the new comic racks and maybe the rare collector looking through the back issues ( and my LCS has a ton of back issues including a ton of “wall” comics) so they are definitely not short there.

However – its usually the SAME people in the store every week; not usually new customers which is where the problem lies. If I’m saying its too late then it probably is. You don’t see Marvel/DC lowering prices below the $2.99 price point, regardless if they could get a few more readers back in the fold. There is a point where lowering the price will not make anybody money. Plus even if they were to lower the prices, the product would be affected (fewer pages, smaller format), and there is absolutely no guarantee that former readers will bother to return to reading comics.

Now if you’ll excuse me, Call of Duty is call my name….

Need I say more?

@Kevin
Well….what about this idea? I once read someone’s idea of what would happen if the American comic book format shifted to a system similar to the Japanese Manga magazine model–one volume of 12 issues every year (like how Shonen Jump is published here). But I took into account how a lot of people’s patience could be tested, so maybe 24 issues per volume, one volume a year? How does either one sound? Would it work?

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