or – Same number of pages, new higher prices!

dollar_sign.jpg

I don’t know how many of you have been paying attention to the prices of comics lately, but for the last couple of months I’ve been seeing Marvel titles get a dollar jump in price from $2.99 to $3.99. I’ve put in a several e-mails to Marvel about this, and have yet to receive a response. If the price hike is due to more pages being added to the title, then by all means price hike away. However, if this is the precursor to a industry wide hike to $4.00 an issue, then companies might want to rethink their brilliant schemes.

With delays in getting titles out on time, and throwing money at top talent who don’t deliver, why then would a company (any company) want to offset their losses by passing it along to the customer? Doesn’t make sense to me at all. There shouldn’t be a huge increase in the cost of printing right now, but if there is, it needs to be stated. I know print runs industry wide are dwindling even with these huge universe wide events, but passing the buck to the customer isn’t an excuse for poorly executed ideas.

I already spend a lot of money on comics, but even a dollar hike can have serious repercussions for those with a limited budget. At $4.00 an issue, I can only get four titles instead of five. Does the industry really want readers to drop one issue completely just to make up for missed opportunities?

Thoughts?

The Author

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment.

You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...

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30 Comments

  1. September 26, 2007 at 12:33 pm — Reply

    I am trying to keep the comics spending around $50.00 per month ( down from over $100,but that’s a long sad story). That pretty much means 10-12 titles and a trade.If they raise the prices, I will have to cut titles and just buy trades.It will also mean that I will have to reprioritize my purchases. they will definitely publish Batman if I buy it or not, but can the same be said for Manhunter?I already dedicate more of my cash to comics than video,audio and books combined monthly. There has to be a way to hold the line on , or lower,prices. I love comics but they make it hard to be a monthly reader. This hike would mean that $50.00 = 13+/- comics. Compare that to the amount of use I would get from 5 albums on iTunes or 25 video rentals from redbox and I think that it shows that this move may be suicidal.

  2. September 26, 2007 at 12:42 pm — Reply

    The scary thing is other media (music, television shows, etc.) have been dropping prices for online purchases. The realistic price for an iTunes television show is really $.50, and music $.25. I expect in the next three years, we’ll see the current prices drop to that level – providing the greedy corporations can see the benefit of lowering cost for increased purchasing. Perhaps it all boils down to greed… am I wrong?

    Stephen Schleicher

  3. September 26, 2007 at 12:53 pm — Reply

    Well, only comic that sticks out to me is Amazing Spider-Man and the One More Day titles with the “Still only 399 cents!”, but those had the ‘directors cut’ style extras that no one wanted. Stuff like sketches and bios and other useless garbage. Not sure which books you are specifically mentioning though.

    Kirk Warren
    The Weekly Crisis
    http://www.weeklycrisis.com

  4. Novan Leon
    September 26, 2007 at 12:59 pm — Reply

    I believe the comics industry has been in a hard way the last decade or so (first the advent of the TV, then the advent of the internet hurt comics). If there’s a price hike, it’s probably because of several factors, including the continuing gradual decrease in comic books sales. Things like throwing bundles of money at “major talent” are probably attempts to counter the decrease trend.

    Of course, this is all just blind speculation on my part.

  5. September 26, 2007 at 1:01 pm — Reply

    This is part of the reason why I stopped buying “floppies.” The price is just ridiculous. In the past, I’ve listened to pros talk about paper quality and special coloring as being the reasons for price jumps. But I really don’t care about paper quality. I don’t care about coloring. I just want to read a good story at a relatively cheap price. I think most comic readers are the same way. If you want evidence, look at the popularity of manga. Floppies are for collectors. Plain and simple. I’m anxious to see what the American comics will look like when the direct market is gone.

  6. Mark I.
    September 26, 2007 at 1:15 pm — Reply

    Seriously, they need to step up web distribution to lower costs and cut back on printing if they have to charge this much for new books. A 25 cent hike is bad enough, but a buck? Does this mean trades go up too? If I get priced out of buying monthlies AND trades that means I’m pretty much done with buying new comics for good!

    Why not offer trades in DVD-Rom format like the Marvel collections? Why not make entire arcs available on iTunes or some website at a reduced cost?

    Many, MANY people only care about looking at the art a few times and reading good stories. There will always, ALWAYS be room for the books and their collectors, but in this age of disposable media, the comics industry…the BIG TWO at least, are lagging slightly. Stuff like the DC Showcase and Marvel Essentials and digest/manga form books are a good start, but the companies are afraid to go all-out with those approaches.

    For instance, forget the prestige format, 52, Infinite Crisis, and Civil War trades should be out RIGHT NOW in an optional B&W affordable format to appeal to a wider range of readers. Again, the nerdcore geeks will still buy much of the collectible, first-run stuff. But American comic book fans are becoming a narrower, older demographic than ever. Sure, all kids know who Spider-Man and Batman are. They watch the cartoons. They watch the movies. They buy the toys. But it doesn’t seem like they’re buying the COMICS anymore. The industry is going to crash if it isn’t careful, not matter how many “Diamond sellouts” they crow about. For every crappy issue of Wolverine that sells out a piddly (by 80’s standards) print run, there’s a book like Nova or She-Hulk that misses out because people are turned off by the high cost of comics.

    Yes, Marvel, DC, and others put out a fresh stories with original artwork multiple times a month, every month, and they need to be compensated for materials, creators, and the suits on a par with paperback novels, CDs, video games, etc. But it’s always an uphill battle for legitimacy no matter how much money or how famous properties like Spider-Man and Sin City and Batman become. Comics are to music, movies, and novels as the Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons is to the rest of Springfield–a ridiculed outcast for the most part. And like the Comic Book Guy, the industry seems not to care and trudges on with its nose in the air, acting superior, and not realizing what they’re wasting.

    The system is breaking! Price hikes won’t fix it!

  7. Brent F.
    September 26, 2007 at 2:24 pm — Reply

    Skip the middle man and start mailing DC and Marvel your paychecks directly! They’ll deposit them and mail you a complimentary photograph of Steve Didio and Joe Quesada sitting on their gold plated toilets reading each other’s comics looking for “new” ideas.

  8. BK
    September 26, 2007 at 2:58 pm — Reply

    Being Canadian, the thing that is a hot topic for us right now is the Canadian dollar hitting parity with the US dollar for the first time in thirty years. We have been watching it climb over the last couple of years with no corresponding adjustment on books (actually, just about everything we buy). Why should a $2.99 US cover price be converted to $3.99 Canadian. Do the math, at parity $2.99 equals $2.99. The response I heard was that it was due to shipping costs, but a number of comics are printed here in Canada and shipped to the US. If they are then reshipped back here increasing their cost, well I am sure that a better distribution system could be thought out.

  9. September 26, 2007 at 2:58 pm — Reply

    I have to say that online may be the answer.Although reading pages online is not the optimum experience, I can’t tell you how many more books I would try if they were available for a 99 cent download. DC or Marvel should put one book up on iTunes, just one. See how many people would download X-Men or JLA for a price lower than cover. You could even be a month behind to preserve sales.I will tell you one thing, If I could download World War Hulk( all of it) for 10 bucks, I’m there. But then of course, you can’t sell 3 or 4 trades. (HFH, Frontline, Incredible).I also think that the glossy magazine format deserves another try. I loved the Marvel Knights magazine. Everything was So Big!Try again and stick with it. 4 titles for 5 bucks, you could even have a letters page.

  10. JacinB
    September 26, 2007 at 3:17 pm — Reply

    Honestly, if prices jump that much, it may well be the end of an era in my life. I’ve collected comics for more than 20 years of my 32 year existence but, even at the $2.99 price, I’ve been looking for titles to cut from my pull list.

    If the price jumps by 33% per book, it may make my decision that much easier as I’ll likely just stop collecting altogether. I honestly can’t see myself paying that much for even my favorite titles.

  11. Juanma
    September 26, 2007 at 3:21 pm — Reply

    I´m from argentina, where the equivalent of U$S 1 is $3,20 of our currency. You add costs of delivereance and you have $15 for each comic. A lot of comics fans stop to buy comics lately due to that, so i hope that prices wont continue to increase.

  12. Jim
    September 26, 2007 at 3:50 pm — Reply

    Hello, bittorrent! J/K. But is this true? Most of the Marvel sneak peeks for Oct list comics at $2.99. There are special issues like the DD #100 or JLA Wedding special that are 4 smackers but I haven’t noticed regular issues listing at $3.99. Can we get specifics?

    I have only recently bought single issues in the past year or so after getting trades for a while. In many ways, I prefer the trades but it’s hard waiting. I do try to keep a tight comics budget b/c I can only justify so much money to superheroes each month (I mean, c’mon, much of that has to go to beer!). I couldn’t see buying Amazing Spider-Man 3x a month already. No way if it’s $4. I would probably become more selective with titles I get regularly. It’s inevitable that prices will rise at some point but let’s hope that’s not imminent.

  13. eric berry
    September 26, 2007 at 3:56 pm — Reply

    I got sucked back into comics with DC’s Infinite Crisis. I enjoyed it, and realized I can collect again. I have seen the price hikes. It has made me really think about what I enjoy reading every month, and what i can wait for to be collected in a trade paperback. It DC is going to start this then I will cancel some of my pull lists and wait for them to be in a trade paperback. Yeah, they will get their money, but it will be at a lower cost for me and not at the pace of flow that they want. I will stop with some of them. I did that with Wonder Woman and I will do that with Teen Titans. I hope the companies are reading these comments. More money for less quantity is not good.

  14. September 26, 2007 at 4:58 pm — Reply

    Captain America: The Chosen, Foolkiller, Terror, Inc. and The Zombie Simon Garth all come to mind when I talk about a price hike for 32 pages of comics… of course Marvel and DC are still at $2.99 generally, and there are the small publishers that routinely have $3.50 books, but I’m more concerned the $3.99 tag is slowly being slipped in on us unaware.

    Stephen

  15. September 26, 2007 at 5:02 pm — Reply

    I’m not a big fan of the download format (there is just something weird about reading comics on my computer in the bathroom, or on the bus, that just seems unnatural. Gimme a hard copy any day.

  16. September 26, 2007 at 5:28 pm — Reply

    I wouldn’t mind paying $4 if they were actually worth that much (more pages, at least). $3 makes things kind of tough with trying to pick up new issues and trades each month, but on the other hand I can spend $8-10 on a manga and get around 200 pages to enjoy in one sitting instead of just 30 colored ones.

  17. Jim Perry
    September 26, 2007 at 5:40 pm — Reply

    On the subject almost… What is the cost of comic books in Japan in US dollars? What percentage of adults in Japan read comics? Just curious what it would be…

    On to the $1 price hike. The Comic co’s. will put one more nail in their coffin for me if they continue down this road. I’ve already trimmed back the number of titles I get, and will continue to trim back, not buying monthly, but getting collected trades of only the best stuff. I started buying comics weekly back during Secret Wars and Crisis On Infinite Earths. I think the cost was 75 cents or $1 per issue, might be wrong on that. I wonder what that is in today’s dollars? Also I had always heard the rumor that Diamond Distributing was run by the mob. Has anyone else heard that?

  18. Jim Perry
    September 26, 2007 at 5:42 pm — Reply

    Stephen, that email you sent to Marvel… and never got a response… maybe you should cut and paste all these comments and send it to them, with a link to this page… maybe that will get a rise out of them.

  19. jman
    September 26, 2007 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    I started reading in the late 90’s when I think the price was around $1.99 to $2.50 (and the occasional $3.00 and above…). And those were good times(didn’t pay tax either, much love Tenth Planet!!!). I think I started re-reading in around 2003-2004. Lo and behold the $2.99 jump was highly unexpected; but not so unexpected since my dad read the first issue of iron man for around $0.50 cents or whatever.

    Paying $3.99 for books nowadays just seems like highway robbery. My new plan is just buy what interests me and skip the collectable crap; if the art or story is not up to par, I drop that book in a hurry. Did the industry do away with alternate covers that ran for the same price while I was asleep or something? I think I saw an “incentive cover” of JLA during the “lightning saga” instead of alternate at my lcs for $12.00 once!! I shit you not…

  20. September 26, 2007 at 7:47 pm — Reply

    The more I thought about this , the more that I realize I am being priced out of the entertainment that I enjoy. I can’t really afford concerts except once in a great while. All of the pro sports except baseball are out of reach and soon I will be priced out by the equipment necessary to view movies at home.I guess I will have to retreat further into my rich fantasy life.

  21. September 26, 2007 at 7:54 pm — Reply

    Try living in Australia where it is already between $6 – 7 for most floppies! As a result I mainly shop on line now.

  22. September 26, 2007 at 8:46 pm — Reply

    Jim Perry: In regards to manga, prices vary. It’s an entirely different industry over there and on the whole, similar in pricing to the manga released over here. The difference is many books are syndicated weekly in books like Shonen- (young males), Seinen-(men) and Shojo(young females) Jump and Raijin (adult males) as well as other various types of magazines for different targets. They can buy the magazine for anywhere from $5-10 depending on the brand or type of magazine. Some can be more expensive or less.

    Some also follow the monthly format, but most are black and white still and cost roughly the same or comparable to ours, some cheaper some more expensive depending on popularity. Thats not to say none are colour and most of the series have random coloured pages or chapters every once ina while.

    The industry is quite huge as well and much more diverse than the North American or even Europe markets. It is not uncommon to see many adults reading manga on the way to work and it is an accepted part of Japanese lifestyle. Most books are collected in the smaller sized digest format that most manga and even Spider-Girl and Runaways have been released as in North America. These are typically cheap and about $10.

    The manga industry is an entirely different beast compared to our comics and do not let the stuff that makes it out over here fool you into thinking it’s all DBZ or Naruto or Pokemon. Those are just a drop in the bucket from the more children to early teen genres and barely scratch the surface of the manga genres. You can find crime stories, dramas, teen love, mysteries, historical or samurai style books and many of these are drawn in a much different style than the “big eye” stuff most people associate with manga.

    On top of that, there is the amateur dojinshi books that are put out by aspiring mangaka and are all self published. Another neat fact is that a lot of manga are written and pencilled / inked by the same person and many of the mangaka put out multiple books a month compared to the work load of the average american comic artists. Many of the manga are treated like literature books over here and are optioned for movies far more often than our comics are and many are adapted for live action dramas or even radio plays.

    Hope that helped with your understanding of manga. Most have no idea what it is aside from what they see on television or know from anime’s that air on US television.

    Kirk Warren
    The Weekly Crisis
    http://www.weeklycrisis.com

  23. OS Perry
    September 26, 2007 at 9:36 pm — Reply

    To Kir Warren.

    I was curious about the Japanese Magna/comics market, because it is such a widespread thing over in Japan, I’d heard. Like you said, instead of people reading the paper or a novel on the train to work, they read comics. So I was wondering with it being so wide spread, if it affected the price.

  24. September 26, 2007 at 10:42 pm — Reply

    Disheartening is the word that comes to mind. I try and keep my purchases at $15.00/wk but that’s not always possible (like this week with Iron Fist #9 & Iron Fist Annual dropping), so I occasionally spike into that $25.00 range. I cut my titles back right after Civil War and it’s looking like I’ll be dropping again. It’s sad because there are certain creative teams that I really want to support, but with rising prices that’s going to be harder to justify on a weekly basis. Maybe we should have a thread here to communally trim down our pull lists? It will certainly be a challenge for some us, but it looks like it’s going to have to be done.

  25. J'osh
    September 27, 2007 at 12:22 am — Reply

    Well I know that every issue of New Avengers sold at your local supermarket or Borders are regular cover priced at $3.99. Same stories. I’m not sure what other titles have the same pricing scheme.

    I get %30 off at my LCS to that helps with things like this. Boy gone are the days that $10 got me like 9 books plus a couple out of the quarter bin.

    Both Marvel and Dc had better seriously consider some type of digital distribution approach. Because though it may not work for many longtime readers the torrenting of comics is widespread and common. Hell I pull a lot of titles and torrent many more. Most times I later buy the trade (honest). But their missing the boat if they don’t find a way to go with the flow. Kids and Teens do everything on their computers.

    The ultimate goal would be some type of almost Star Trek like tablet reader, the iPod of digital periodicals if you will. Go to iTunes DL NA, Iron Fist and Batman for like .99. But to make anything like that happen it would have to be a “team-up”. It could have multiple benefits maybe even buy your issues of Time Magazine this way. Really pump the value up, it can’t just be a comic reader it needs to be able to support all kinds of Magazines.

  26. September 27, 2007 at 7:54 am — Reply

    J’osh: There is a tablet like reader, it’s called the Sony Reader http://products.sel.sony.com/pa/prs/index.html. It’s a very cool device for reading multiple books at a time. The only problem? At this time eInk is only black and white – great for manga titles (which I’ve read on the Reader), sucky for regular comics.

    The other problem with tablet readers is what happens to those double or triple splash pages? Electronic readers are only one page at a time. (sigh).

    Stephen

  27. Mark I.
    September 27, 2007 at 12:04 pm — Reply

    One wonders if the suits in charge of the big 2 even care about the print comics end of things anymore outside of maintaining copyright and coming up with new story ideas that they can make movies, video games, and DVDs about. Avi Arad seems so hell-bent on making the entire Marvel Universe a self-sustaining movie property.

  28. Tim
    September 27, 2007 at 6:17 pm — Reply

    Yeah, I’m very strapped. I try to spend no more than $30/month. DYNAMO 5. Good book. But at $3.50, I said, no thanks. I found issues 2-5 at a Half Price Books store for $1.50-$2 an issue. I enjoyed it and didn’t feel like I had overspent. In fact, I’m finding that I’m catching up on several series by shopping there and getting good comics for half the cost (bagged and boarded, noless!!) And I even find trades and hardcovers there too. But regardless of that, if you wait for the trade you usually save yourself some money and you get everything nicely bound in a bookshelf-compatible package that’s easy to pull out and read. Online stores have huge discounts and free shipping if you spend enough money, which is easy to do. In fact, I try to save about $50 and hit InStockTrades.com to pick up some good books. And I love my LCS, but ultimately, I have to spend my money as wisely as I can. It wasn’t that long ago we were at $2.25. If they’re going over $3, I’ll cut my monthlies to two books (DAREDEVIL and CAP) or I may go all trades. Honestly, there’s enough trade material coming out nowadays that I don’t see how you could possibly miss the weekly routine. But for me, at $3 an issue, I’m done. They need to find a way to lower the price, IMO. Offer online downloads. Have a competitor to Diamond step in. Lower the paper quality (not newsprint, but don’t use the glossy paper in EVERY book).

  29. September 27, 2007 at 7:02 pm — Reply

    The irony is DC and Marvel titles have recently (last 7 years approx) been as high as all other comics. There was a day when DC and Marvel were cheaper than independents. The big 2 print in higher quantities which reduces their cost per issue. They have more advertising which further reduces their costs. And they make residual income off characters from film/tv/action figs/etc. I think that DC and Marvel have the high prices because they can, not because of the cost of paper, printing, shipping. Marvel was selling its Masterworks HC books for $35 until they noticed that DC was getting $50 for their Archives. Marvel then changed the price from $35 to $50 (a 43% increase). Many other companies have since jumped on board with $50 books.

    They may be paying Alex Ross and Adam Hughes too much also.

    There are two ways to increase income. Raise prices and lower prices. Higher prices increase income, unless there is a corresponding drop in readership. Lower prices reduce the income, unless it is followed by an increase in readership. Of course the crux is “what will the corresponding drop or increase” be. If it’s more work for the same money, then it’ll likely not happen.

    This is the same quandary politicians are endlessly debating about how to raise government income, do we raise or lower taxes?

    For those that think TPs are cheaper than floppies, it’s rarely true. I can most of the time look at the MSRP of a trade and divide by $3 to determine the number of issues contained within. Some TPs are a few dollars cheaper, but only by 10% or so of the cost of floppies. Some are even a couple of dollars more expensive than the originals.

  30. Brother129
    September 27, 2007 at 9:55 pm — Reply

    I think it would be really cool if you continue to let us know which titles have the higher price. I’m editing my pull list all of the time and I’ve found myself depending on this site to help me steer clear of the garbage. But I think I can honestly say that if comics went digital, I’d probably stop reading most of them. Some of us stare at a computer screen too long everyday already….

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