Comic Fodder

Comic Price Increases: Are We Paying for the Web-Fluid Now, Too?

Have all the advertisers left town, leaving it to the fans to provide the "full cost recovery" of producing our favorite floppies? The digital age has seen the same impact on industry after industry: the old paradigm takes a backseat as a new method of production gives the consumers more choices at a reduced cost. Instead of charging ahead to greet this future, the comic publishers are not only sticking with the old format... they're raising prices? Even the newspapers didn't try this. Okay, so how does this affect me? (I'm using me as a proxy for all of you, because let's face it, I'm much more accessible to me than all of you are.)

Life used to be good. I had reached a point in my life where I could pay all my bills, and also grab that new title just to check it out. There were a couple of times in my life (each for a loooong period) where I had to go without. During the inflation-ridden seventies, when I had to painstakingly choose among the latest issue of the Legion of Super Heroes or its Annual, for example. Or the last couple of years in high school and the coupon-clipping college days, when I agonized over whether I should eat lunch that day or buy a comic.

But at some point (around 1998 or so), I found that I could pick up all my regular titles without stopping to do calculations with my checkbook, and I could experiment beyond the normal capes, too. So I had my steady diet of Avengers and JLA, but each year I could get the trades for things like Cerebus and Fables and 100 Bullets. I could take a chance on Powers. And more often than not, it was good stuff!

Price increases didn't faze me one bit, not for ten years or so. $1.99, $2.25, $2.50, $2.99... I was very happy that my particular hobby was affordable enough that I could sample the wide smorgasbord, and add three or four mini-series, one-shots, giant-size specials, and so forth that seemed to be popping up with increasing frequency. But I finally started raising my eyebrows at the reprint-packed specials that have been coming out lately, and the X-Men: Ghost Boxes mini that had fewer-than-normal pages of actual, you know, story?

Then came the Dreaded Price Increase. I was used to an increase of twenty-five cents, even fifty. But a whole dollar? My comic store owner did some number crunching and figured that the audience for comic books could decrease by a significant percentage, and a company like Marvel could still come out ahead with the reduced audience that stayed to pay the increased costs. Is this acceptable for the company? In an era when the movies are taking off and their characters are becoming more well-known, is this the proper time to be throwing out a 25% price increase? And we haven't even brought up the current dismal condition of the American economy.

Whatever the inner workings of big, faceless companies and the staggeringly eye-glazing statistics of the entire market, I decided to make it personal. The housing bubble has had an impact on me, so while I could buy everything I wanted at $2.99 (note that I still refused to buy Green Arrow and Black Canary), the increase in the cost of any item I buy merits an automatic re-visitation right now. I decided to track my personal purchases, and try to measure what kind of impact the increase had on my purchasing habits. Here's what has happened so far.

Marvel's new titles at $3.99 I bought/still plan to purchase:
DARK REIGN: ELEKTRA #1 (of 5)
NEW AVENGERS: THE REUNION #1 (of 4)
AVENGERS: THE INITIATIVE FEATURING REPTIL #1
HULK: BROKEN WORLDS BOOK ONE (of TWO)
WAR OF KINGS #1 (of 6)
DARK REIGN: HAWKEYE #1 (of 5)
SECRET INVASION AFTERMATH: BETA RAY BILL - THE GREEN OF EDEN #1
ALL-NEW SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1 (of 4)
WAR OF KINGS: ASCENSION #1 (of 4)
BETA RAY BILL: GODHUNTER #1 (of 3)

Marvel's upcoming new titles I won't be getting:
DARK REIGN: YOUNG AVENGERS #1 (of 5)
DARK REIGN: THE HOOD #1 (of 5)
DARK REIGN: LETHAL LEGION #1 (of 3)
DARK REIGN: MISTER NEGATIVE #1 (of 3)
DARK REIGN: THE SINISTER SPIDER-MAN #1 (of 4)
HOWLING COMMANDOS #1
X-MEN FOREVER ALPHA
X-MEN FOREVER #1 & 2
GENEXT: UNITED #1 (of 5)
all the 70TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIALs

I tried to keep it real, by which I mean I probably wasn't going to get DARK REIGN: ZODIAC #1 (of 3) no matter what the price, so I can't honestly count it as a casualty. All of the list above, I actually would have bought for $2.99. It may also be worthwhile to note that I'm going to grimace if I decide to buy the rest of Hulk and She-Hulk, and I have cancelled X-Men: First Class Finals, with Captain Britain and MI:13, X-Force, and Avengers: The Initiative on the cusp of cancellation now. They were on the bubble already, so the price increase may throw them over the edge (Hey, less work for the weekly reviews. Woo hoo! There's my silver lining...). These titles might all make great stocking-stuffers for me when the trades are available, but unfortunately, none of my loved ones can be bothered with tracking something so complicated like this.

Math shows that if the cost had been $2.99 for these, presuming I bought one issue of each for the month, I would have spent about sixty bucks buying new stuff restricted to mini-series and the like, not brand-new, ongoing series that would run as long as sales were good. I'm not 100% certain about Howling Commandos, but I think it's supposed to be a limited run. With the cost increase, I will spend about forty bucks, and only get to read half the number of titles. Sucks for me, and the comic industry passing back through to Marvel loses $20. Plus, less in sales tax for the state.

Switching out each title as it ends and substituting the next new offering from Marvel would yield approximately the same results, by my reckoning. In the old days I would have automatically signed up for all of these, just to check them out. Even if I wasn't particularly enamored of the previews of one or two of them, I would still want to review them for the site. Instead of my buying 16-20 new titles for the next three to five months, though, I am only buying 8-10.

However, there were a couple of other titles I saw that originally, and I was going to take a pass on them. Since the new price tag for all of the Marvel titles made me pull back, I did have some spare change at the end of the day. I changed my mind and picked up the two titles.

The Warlord and Solomon Grundy.

From DC Comics.

For $2.99 each.

I leave you to draw your own conclusions.


Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.

I don't get your logic in cutting Captain Britain because it's on the cusp of cancellation. You should keep buying it for that reason if you really enjoy the title. Hulk and X-Men will keep getting published if you drop them because they sell so much. Smaller satellite titles like Capt Brit and Spider-Girl won't because they don't have the numbers.

Second, I'm upset at Marvel. I'm feeling shut out with these price increases and somewhat cheated that they would stoop to the level of releasing a double sized issue of Uncanny the previous month, justifiably raising the price, then not putting it back down for the next issue.

Plus, I don't think they aren't thinking of these comic book stores. The store that I go to, 50 miles away from my town, was struggling already with the 2.99 price increase, only to completely give up when the Avengers titles went up to 3.99.

I hope that this foolishness with the price increase comes to a head soon and something will happen that can please everyone. Somehow I doubt this will happen as long as the current regime is in charge.

-- Posted by: Jess at April 21, 2009 10:39 AM

Thanks for the comment, Jess. I should clarify that Captain Britain is not on the cusp of the title being canceled, but rather, it's on the edge of being canceled from my personal pull list. Sorry for the confusion.

-TP

-- Posted by: tpull at April 21, 2009 12:12 PM

Travis, I enjoy your reviews every week.

I am cutting back further than you. The higher-priced XMen and Avengers titles just don't have any pay-off to me and won't be purchased. Marvel also has this new game of charging $3.99 for a first issue and $2.99 for the subsequent issues. In the example of the Fantastic Force, I was going to purchase them (as they fit that model) until I learned it was a 4 issue limited series---which caused me to be less interested....

Bottom-line: I will spend much less each month since I am avoiding more $3.99 Marvels than you, Travis.

I guess I don't mind the price increases, as I am reading more of other items and spending significantly less money on Marvels (with a minor increase in DC comics). (...but my poor local comics shop is going to suffer these losses, too...)

-- Posted by: TonyJazz at April 21, 2009 2:12 PM

All of these price increases are pushing me further and further up the trade waiting ladder.

-- Posted by: Simon MacDonald at April 22, 2009 12:05 PM

The price increases have given me the excuse I've been looking for to get out of comics. I returned to comics in 1996 with a passion fueled by Kingdom Come. However my love for comics turned into like after Identity Crisis - 2004! - and just kept going downhill from there. The Didio(t) and Quesada have made comics into drek that I will no longer support.

May books were my last Marvels and June is my final for DC, except for Madame Xanadu #12 in July. For now I am sticking with Elephantmen and might be bothered to pick up Blackest Night in trade next year. Otherwise this is sianara.

-- Posted by: David at April 27, 2009 4:32 PM