The Times on comics price increases

George Gene Gustines looks at Marvel and DC’s comic book price increases in the NY Times:

Mr. Buckley felt that, because of comic books’ origin in the world of pulp and disposable entertainment, the effort that goes into their creation is sometimes underestimated.

“Comics are a legit form of entertainment, and there are highly respected and well-paid individuals creating them,” he said. “People have an affinity for nickel and dime comics from the 1940s, but we’re competing with video games, film and television.” He added, “We need to keep the talent on the books to make them work.”

Paul Levitz, the president and publisher of DC Comics, said, “We’re not really doing a lot of price escalation this year. The largest thrust we’ve got is exploring whether or not there’s a next package up that works.” One of those packaging efforts is the addition of a “co-feature,” as the company is describing it, to the comics that will increase to $3.99.


“Next package up”….hm.

Comments

  1. There’s a lot of nostalgia for nickel and dime comics from the 1940s… but it’s really for dime comics. Comics were a dime when Famous Funnies started as a series in 1934, were still a dime when Action launched. As best as I can tell, there were only two series during the Golden Age to bear the nickel price, both entitled Nickel Comics… and they didn’t reach a dozen issues between them.

  2. Steve Taylor says:

    I got yer’ next package up,…

  3. Murray Clack says:

    “…but we’re competing with video games…” I am so SICK of this excuse. Sure, there are a lot gamers out there, but the two main reasons why there are less and less people reading comics are: 1) Not as easily accessible as they used to be, and: 2) Most comics these days SUCK (I’m looking at you Quesda and Didio).

    It’s friggin impossible to attract new readers when your product relies on convoluted continuity, events, cross-overs, one-shots, spin-offs, and reboots/reimaginings/rebirths.

    Just get back to telling good self-contained stories (eg. Green Lantern) and leave the baggage by the curb.

  4. Can’t we just take a lesson from the Japanese on this one and price according to format?

    Weekly manga – inexpensive anthology format feeding a serial habit.

    B&W collections of single stories – more expensive but better paper and so forth. Still affordable.

    Exquisite editions with color art – stuff you really pay for.

    And lets not forget that many manga are now being distributed via web and IPhone.

    So if the world’s largest comics market is doing it this way – successfully – why is western culture doing the exact opposite?

    It doesn’t seem to make business sense. Please explain it to me.

    I hope this new WEDNESDAY COMICS is a success as it will finally show the publishers what’s what, and how they can keep their market from eroding even further than it already has.

  5. Speaking of WEDNESDAY COMICS, has anyone heard what the price per issue is going to be? That element was missing from all of the press I read. As innovative and “out of the box” as the project sounds, if it’s priced too high it’ll just get pushed aside.

  6. I believe DC is still wrestling with what the price of what Wednesday Comics will be.

  7. Alan Coil says:

    I’ll buy 10 copies every week at $7.95.

  8. Alan Coil says:

    Complaining about prices and formats doesn’t do any good. They are what they are. If any of the big publishers had a surefire way to change the market, they would have already done it, and by doing it would have forced the change on the entire industry.

    Gemstone thought they had this great idea where they publish a 64-page comic of worldwide beloved characters for $6.95 (which is now $7.95), and guess what…nobody is buying it. They even had standard sized comics for $2.95, and they had to cancel those for lack of sales. The Gemstone comics are perpetually at of off the bottom of the sales charts.

  9. Alan, you should move to Vegas and beome a customer of my store !

  10. He added, “We need to keep the talent on the books to make them work.”

    I agree with keeping the talent on the books, at least long enough to get the books published on schedule. Oh, wait, does that cost more? Bonuses for good performance?

  11. Alan Coil says:

    If the creators would take a pay cut, the comics would be cheaper.

  12. “We need to keep the talent on the books to make them work.”

    That’s what AIG said!

    $4 a comic is insane, plain and simple. You can justify it any way you want, but I think the public has spoken on this one. Two weeks ago Bloomingdales had a sale on jeans, 25% off. It was 25% off $300. Bloomingdales can take their jeans and shove them, and the comics companies can do likewise with $4 comics that take six minutes to read.

  13. MBunge says:

    “We need to keep the talent on the books to make them work.”

    It’s certainly easier to just fork over more dough to creators that connect with comics current micro-niche audience than it would be to get comics back in front of the general public.

    Mike

  14. michael says:

    “If the creators would take a pay cut, the comics would be cheaper.”
    I know.

    I LOVE that’s basically what Marvel is saying. And I find it pretty much, unfuriating. For the most part with Marvel comics, I’ll happily take cheaper talent for cheaper comic books.

  15. michael says:

    sry. meant to type, infuriating.

  16. Or they could cut their travel and entertainment budgets. Buckley mentioned that first in the Times, and it made me want to get a lunch out of somebody.

  17. charles Knight says:

    “Regarding DC’s backup feature plan, a poster at newsarama.com wrote: “At least we’re getting something for that dollar bump, as opposed to many other titles in the last few months.”

    This is an old scam, get them use to the new price point and then drop the extras.

  18. “If the creators would take a pay cut, the comics would be cheaper. ”

    Probably not. Publishers aren’t trying to make the least profit possible. If folks are willing to pay $3.50 for the comic book, then they’ll charge it even if the content lands on their desk for free.

  19. Dennis V. says:

    If I can get my New Avengers and Hulk (both recently went up to $3.99) for “only” $2.99, then I say good riddence to both Bendis and Loeb. Sorry, but their monthly stories are not worth the new price of admission (especially Hulk since it’s such a quick fluffy read).

  20. say what? says:

    When has anything…ANYTHING…dropped in price when more of it sells to its market?

    Movie prices keep going up because fewer and fewer tickets are sold every year. If more tickets were sold this year than any other year on record and at these prices, you seriously think anyone would suggest LOWERING prices?

    It has nothing to do with you or with who they hire to write and draw the stuff. It has to do with making more money, and that’s all it’s ever about. Fell and Casanova were $2 per issue, and neither sold amazingly well. Civil War was $4 per issue and sold better than almost any comic in the last 10 years. You want to point a finger at why the prices are going up? Point at Civil War. It proved that comics readers would spend $4 a book for the right story… or at least the story that was marketed the right way. Prices on anything don’t go down or even stay level for any extended length of time.

    So, you can A) suck it up and pay what it costs or B) save your money or spend it on something else. Crying about it on the internet won’t get you anywhere.

  21. Xenos says:

    As much as I hate to say it, print periodicals are dying. I sure hope print isn’t too, but periodicals are floundering. Hell, even manga in Japan is taking a nose dive. Is a price hike to get blood from the stone of an ever shrinking audience saturating with more books and their crossovers the best idea? Of course DC has the brilliance to make their next weekly series based on old Sunday comic strips. Yes, the past is where to look for the future. That newfangled invention of the Sunday newspaper funnies is the future. (Though I must admit the all star staff on the stories sounds tempted, the format just does not compute. Plus no price announced, right?)

    Now I still believe the comic floppy can survive, but not the way DC and Marvel have been tossing it and its audience around. Plus certain the graphic novel and those feisty collections of Japanese comics known as manga show promise too. Hell, I’ve been a fan for over a decade and I just can’t follow Batman books anymore. Too pricey and I’m sick of connecting the dots of these damn crossovers. I wish the books were streamlined, especially for new readers if even I am at wits end keeping up. I was saying at my local shop today, when Countdown to Final Crisis, a series thrust weekly into readers laps crosses over other books and yet doesn’t actually count down to Final Crisis… Damn. That’s messed up. I’m sure Marvel has problems too, but I gave up on keeping up save for a select few.

    Instead of raising prices, someone at any company needs to figure out how to get comics red by the masses. Not that it hasn’t been said for years, but it’s needed more than a price hike.

  22. The argument that “A lot of work goes into making comics” only takes publishers so far. Now, obviously, it’s a consideration. You have to pay the creators enough to make it worth their while sticking around in comics (unless you think the medium would get by just fine with those creators who can afford to do it as a hobby, or whose passion outweighs their financial common sense).

    But against that you have to balance the value of the finished product to the consumer. And the problem for publishers is that, judged objectively, comics aren’t worth four dollars, no matter how much work goes into them, because they represent lousy value for money compared to virtually every other form of entertainment.

    This is a point that publishers seem very reluctant to engage with. A comic may be worth four dollars to YOU. But I don’t care what it’s worth to you. Why is it worth four dollars to ME?

    (Answer with examples, comparing what four dollars will get me in cinema, books and television. Show your working. Note: “Because we can’t afford to sell the comics for less than four dollars” is not an answer.)

  23. Jesse Post says:

    “Alan Coil Says: If the creators would take a pay cut, the comics would be cheaper.”

    Wait . . . did someone seriously just suggest that we lower the standards of compensation in the comics industry? Seriously? After all these years of struggle to get up to liveable wages — wages that legitimize the medium and show respect for amazing talent so they feel encouraged to produce the quality stuff you love to read?

    Man, there are some days I really shouldn’t look at the internet.

  24. Jesse Post says:

    Also, these industry Monday Morning Quarterbacking threads are always interesting but one thing I often wonder is why people make judgments of business decisions based on what you personally like rather than what the market as a whole likes.

    Even if X price is too high for you for the product, the market does have serious collectors who buy every issue of what they like and who appreciate the premium art, writing, and paper stock for their extra cash. I don’t see the harm in dedicating at least a portion of your line to them. If $3.99 is too high a price for you, well in a few months you’ll have 6 of those issues for $15 or $20 in TPB form.

  25. Alan Coil says:

    People all across this country are being asked to take pay cuts to help their industries and companies stay in business. Why shouldn’t that be true in comics?

  26. Brilliant idea! Back to $40 a page! Because we all know the only reason for the high price of comics has been the rapacious creators stickin’ it to the poor suits and executives who are only in the business because they love it.

  27. Jesse Post says:

    What Jack said.

    (I couldn’t formulate a coherent response without lots of asterisks and number signs.)

  28. I don’t think either Marvel or Time-Warner are in danger of going out of business at this point.

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