Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 2, 2009

Because Marvel’s Use For The DM Doesn’t Necessarily Involve Their Being Good Citizens Of The DM

* the always well-dressed, prominent retailer James Sime walks deliberately down the hotel hallways swinging his croquet mallet against the walls and shouting Marvel's name. Sime's not crazy, though: he's just pointing out that by changing the sales date a forthcoming special-event Captain America issue is going to be released at the last second on a date where retailers' attention is elsewhere, Marvel is denying themselves and their retailing partners the opportunity to move more copies. The man has a point.

For what it's worth, I believe this specific comic is part of the same general run of issues where it's been hinted that there's going to be a major plot point involving the Captain America property (80 percent likely some sort of return of the currently-dead Steve Rogers character whose death drove comics sales like mad; 20 percent some cross-promotion related to a forthcoming movie), but because of nature of announcements to retailers as items for the rumor mill funneling quickly to fans Marvel won't say exactly why the issue should sell well.

* the CBR blog probably has the best write-up and springboard for links for a discussion during a recent investor's conference as to why Marvel's raising its price. I know without looking that some folks out there will sheepishly take the view that corporations exist to maximize profits and raising prices from $2.99 to $3.99 does this and so on and so forth. I don't think that's the point, though. I think what's being expressed by fans and some critics isn't some willful denial that Marvel wants to maximize its profits or how capitalism works but a general feeling of angst whether or not it's the right time to do so and what the implications will be on the broader system which Marvel uses to make this money.

Raising prices on serial comics might cause more people to spend more at comics shops, but it might also cause people to reconsider the value of what they're getting in the first place, and it may simply cause people to buy fewer comics at the same amount of money they've allotted either formally or informally to their comics-buying hobby. It's hard not to see this as a gamble that the hardcore reading fanbase is resilient enough that any drops in overall purchases or damage to the general retailing environment isn't more than made up by the greater profits. That's a depressing, cynical strategy to be embraced by one's market leader -- it's almost antagonistic in seeing that market and that customer base as a resource to be exploited rather than as a mechanism to reach bigger audiences. I also don't believe for one second any of the implied reasons for the move other than maximizing profits -- that, for instance, the money being made by these comics' creators is somehow in danger if prices don't go up.
posted 8:20 am PST | Permalink

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