Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DC vs Marvel: The $3.99 Debate

Alright, this is not really Hawk-related, but please bear with me and hear me out.

I have been hearing for several years now how "DC made $3.99 the standard price point" for comics in this country.  I have long pushed back on this, saying that DC generally (but not always, especially for miniseries) kept their standard length books at $2.99, whereas Marvel arbitrarily decided which books were $2.99 and which were $3.99.  But this being the Internet, Marvel == Good; DC == Bad; so my cries fell on deaf ears.

So with the May 2014 solicits for both Marvel and DC going live on Newsarama, I decided to do a little research.  I'd get a count of how many books each publisher put out at each of the two price points.  Maybe I was off base with my statements, and that was why no one was listening.  Some hard numbers should make things clear.

For reference, here are the solicitation lists I used -- Marvel, and DC.  As I said, both are from Newsarama.

Here's what I found:

Books Priced $2.99:
-- Marvel: 8
-- DC: 50

Books Priced $3.99:
-- Marvel: 60
-- DC: 17

As you can see, Marvel has far, far more titles at the $3.99 price point than DC does for the month of May 2014.  But, I wanted to make sure I was comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges.  It's fair for a publisher to charge more for a title with more pages than standard.  So maybe Marvel is releasing a lot of oversized books with extra material in them, which would explain the higher amount of $3.99 books.  So I took a look at page counts.

Books with page count of 32 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 67
-- DC: 61

Books with page count of 40 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 5
-- DC: 4

Books with page count of 48 pages (with ads):
-- Marvel: 4
-- DC: 3

So, no, Marvel is not publishing appreciably more oversized comics than DC is.  Pretty cut and dried, isn't it?  Certainly seems that way to me.

Now, I suspect that a lot of these higher price point comics from Marvel are priced that way because of the inclusion of the "free" digital codes in the books.  At this point, the only series I read from Marvel is Iron Man (natch) (although that Nightcrawler book written by Chris Claremont is seriously tempting), and that series has been $3.99 with a digital code for a while.  But here's the rub: I don't use those digital codes.  I have redeemed a few of them, but at the end of the day I read my new comics physically, reserving my tablet for older comics, generally.  So why can't Marvel give me a break, knock a buck off the price, and not include the code?  

Of course that will not happen.  And in the interest of full disclosure, I get a discount through DCBS on every comic I buy (save for the odd one here and there I get from the LCS).  But in today's market, every dollar and every cent really matters, and those start to add up really quickly.

Now, none of this means anything from a quality standpoint.  Please, read what you like and can afford to buy, and if you don't like what DC, Marvel, or any publisher is doing then make yourself heard.  But I wanted to put these numbers out there and at least make everyone aware that this popularly held notion that DC is gouging readers is simply not borne out by the statistics.

Some additional notes:

-- Obviously, these numbers are not looking at trade paperbacks, hardcovers, or other collected editions, nor toys and other collectibles.

-- Both publishers have 9 titles at the $4.99 price point.  All of these are either oversized (ranging from 40 pages to 64 pages) or a "combo pack" which includes a digital access code.

-- Hawk-related: We're getting an New 52 Earth-2 Hawkgirl figure!  More on this in later post.

-- Showcase Presents: The Great Disaster is FINALLY getting released!  Woo Woo Woo!  You Know It!  

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