$2.99 vs $3.99

In response to “sitting down with a senior Marvel executive” who bellyached about DC’s $2.99 price point, a certain rumor monger espoused the notion that the comics industry norm for regular length comics was heading closer to the $3.99 cover price. It was mentioned that DC has been increasing their output of standard $3.99 comics. And the Rumonger ended with the question of which of the Big Two would jump to $4.99 first for the standard comic book?

Time to play Accountability Police again.

First off, without getting into sales numbers or double shipping, the company that has been pushing comics closer to $3.99 is Marvel Comics. However, their standard comics aren’t “heading to $3.99” – they are already there and have been for years. If anything, it’s a surprise when any of their comics have a $2.99 cover price BECAUSE they release so many at $3.99.

Secondly, while DC has seen some increase of their $3.99 books, those are in the minority. When the New 52 first hit, only 4 titles were $3.99. In the latest Previews (for books shipping in April), not counting Vertigo, the digital books or mini-series, DC’s main universe, which totals roughly up to 46 titles, now has 10 $3.99 books. In its third year of “the New 52”, you can still read 36 titles of their main DC Universe line for just $2.99 each.

Let’s look at Marvel in that regard: the Marvel Now wave one rollout took up about fifteen months from October 2012 to January 2014. During that time, they were still publishing a handful of titles that weren’t necessarily part of the brand but were part of the overall main Marvel Universe (Venom, Gambit, Captain Marvel, Hawkeye, etc.). Lumping those in with the Marvel Now Wave One push, but not counting the Ultimate or Max lines or mini-series (or Inhumanity because who knows what that’ll even shape up to be), Marvel had roughly 26 $3.99 books and 20 $2.99 books. 20 is a fair amount of Marvel Universe main line books to absorb if you’re budget conscious. Not bad but almost an even split.

What about the second wave? All-New Marvel Now? Again, looking at the April Previews, Marvel also has roughly 46 main Marvel Universe titles. Of those, 37 are now $3.99 books and 9 are $2.99.

Who’s increasing their $3.99 line again?

Fantastic Four during Marvel Now was $2.99. With All-New Marvel Now, it’s $3.99. Daredevil and Captain Marvel have bumped in price as well. Most of their new mid-tier Wave Two titles are starting at $3.99: Black Widow, Moon Knight, Silver Surfer, Iron Patriot, Magneto, Punisher, New Warriors, Iron Fist. In the latest Previews for DC – Aquaman and the Others: $2.99. Sinestro: $2.99. The new Batman weekly: $2.99. DC has some $3.99 books for other first issues – and we’ll wait to see if they drop or stay the same for #2 – but that’s still a significantly less increase than what Marvel is doing. And DC has raised only a few standard books from $2.99 to $3.99 over the past two years. Detective Comics for sure.

Finally, it’s no question that Marvel will pull the trigger on this. They already have. And now, after sitting back to see the outcome of the New 52, smirking about their competition rebooting their entire line but then doing exactly the same thing from a branding standpoint, it wouldn’t surprise me if Marvel continues to roll out wave after wave of new issue #1s probably every other year or so. Content wise, more power to them. I’ve been championing the “season format” for comics since the CGS days. But price point wise (not sales), it’s stretching their readers. I’ve seen it online, I’ve heard it at my local comic shop. And then when you do add in the discussion of double shipping, it boggles my mind that Marvel would want to compete with itself on the racks.

From 2008 to 2012, DC has won the Comic Book Publisher of the Year over 4%. They also have won the Backlist Publisher in those years. These awards are based on a number of factors including their overall sales impact. The final winners are voted on by comic book retailers across the U.S. and abroad.

It’s not DC that is walking the minefield on this one.