Thursday, February 5, 2009

Open Letter to Marvel

Ok so this was written by Robert at Brainstorm in response to the announcement that Marvel is going to raise prices on select titles.

The upshot is that this sparked a decent discussion on a comics board out there.

I'm reprinting it and also posting my response:

Hello to Joe Quesada and whoever else may be inclined to listen,

My name is Robert and I own Brainstorm Movies Comics and Gaming in Chicago. I am sending this to you in response to the recent price increase of more and more books going up to 3.99.

First of all, I realize that times change and everything goes up eventually. And I have told my customers that have expressed concern about the recent price increases that we should wait and see what happens. My argument was that if the page count goes from 32 to 40, then I could justify spending that on a GOOD book. I would even be willing to forgive it if the 32 page books kicked butt, like Dark Avengers #1.

The latest Previews has a line that seems to repeat itself and it is causing some rumbling. Namely that line is “Plus 8 pages of Director’s Cut Extras!” This is like a slap in the face as one customer put it…right before he had me take all Marvel titles off his list.

Oh, I know, you maybe smiled at that one. Oooo, there goes someone else threatening not to buy our books anymore. Oh what will Marvel Comics do if we don’t sell those 15 or 20 books a month to that one guy in Chicago? I imagine it wouldn’t be that big a deal…except this isn’t the first one this month.

I’m not so much worried about Marvel. I’m worried about Brainstorm. This was someone who has been a customer since the day he walked in. He has stuck it out through thick and thin, and he would probably even be willing to give the price increase a fair chance…UNDER THE ASSUMPTION THERE WOULD BE MORE STORY! Plus 8 pages of Director’s Cut Extras does NOT justify a price increase. Eight pages of story would be an easier sell.

If the price increases are due to budgetary reasons, then may I suggest that Marvel stop putting out things like Marvel: Your Universe or any of the Chronicles. I stopped ordering these with Hulk Chronicles, because that’s when my customers stopped buying them. And when they see this in Previews and then all these 3.99 books they ask me what gives. I don’t know what to tell them. Repacking material that has already come out in trades is like poking a wet cat…it does nothing but make the cat madder.

If you have some insight, I would appreciate it. But I’m pretty certain that this won’t get any response and if I do it will probably be something about how exciting the future of comics is and that the price increases are needed for this or that.

Regardless of whether you answer this or not, keep in mind that there are people out here who have invested everything they have into their stores. The same stores that rely upon people being able to afford the books they’re interested in reading. Because I have found that no matter how good a book is, if people have to make a choice between necessity and Wolverine, they will and have been lately, choose the necessity.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t raise the prices of your books. You’re going to do that anyway. I’ve seen the writing on that wall for a while now. I’m just asking that whoever makes these decisions please keep in mind that if you want more from us, we’re going to want more from you. And Director’s Cut Extras are not going to cut it.

Robert Kimmons
Brainstorm Movies, Comics and Gaming
1648 W. North Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622

Here's my comments:

I’m a retailer in Chicago as well as a fan of comics and the industry so I’m going to start by just saying that Robert at Brainstorm is essentially correct.

Marvel is going to raise prices no matter what and I don;t think it will be long before Dc follows suit when the backlash blows over. This is the way it works. Everything costs and suckas gotta pay.

Now here’s why Robert is right:

Director’s Cuts/extra inserts do not equate quality of product. All Robert is saying is that if you want to raise the price to $3.99 then give the fans 8 more pages of actual story and make that 8 pages count.

That way, the fan walks up and drops an extra buck and goes home happy and our expense on that book is also justified.

Here’s where it falls apart:

1. Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis cannot write ever book Marvel produces. We all know which books are good and we know why. Quality goes in and quality comes out. I can sell Captain America to blind people at $4.50 a shot because my customers can trust that Marvel is bringing the fire with that book almost every month.

Robert is talking about an issue of risk, which we as retailer have to assume before any customer does.

Examples from Feb 09 Marvel Previews:

New Avengers: The Reunion #2 - I don’t remember the comics world asking for Mockingbird back and I’m not sure that it’s worth an extra buck to see she and Clint Barton catch up.

All New Savage She Hulk #1 - Really…

Franklin Richards: April Fools - Guys, I have a decent and well regard kids section but parents of these kids look at price like no one else…

Marvel Asst-sized spectacular #1 & #2 - Not at $3.99

Exiles #1 - I love Jeff Parker’s work but $3.99 for a property that has never really burned itself in the minds of a wide audience.

The Destroyer #1 - Love Kirkman but this solicit is Frank Castle with leukemia and customers will know it too.

There are other examples but like I said, it comes down to risk. As a retailer, I have to weigh this and I’m going to decide (as I have been doing) not shelve a good chunk of the Marvel Offerings (though I’ll order any requested by Pulls).

The real issue Marvel is making us decide is one that is actually worse than the price increase. Marvel can put out as many books as it wants but honestly, I only have so much room for this stuff and like Marvel, I’m all about the Market share. I know that ordering Marvel Triple Action and The Index to the Marvel Universe at $5.99 and $3.99 respectively, are going to impact my ability to shelve product by publishers not named Marvel or DC. I have one of those shops where it’s just not worth it to me at all to give up shelf space to books like Dead Irons, Rasl, 3 Geeks or Echo just so Marvel can pat iotself on the back about stuff it’s already published.

Lee, you are also correct. Fans will bitch. Fans bitched when comics went from .20 to .25 cents. It’s written in the fan code. Fans will also decide to not take a chance on She Hulk the Barbarian and wait instead for the tpb which is fine for a shop like mine with my business model but harder for Robert, who is really just asking for more of a vote of confidence from the publisher but allowing him to return a certain number of copies when the inevitable happens and his customers decide to stick with what they know and avoid paying for SOME of the increased prices of books like New Avengers, which is NOT a $3.99 comic no mattter what anyone tries to tell me.


Terry Gant
Third Coast Comics


Anonymous said...

Suckas *don't* gotta pay, though. Like everyone else in the media, comics publishers are facing more challenges to old distribution models.

Marvel's just pushing more readers to find illegal scans on bittorrent.

I'm sorry to be the one to say it, but it's true.

Unknown said...

That's such a small aspect of the market that I don;t really think Marvel is concerned. All that will happen is that they'll produce online content to draw the bit torrent community back. Yeah the publishing model as it currently stands does cost but it's something that can be dealt with.