Rising prices have been a subject of heated discussion in the comic book industry over the last couple years, but DC Comics yesterday turned that conversation in another direction.
"I think this is the first time in history that a major comic publisher has 'rolled back' prices nearly across the board," said Mike Wellman, owner of The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, Calif. "Hopefully it will force the competitors to reconsider their prices as well."
DC announced that all ongoing comics will now contain 20 pages of story and will be priced at $2.99. Previously, comics usually had 22 pages of story and were priced at $3.99, although DC recently experimented with co-features that lengthened their $3.99 comics. Those co-features will go away, as well the $3.99 price point on ongoing comics.
According to some retailers, their customers have scaled back purchases on comics that are priced at $3.99. "At $3.99, I've seen many ancillary titles get dropped from pulls and wind up clogging the shelves," Wellman said.
"People keep dropping the $3.99 Marvel titles," said Charlie Harris, owner of Charlie's Comic Books in Tucson, Ariz. "At least the DC books that were $3.99 gave extra pages that weren't reprints that no one asked for."
Although no one predicted this move would dramatically increase overall sales numbers in the short term, their hope is that readers will try more titles and maybe, in the long run, sales will pick up as a result.
"I think sales, dollar wise, will stay about the same as people will stick with titles a little longer than they might, as well as those customers who will be picking up new titles," said Adam Casey, manager at Ssalefish Comics in Winston-Salem, N.C. "It'll be interesting to see how many pull lists get altered as this price reduction moves forward and what our sell-through data will show.
"I'm hoping that actual dollar amount sales will maintain, meaning more across the board sales of individual books," said Wellman of The Comic Bug.
"I really think sales in the retail market will only increase because of this. Fans will be more willing to try out comics they wouldn't otherwise read," said Jason Pierce, owner of Alter Ego Comics in Muncie, Ind. "So many times, I hear customers saying they would love to read something 'but it's $3.99.' That rationale no longer can take place."
"All too often we hear that people aren't interested in trying out issues that are $3.99," Casey said. "Let's hope that customers will use this 'rebate' of sorts to try out other titles. Comics haven't been tied to inflation and should probably be priced a little less than $2.99, so we'll see what happens from here."
Probably the most telling reaction was that retailers reacted positively in particular to the DC Comics organization itself, expressing a feeling that the publisher cares about retailers and readers.
"DC continues to prove that they are willing to do what it takes to help , not only retailers, but the industry grow. They realize a buck doesn't go as far as it once did, and they are taking steps to ensure that the fan's money stretch as far as it can," Pierce said. "DC continues to be visionaries and look towards the future of comics. This is evident by the announcement of Marvel dropping the $3.99 price point on at least some of their titles."
Gerry Gladston, co-owner of Midtown Comics in New York City, said he believes this move will help prevent a sales slide during the slow economy that so many readers are experiencing.
"[It's] wonderful news, and a little bird told me that Marvel may do something similar," he added.
That hope for a similar across-the-board announcement by Marvel was echoed among most retailers.
"Marvel, sweet confused Marvel," said Dean Phillips of Krypton Comics in Omaha. "Please follow DC's lead!"