With the January 2011 releases, most DC Comic books are now at $2.99; a 32 page, full cover book with only 20 pages of story/art instead of 22 of the last decade +.

At first I thought the two pages would revert back to advertising, but according to a house ad in the back of most January issues, at least one of those two pages will be reviving those bygone days of letter columns. Will this work? What do you think of DC's current actions?

A nosy inquiring mind wants to know.

As for myself, I started reading comic books in 1974, when you had 20 out of 32 pages for only 20 CENTS! With a letters column.

Obviously a lot has happened in the years since. I have seen both the best and the worst that the comic book industry has to offer in the decades since, both creatively and business wise.

In this case, my wallet loves the price freeze, but the long time reader in me fears this might (at some point) herald an even lesser story/art page count standard. I have lived/read through the dreary days when comic book fans only got 17 pages out of a standard 32 page book, around the 30/35 cent price range.

Those are definitely not days I want to go through again.

OPINIONS? FEEDBACK?

 

(BTW: Considering I've only been a member of this august board for a couple of days now, does anyone know if we can post emoticons with our messages, and if so, how? Thanks in advance to those who reply to this part.)

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(BTW: Considering I've only been a member of this august board for a couple of days now, does anyone know if we can post emoticons with our messages, and if so, how? Thanks in advance to those who reply to this part.)

 

Yes, we can to some degree. On the previous version of the board, we had a collection of smilies. Many of those from that board and some we didn't have can be found in the "Smilies Folder," which has a link that may be found on the bottom right corner of any page. Hover your cursor over one you would like to use, and a menu pops up; copy the coding for "Direct Link" and paste it into your message using the "Image" button above the box with your response.


Thanks for asking, and welcome to the board!

 

Bank vaults are darned hard to break into these days.

 

I have a Freeze Gun/collection of umbrellas/magic hypnotic violin you might be interested in, Mark...

To answer the actual question that was asked: I agree that, long-term, it's a bad move to cut the page count in order to artificially keep the price of comics low. But it's clear that the marketplace wouldn't support a jump from $2.99 to $3.99. I don't understand why they couldn't have made an interim increase to, say, $3.25 or $3.50.

 

And seeing specials priced at $4.99, $5.99, and $8.99 scares me. The most I ever paid for a back issue was $7 for Our Army at War #237.

I also agree that cutting the page count is a bad idea in the long run. It's true that the space limitation can be overcome with skill by the creators, but it's one more storytelling road block. And it's still going to have the same impact on folks like me that buy mostly trades.

I had no problem with some of the titles being $3.99 as long as I actually got extra story pages to go with the price increase in the form of either a back up feature (in Action, Detective, etc) or within the main feature (JLA, JSA).

Granted, not every title deserved a back up feature, and some of the choices didn't make sense, but at least DC was trying to justify the extra dollar.

While I don't understand why publishers don't just round up their prices to the next dollar ($3 even instead of $2.99), and I dread the possible decisions that comic book companies might have to face in the future (canceling titles, format changes, etc), it is nice to know that at least DC is trying to head off the problem before it arises.

And for those interested, Vertigo titles (or at least The Unwritten #21) do not seem affected by the page decrease/price freeze. Yet?

I think the $3.99 was a problem for a lot of readers, even though they were getting more pages for the money. If nothing else, those pages may not have been deemed worth $1, as it was a character that the reader didn't necessarily want to read. That's always the problem with anthology comics, at least today. OTOH, I almost started buying Doom Patrol mostly for the Metal Men backup. But then it disappeared before I could make up my mind.

It's interesting that they'd use the pages to provide added editorial. That's a good thing, but we'd already heard that letters pages had been put out of business by the Web, and it hasn't gone away. Whether the pages are a good trade-off (or at least better than house ads) depends on how good the letters pages are. If they ask interesting questions or bring up good points that the editor or writer responds to, then it might be. If it's the usual gushing that they'd been for many years before they disappeared, then they're barely worth reading.

Part of the problem for periodicals is the immediate collection of stories into a whole. Even if that costs a couple bucks more, lots more people find that attractive because they know all the parts are there, and it's a unit they can put on a shelf, trade, lend, etc. And when the cost is less than the issues, it's hard to justify the periodical version, even at $3.

Frankly, I think comics need to have more endings. Long-running plots can continue, but they need to return to more done-in-one stories or wrap up elements regularly so people feel that $3 gave them a satisfying story. X-Files and Smallville took that approach and were fairly successful at doing both kinds of stories and mixing it up.

Too often, I read reviews of the first few issues of a comic that say, "It's too soon to tell where this is going or if it will be good." There needs to be more payoff every issue. That will bring fans back next month more than a continued story that seems to be going nowhere fast.

I think Archie's magazine is an interesting experiment. I've often thought that approach offered the best hope for periodical comics, but it may be a hard sell. Wednesday Comics also was an interesting idea as an anthology. The problem is that if there isn't uniform quality, readers will just figure they can cherry-pick the collections they want when the stories are done rather than buy the group each week/month. And as pretty as WC was, there was a lot of variation in the quality of the stories. I really like the idea, and it could introduce new concepts on the coattails of something bigger, but the execution is always iffy.

Even so, I think somewhere in there is the best hope for periodicals. I don't think giving me one more 20-page slice of a 160-page story for $3+is going to carry them much longer.

-- MSA

The topic of alternate formats has come up before.

Personally, I cannot foresee any publisher giving up the monthly serial format, because this is the best way for them to try out new ideas, usually in the mini-series and one shot formats.

Now I have heard it suggested several times when the subject came up that DC could switch to a magazine format akin to Time. For example: Action Comics could also house other members of the Superman family too. Wonder Woman's title could also be home to the Birds of Prey and another female lead series, things like that.

Whether this theory would keep things on a monthly basis or switch the remaining titles to an alternating bi-monthly line up, along with whether or not it would do away with mini-series, annuals, and one shots remains to be seen.

I for one certainly don't have the answers, but at least I'm foresighted enough to be asking the questions NOW instead of later.

Lee Houston, Junior said:

While I don't understand why publishers don't just round up their prices to the next dollar ($3 even instead of $2.99), and I dread the possible decisions that comic book companies might have to face in the future (canceling titles, format changes, etc), it is nice to know that at least DC is trying to head off the problem before it arises.


They don't just round up their prices to the next dollar for the same reason that gas stations sell gasoline in fractions of a cent. Look closely at that sign; it'll read something like "$3.09 9/10." It's a gimmick that makes you think the item is cheaper than it really is, because you don't say to yourself, "Oh, it's really $3.10 a gallon."


Mr. Silver Age said:

I think Archie's magazine is an interesting experiment. I've often thought that approach offered the best hope for periodical comics, but it may be a hard sell. Wednesday Comics also was an interesting idea as an anthology. The problem is that if there isn't uniform quality, readers will just figure they can cherry-pick the collections they want when the stories are done rather than buy the group each week/month. And as pretty as WC was, there was a lot of variation in the quality of the stories. I really like the idea, and it could introduce new concepts on the coattails of something bigger, but the execution is always iffy.

Even so, I think somewhere in there is the best hope for periodicals. I don't think giving me one more 20-page slice of a 160-page story for $3+is going to carry them much longer.

-- MSA


I like the Archie magazine. I understand the individual series, "Archie Loves Betty" and "Archie Loves Veronica" are sold separately in standalone comics, but I've never seen them anywhere. I'd buy the package over the two comics anyway.

It seems there's always a stab at magazine format comics from time to time, usually aimed at kids, but they always seem to peter out after a few years. But the Warren line of black-and-white magazines in the '70s, and Marvel's stable of magazines, were a way to get out a product that was profitable enough to be worthwhile for retailers. Part of the reason comics were chased out of the newsstands and mom-and-pops stores was that they were priced so low, retailers didn't want to have them cluttering their shelves. I still wonder why those kinds of books aren't out there today.

To Clark Kent_DC:

The two separate story lines WERE to be individual comic books, but Archie decided to combine them into one magazine.

 

To Mister Silver Age:

While the possibility of DC tackling the magazine format hasn't been raised since the mid-1980s, see my previous post for a brief recap on what the thought was and how it might be applied today.

Lee Houston, Junior said:

And for those interested, Vertigo titles (or at least The Unwritten #21) do not seem affected by the page decrease/price freeze. Yet?

 

"Yet" is right.  Jason Aaron wrote about the potential impact on Scalped specifically here. He also talks about his work at Marvel and the impact of the change more generally, so I recommend this particular column even if you're not a Scalped fan.

I think those comics would be really cool as magazine formats. Obviously, the quality would have to be top-notch and consistent so there weren't weak links, and they'd have to be perceived as a value. If they put the creators from Wednesday Comics into a regular anthology, I bet it would hold its own.

I'd be way more interested in Super-Family and Wonder-Family books that told full stories than I would be in each current periodical being produced. I think putting Birds of Prey with WW is a good combination. Maybe a Team book of DP, Secret Six, Metal Men, B&B, etc, would be an attractive combination.

I realize, though, that my comics tastes aren't very mainstream, so since I like the idea, it probably means they wouldn't do well. Even so, given Archie's experiment, I think it'd be worth a shot today.

DC did these types of anthologies back in the 1970s, with Superman Family and Batman Family, and they had some good stuff in them, as well as various reprints. I think they are well-remembered today for a number of their series and one-shot stories. They ultimately faded away, and the pricing on doing something like that today might be prohibitive.

Marvel is doing a Spider-Man Family book, which has had a good mix of features, as well as a Spider-Man magazine. I don't know how those are faring, and I haven't seen either in awhile by now. But I think there is potential there. Certainly, there seems to be more potential there than anything else I see.

-- MSA

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