The Gold Standard #37

So I just saw that Marvel is bringing back foil covers, only they aren’t foil. They’re foilograms! Foil and holograms mixed together! The epitome of everything that went wrong with the nineties, and being done by the people who abused it the hardest in the nineties, who happen to be our loving price gouging overlords. They claim that this time it’s super special pointless variant covers done right!

The past few months have been more and more ridiculous as far as the prices in the industry go. When I started reading again in 2003, most books were around $2.50 an issue, and that was considered on the pricy end. $2.99 started becoming more and more apparent though, and I watched as it became the new standard for pricing. Didn’t surprise me in the least, to be honest.

Now we have the $3.99 titles though. And back in the day, that wasn’t a big deal. Double size the story, add on to the price tag, no big deal. We got more story, they got more buck. It’s been like that for longer then I’ve been reading.

Only somewhere along the way Marvel decided that maybe they could push $3.99 as the new standard, and begun to produce books of average length (and quality) for this new premium price tag. They claimed that the economy was hurting them too badly to not up prices on top selling books.

DC responded by saying that the economy wasn’t bad enough that they’d have to up prices, but in the interest of growing the industry they would be releasing some new titles with a $3.99 price tag. Though unlike Marvel, they took this premium priced books and added to them, giving ten page back up stories for that extra book. So you’re spending an extra buck to buy a book you were probably getting anyway, but you’re also getting to experience a second story at the end. It’s simple, and it works.

Ravager spreads her solo wings ten pages a month.

Ravager spreads her solo wings ten pages a month.

10 more pages of Question than we had before.

10 more pages of Question than we had before.

Marvel’s response was to up the page count on Uncanny X-Men. Not New Avengers, or Dark Avengers, or Thor, or Hulk, or any of the miniseries. No. Just Uncanny X-Men…..and Incredible Hulk when it comes out.

Price gouging.

Uncanny X-Men is coming out two or three times a month at an increased price tag and page count. It’s the best it has been in years. Price gouging? Not nearly as bad as the rest of the line, I’m actually pleased to say. Now the overload of $3.99 Avengers books on the other hand…..

It’s a lame situation that we’re finding ourselves in, where the market leader is going above and beyond the call of duty to take our hard earned money for us for as little as possible. I’m a lifer, I don’t mind dropping fifty or sixty bucks on a big week. That’s cool for me, I can manage that. But if I’m spending that kind of money, I want a stack of books that feels like I spent that kind of money on it! I don’t want ten books for fifty bucks! That’s a fraking rip off!

Every War of Kings mini is $3.99 an issue. Theyre also all 22 pages.

Every War of Kings mini is $3.99 an issue. They're also all 22 pages.

The problem, as I see it, is that too much emphasis is being put on making average issues seem special. like I get the idea behind a variant for a first issue of a new book, or even a new creative team, but some titles seem to be getting two, three, even four variants an issue! On the first print! Why?! What purpose does it serve?!

Does knowledge of variants raise demand? I mean, my LCS gets variants in, and sometimes you get the cool 50/50 ones where you get to just pick the artist you like best and be done with it, and other times you get the special covers that make the book cost like, anywhere from ten to fifty bucks. Ten to fifty bucks! For a cover! FOR A FUCKING COVER!

That just isn’t right. That isn’t something you do in a collectors market. Put out semi-rare to very-rare variants and hope that the demand sky rockets the price. That’s been done before guys, Marvel, it led you to bankruptcy. Do you want to go through that again? Really?

A talk I had with the owner of my LCS, this awesome guy named Ben, consisted of us going on about the price strategy. Comparing the methods as I have been doing in my column the last few months. About how while DC is leaps and bounds behind Marvel in the marketplace, they’re using the books with raised prices to try and grow their universe. Manhunter and Blue Beetle were cult favorites who, while having their own audiences, couldn’t muster enough readers to warrant the continued publication of their books. So DC put Manhunter as the backup in a book called “Batman: Streets of Gotham”, and anticipate that the edition of the character will grow her fanbase as it keeps her in the spotlight. Over time, she could grow beyond a backup feature and into a higher selling solo series, as more readers will become exposed to her simply due to the Batman name. Blue Beetle on the other hand was packaged in with Booster Gold, a personal favorite of mine that I’m honestly amazed wasn’t in the same trouble Manhunter and Beetle were in. Booster is selling enough to be safe, that’s an awesome, awesome thing.

Marvel, for their part, did attempt the same thing. Finally biting the bullet and canceling my beloved Spider-Girl, they moved it into Amazing Spider-Man family where issues published on the Digital Comics Unlimited feature of their website were reprinted in non-digital form. From what I’ve read, the addition of Spider-Girl to the book pushed its numbers from the chop block to the safety range, which makes me completely baffled at its vanishing from future solicits after the most recent issue. For the life of me, I don’t get that move. Why put Spider-Girl in a new title and then can the book after five issues when numbers are on the rise?

Us fans of May, we go where she goes. Were loyal.

Us fans of May, we go where she goes. We're loyal.

Something else Ben said to me, that I’ve been needing to actually find the link to, is that Marvel’s new strategy is, quite literally, to flood the market place. They’re number one, sales are up, things are good, so why not try and make them better. If people are buying this book monthly, they’ll buy it twice monthly. If they’ll pay three bucks for it, surely they’ll pay four. Random mini series idea? Publish it! Mini series that can be labeled as important in previews? Don’t just publish it, make it four bucks an issue! They know that people will keep buying these books, and that the cash will keep flowing in, so why not take advantage of it? Milk the market while they can.

I understand the business sense behind it, because they do have a guaranteed market of people who will buy what they put out, as often as they put it out, for whatever price they put it out for. But at the same time, it’s incredibly lame that in this economy they’d be price gouging their fanbase. It’s not an attempt to grow the industry, it’s just them filling their coffers while business is hot.

DC might not be having some grand success right now, but at least they know that the growth and strength of the industry is more important to their longevity then flooding the marketplace to maximize their income in the short term.

Right now though, I’m just sitting here wondering how long until Marvel’s entire line is $3.99, with minis priced at $4.99, and books are hitting consistently twice a month. I’m sure the answer is not soon enough for Joey Q. Sad to say it, really am, but that’s what I see happening in the next two years.

Well, other than me spending entirely too much money on comics. That’s just a given.

Those who wish to be must put aside the alienation, get on with the fascination, the real relation, the underlying theme

So Batman was good, as expected. Winick is doing quite a good job handling these characters, and I have to say that I was quite surprised to see him being shuffled off the book. Like, I knew Benes was doing one issue, and I knew Bagley was only on to finish out the first arc, but who knew that Tony Daniel would be writing and drawing the entire thing? Now the inclusion of so many of the sub plots (read: Black Mask) in Battle for the Cowl makes sense! We knew that Batman would be the book picking up on most of those lingering plots, but it just seems odd for a writer to come on, create a mess, and then just up and leave so the next one has to deal with it. That’s what Marvel would have done, at least. Now I just have to sit and hope the book stays on time, because Tony Daniel doing the full job himself just upped the appeal rate.

You know what’s really freaking weird? I read The Unwritten, right? On my pull list and all that. I’ve never once seen it on the new comics list at Diamond. Like just now I was compiling my list for this past week, and I knew I read it, but no dice. Not on their site. DC listed it as having gone out for the 8th, and I bought it on the 8th, but Diamond? Nada. Three issues in a row like that. Almost like the book is…..Unwritten.

My better judgment said to not read Dark X-Men Beginnings, but the fanboy in me bought it. It had stories about Mimic and Dark Beast! And they both sucked! In honesty, the Namor story was the only truly standout part of the issue, and I have think sinking suspicion that the miniseries itself will be defined by that story as well. This is what happens when they don’t even advertise the creative team on the cover. Bad freaking mojo.

So last week Kanjar Ro was on Oa, seconds away from being part of a mass execution. This week he’s running a planet in Rebels? Ummm, love this book, but come on! Couldn’t someone have kept that blip under control? This book is great still, I mean, Dox is filling my need of a Braniac in the current event of there not being a Brainiac 5 in a monthly series. He fulfills my fix. Though this entire Starro the Conqueror thing is raising a lot of my red flags as I keep seeing Annihilation: Conquest in it, but I’m hoping that in the next issue or two those similarities will fade away into the dust and leave me with just the fun cosmic read. Seriously, it’s the best cosmic book on the market not written by DnA or with the words “Green Lantern” in the title.

Jury is still out on this one

Jury is still out on this one

Red Robin was once again a very ‘meh’ title this month, but it still felt like an improvement over the debut issue. Yost is trying to get Tim’s character down in his new status quo, and he’s struggling a little bit. The inclusion of Spoiler in this issue should have helped matters, but having her only come because Dick thought he could use her to get Tim back into the fold is…..well, it’s out of character for Steph and for Dick. It just didn’t feel right. Though the usage of Ra’s al Ghul does intrigue me, and I do really want to see what his plans are for the former Boy Wonder.

Did Rogue really just drain who I think she just drained? Did Carey really solve her recent underpowering problem? I so totally hope so! Legacy is off to a strong start with its new status quo of following around Rogue, Gambit, and Danger, but then again, having an excuse to use the three in big fight atmospheres probably helps.

World of New Krypton did a great job of leading our eyes in one direction so we wouldn’t see the cliffhanger come out of our blindside. It was a nice touch, and one that I didn’t see coming. Needless to say Zod has been a major force in the Superman books since his return during New Krypton, and it was a really nice handling of his character that he would look past his personal issues with Kal El to better serve Krypton. That’s the kind of character moment Zod needed, to make it clear to us, the readers, that he isn’t still the same psycho he was during Last Son. If anything, it gave him a bit of sympathy.

Warriors is only worth mentioning for the origin of Gladiator which, while not spectacular, was a nice little story. The rest of the book was the story of Blastaar and……yeah, origin of Gladiator, whooo!

And hey, you know what? The Boys of Summer have returned! Entourage is back baby! Let’s hear it for our boys Turtle, Drama, E, Vinnie, and the man himself, Ari Gold! Welcome back! You have been missed!

Lets hug it out, bitch!

Let's hug it out, bitch!

Hey! Follow me! Twitter! Viva la….something! http://twitter.com/GreyScherl

What I read this week:

  • Batman
  • Booster Gold
  • Green Lantern
  • Rebels
  • Red Robin
  • Superman: World of New Krypton
  • The Unwritten
  • Dark X-Men Beginnings
  • War of Kings: Warriors
  • X-Men Legacy

Best of the week:

  1. Green Lantern
  2. World of New Krypton
  3. The Unwritten

The Gold Standard

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