Thursday, March 12, 2009

DC Makes The Jump to $3.99

Earlier today, Newsarama broke the news about DC making the jump to the $3.99 US price point. While it's no surprise that they would eventually follow Marvel's lead in the pricing of their books, the announcement is actually noteworthy for the simple fact DC will be offering extra content to justify the price increase.

Basically, DC will be adding 'co-features', which is basically a backup story, to certain books. Starting in June, the first wave of books to get the co-feature treatment will be Teen Titans and Booster Gold, which will have backup stories featuring Ravager and Blue Beetle, respectively. These backup stories will be additional pages, which means you can still expect the regular 22 pages of content if you were a Teen Titans or Booster Gold reader.

Hit the jump for my thoughts on the price change and 'co-features'.

The Good

Extra Content - Nice job here. Makes it much easier to justify picking up a $3.99 book if you are at least getting extra content. Hopefully, this means about 8-10 pages for each backup. Any less and I could see this not making much difference.

Obscure Characters - Was quite pleased to see Blue Beetle and Ravager get the backup treatment. While it's hard to call them 'obscure' when they've each had their own miniseries or ongoing recently, but it's much better to spotlight lesser known or read characters than simply tacking another Batman or Superman story on random books.

Co-Feature Placement - I'm going to have this as a negative as well, but where DC actually placed these co-features was a nice move. Putting a Ravager backup in JLA would probably make little sense compared to the added value to someone already familiar with the character in Teen Titans. Similarly, Blue Beetle, while not a perfect fit for Booster Gold, at least tangently ties into that title and is another solid placement.

The Bad

$3.99 Isn't $2.99 - Obviously, the worst part of this news is that the affected titles are now that much more expensive.

Co-Feature Placement - Like I said above, this also counts as a negative. I'm not sure why DC chose to up the price on lower selling titles, like Teen Titans and Booster Gold. They should have followed Marvel's line of thought and used higher selling titles, which are guaranteed to sell, for their $3.99 books. This would allow the guaranteed sellers to pick up the slack for the lower selling titles, which you could have left at $2.99.

The Ugly

Cancellations - Hands up, who honestly thinks Booster Gold and, to a lesser extent, Teen Titans didn't just get a death sentence handed to them? Neither are exactly tearing the sales charts.

Booster is selling roughly 25k books a month at the $2.99 pricepoint while Teen Titans is barely cracking 30k these days. Making these two low selling titles the only $3.99 books in DC's line is going to result in people dropping the books and fewer new readers jumping on. Do this to JLA or Batman and it's a different story, as they have mass appeal and will sell regardless of the price hike.

So, passing this increase off to these two titles seems, to me at least, like a cancellation waiting to happen.

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wicked juan said...

Good thing I only get two DC books these days. The price hikes are killing the budget.

If DC really wanted to bring in new readers, how about LOWERING the price on some of the titles that don't sell as much?

Eric Rupe said...

Given that it takes about eight issues to get enough material from the back-up strips that's probably the minimum length of time Booster Gold has.

I think Teen Titans will be able to survive the price increase since it seems to be a franchise that has a solid fanbase that's big enough to keep the book from getting the axe. Could be wrong though.

Eric Rupe said...

Also, guess that means Doom Patrol is going to be a $3.99 book as well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with wicked juan on the idea of lowering prices on low-sellers.

they should really have upped the prices on Action Comics, Batman, JLA etc like you say.

But still at least they're putting in back-ups, which is awesome. I've really missed back-ups, you don't really see many of them anymore.
Plus one of them is Blue Beetle! Maybe they're hoping all the BB fans will start picking up Booster Gold?
Any news on who'll be writing the back-ups?

Kirk Warren said...

@wicked juan - I doubt we'll ever see lower priced books unless they switch to lower quality paper and/or black and white (for mainstream, not just with indy stuff like Walking Dead). I love the Essentials and don't miss the cheap and sloppy colouring of the 60's and earlier eras, so I'd be game for a black and white book drawn with that format in mind (if you've seen some work before colouring, you'll know certain artists benefit a great deal from colouring and computer effects).

@eric - I imagine Booster will probably bite the bullet in a year's time, which should be long enough for sales to dip down to the sub-20k range. Maybe a relaunch as Blue & Gold might boost sales? And, ya, it sounds like Doom Patrol will be a $3.99 title. Miniseries or one year long ongoing confirmed? Cant see an obscure property like that, even with fondness for Morrison's work on the title long ago, lasting at that pricepoint.

@Anonymous - Sadly, the number of sales for a, say, $1.99 book would not offset the money lost if it had lower sales at $2.99, so we'll never see that happen.

No word on the backups writers, but Matt Sturges was very cryptic on Twitter today saying he could neither confirm nor deny his involvment in the Blue Beetle backups.

collectededitions said...

I think this'll turn out to be one of those ideas that either saves DC or crashes and burns tootsweet. Obviously they think the reader interest this is going to garner in adding a popular character to a title is greater than what they might lose in protest over the increased price point.

I imagine that if someone wasn't reading Booster Gold--say, a non-comics fan that somehow got interested in Blue Beetle through Batman: Brave and the Bold, for instance--buying Booster Gold with Blue Beetle at a higher price wouldn't phase them, because they'd never know the difference.

As you said though, there's extra content. If you were a Blue Beetle reader before, isn't this like getting (mostly) the same comic for less money?

Anonymous said...

"If you were a Blue Beetle reader before, isn't this like getting (mostly) the same comic for less money?"

Assuming you were a Booster Gold fan...
I love BB but I hate Booster, so there's no way I'll be buying it.

I sometimes buy Teen Titans and Ravager will probably up how often I do, but that said they might as well just put her back in the team (the book really is missing her... and that metal bitch is no replacement) and have someone else in back-ups (Manhunter would be sweeeet!)

Kirk Warren said...

@collectededitions - I dont think DC really needs 'saving', per se, nor do I think it will crash and burn, but I still think the current course of action will only hamper the books they've selected.

As I mentioned on Twitter, they could have tried this with Batman & Robin and have Morrison do a backup with Knight & Squire at a $3.99 price point and I think thye'd see more success and make a lot more money (people will buy it regardless, similar to the big books at Marvel) and that could help offset costs on the lower selling titles that are already hurting and allow them to sit at the $2.99 price tag.

As for Blue Beetle on Booster, it could be decent, but I'd imagine most are Ted Kord fans already; not Jaime fans. We'll have to wait and see, but sales aer already close to cancellation levels. I dont see a $3.99 tag, even assuming Jaime fans picking up the book, helping.

@Anonymous - Ravager was the only thing really keeping me interested in Teen Titans back when they broke most of the team up a year ago. Not sure why they dont just put her back on it.

Brendan T said...

Late to the party, but I'm going to say in regards to Blue Beetle/Booster Gold...I think they're hoping the Blue Beetle fanbase (which was hardcore but not large) will hop aboard Booster for added stability. Of course, that's assuming they weren't all buying it already.

Some of the backups announced after this post are awesome though, like the Question in Detective.

benlansky said...

I'm interested in the backups but the $3.99 price tags on all the books will seriously affect my purchasing.I dont understand why in a recession either company would hike prices.I'm a loyal fan who has bought in excess of $100 a week for years and now that I am getting less for my money and no dicount from my current store, I'm wondering how much longer I'll even be buying weekly comics.Isn't it really cheaper for most of us to just buy the graphic novel collections these days.How many series aren't collected these days?If I can get the same story,maybe with added cotent, for $14.95 to $19.95 while Im paying $24 for the same six or so issues weekly..then why bother.I love the charcters, I love a lot of the new storylines, but Im jsut getting sick of the corporate mind-think killin the industry.

Kirk Warren said...

It's usually cheaper to buy the trade, but I've noticed the trades (at least from Marvel) have been seeing price jumps, too, reducing any huge savings from dropping a $3.99 book. Diamond gouging 60% of the money from that $3.99 (or any price for that matter) price tag is also to blame, not just Marvel and DC. If Diamond didn't have the stranglehold on the industry, we'd probably see some relaxed prices.

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