Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Pricing Oddities of Digital Comics

Digital comics for sale on Apple mobile devices are quite a new form of delivery, and with any new technologies, there are bound to be oddities and glitches to be found along the way. I decided to go through several of the ComiXology apps to find some oddly priced comics. Want to know what’s Marvel’s most expensive single issue? Or how about DC’s cheapest? Or how about the first comic to be priced the same digitally and normally? Hit the jump to find out.

DC App

  • Before getting their own dedicated App, DC comics appeared in the main ComiXology App.
  • On June 23rd, with the launch of the application, all Zuda and Wildstorm Universe comics (not counting media tie-ins) are priced at $0.99, while all regular DC Universe titles are the by-now-standard $1.99. Most comics remain at this price point.
  • This day also marked DC’s first comic to be released digitally at the same day it shipped to stores, with Justice League: Generation Lost #4 priced at $2.99. Subsequent issues of the series were released in the same manner, though once a new chapter came out, the previous would revert to the standard $1.99 price point.
  • On June 30th, Wonder Woman (Vol. 2) #1 becomes available for sale at the price of $0.99. To this date, this issue (from the George Perez era) is one of the few DC Universe title to have this price.
  • On July 7th, the Wildstorm/DC crossover of Planetary/JLA is uploaded and priced at $1.99, but the book contains a whooping 55 pages of content.
  • On September 15th, two annuals from 2007 were added to the library, both of them at the price of $2.99: Robin Annual #7 and Batman Annual #26. It should be noted, however, that both of them were originally released in print with the price of $3.99, and they both were 40 pages long.
  • On October 6th, the first issues of the most recent Power Girl and Justice Society of America were released at the discount price of $0.99. Oddly enough, the one page “Origin of Power Girl” seems to also be priced $0.99, though that’s probably a glitch as all the previous comics of this kind were released for free.

Marvel App

  • At launch date of this application, all Marvel comics shared the same price point of $1.99. Previously, Marvel comics would appear in the main ComiXology app.
  • On June 30th, Invincible Iron Man Annual 2010 was the first comic from Marvel to be released digitally on the same-date as the regular street date. The comic, which was over 60 pages long, was divided into three parts, each priced $1.99, effectively making the digital release ($5.97 total) more expensive than the physical book, which was priced $4.99.
  • On July 7th, the final chapter of Astonishing X-Men, the one shot Giant Size Astonishing X-Men (2008) was released. Previously, all other 24 chapters were available for quite some time, with only the final one noticeably missing. This comic was also divided into two parts, each one priced at $1.99, while the original comic was priced $4.99 and had over 40 pages of content.
  • August 10th saw the release of the complete digital version of Marvels, the four issue mini series from 1994. Each issue was divided into two parts, and each one priced at 1.99 (though each part had between 20 and 25 pages). The total price is $15.92, but the paperback collection of this book can be found on Amazon for $16.49.
  • On September 14th is where things start to get complicated. The second issue of the weekly mini series One Month To Live was released at the price of $2.99, only a week after the original shipping date of the hard copy, which was priced $2.99 as well (The first issue of this mini series was released digitally for free earlier). To my knowledge, this was the first comic from Marvel to be released at this price. Issues 3 and 4 of this same series would be released with the same price and schedule.
  • On that same date, we saw the release of Wolverine: Road to Hell at the price of $1.99, even though the ship date for this comic was two weeks prior (at the price of $3.99), and the fact that this comic was 41 pages long.
  • September 28th saw more digital pricing oddities from the house of ideas. Gorilla Man #1 was released digitally at the priced of $2.99, even though it was released physically in July, more than two months before, at the price of $3.99 and sporting 33 pages.
  • More troubling is the release of Marvel Universe vs. The Punisher, on that same date, at the price of $2.99. The original comic was released some 6 weeks prior, at the price of $3.99, but this one only had 24 pages of content.
  • October 5th saw the fifth and final issue of One Month To Live was released. Just like the previous issues, this was uploaded to the Marvel App under a week after it came out, but this time, unlike the previous three issues, was priced at $1.99. This means that if you bought the hard copies of this series, it amounted to (5 x 2.99) $14.95, while if you bought the digital versions it amounted to (1 x 0 + 3 x 2.99 + 1 x 1.99) $10.96. That means that by waiting to read this series one week later than everyone else, you saved close to four dollars.
  • October 6th brings perhaps the most troubling aspect of digital pricing. Released on the same day as it’s physical counterpart, Ultimate Comics: Thor #1 is priced at $3.99 on both formats, with only 24 pages of content. This means that Marvel is testing the waters to price digital comics at the 3.99 price point, which many point as one of the causes for the downturn in comic sales.

ComiXology App

  • The Comixology App features a wide array of digital comics from almost every publisher you can imagine. Most comics are either $0.99 or $1.99, though it also features “Collections” where you can buy whole storylines and miniseries for a discount price, much cheaper than if you bought the individual issues. These bundles vary greatly in price, and for the sake of this article, I won’t be listing them all. That being said, there are still some oddities to be found here.
  • 13 Chambers #1 is a one shot comic that was divided into two different parts, much the same way the Invincible Iron Man Annual was, and each one was priced $1.99 with 24 pages of content in each part.
  • The Pro is also a one-shot comic that is released through ComiXology, and that is oddly priced $3.75, with close to sixty pages of content.
  • Fell #1 is priced at $0.99 while all other subsequent issues are priced at $1.99. What’s peculiar about this case though, is that Fell was an experimentally-sized comic, which featured a smaller number of pages, and each issue was priced normally at $1.99. This technically makes Fell the first series to price the digital version the same as the regular version.
  • The Hector Plasm books were the first single issues on this app to be priced at $2.99 each, though it should be noted that one had 38, and the other, 48 pages worth of content.


That’s all that I could find by browsing through the digital stores, but there may be more sales and oddities waiting to be found. Have you come across any oddly priced digital comic? What do you think about some of these pricing policies or experiments? Let us know in the comment section.

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Frank said...

I'd love it if they would release an Android app, the comics readers available right now aren't that great.

Eric Rupe said...

The pricing of Ultimate Comics Thor does not surprise me one bit.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

I just wish the pricing of comic in $US was the same in $AU because they are trading about the same now. The only reason stores can even come close to justifying the price hike above the $US is because of postage so on my iPhone that sholdn't be an issue.

I was surprised that Ultimate Thor was even offered day/date as digital, but Hickman is a creator who believes in it so it's good it's one of his titles. I assume they'll drop the price in a few weeks, which is cool, and maybe even offer the first issue in a month or two for free just to hook some more people. Marvel are good like that.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I've been expecting for a while that the only way for the comics medium to survive would be by evolving to a digital format, but based on these prices it seems obvious to me that Marvel and DC won't be leading the charge. Four dollars for a comic book is absurd. Four dollars for a comic book you can't hold in your hand or resell... I don't have a word to describe that kind of madness.

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