In a message sent out to retailers, as reported on by Newsarama, it appears that the next issue of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s “Batman” run (#35) is jumping to $4.99 later this month. The report says that the book will be increased to a 40-page issue, 30 of which are story, with the digital combo version of the issue now priced at $5.99. Additionally, since there are three currently solicited issue of “Batman” that will see the new cover price in October, November and December, DC notes that it will allow retailers to make the issue returnable at a later date.
What’s inherently interesting about this, though, is that “Batman” is the industry standard when measuring success. You often hear people say that comics are “measured in Batmans,” and that’s true; when looking at a Diamond Sales Chart, “Batman” is the book from which the standard of sales is based. With “Batman” increasing to $4.99 — potentially just for the “pivotal” “Endgame” arc, but DC has not clarified at this time — we’re seeing a rather prominent and important title shift to a less accessible price-point that could see $4.99 as a more standard price for ongoing books.
I don’t mean to say this to ring bells of doom or cause an alarm. Far from it, in fact; as we’ll go over, “Batman’s” increase is not completely out of left field or all too surprising, even if the $4.99 price point does make an eyebrow raise. However, given DC’s tendency to lead the industry a bit in terms of how books are priced, making the standard book for comic sales a $4.99 book could see more books rise to meet the challenge of “Batman.”
After all, it wasn’t all that long ago (2010) when DC’s main mission statement was to “Hold the Line at $2.99.” It was pre-New 52, sure, and was somewhat maligned for loss of pages by fans and competitors, but even Marvel eventually followed suit to test the same thing in 2011. In 2012 DC increased their two most prominent Batman-related titles to $3.99, promising a higher page count, and since then quite a few books have followed suit. Now you see $3.99 far more than you do $2.99, although as of December 2014 the majority of DC’s titles are still in fact $2.99 (with a handful of $4.99 comic specials and annuals thrown in for good measure).
Certainly DC is clearly trying things to keep their books accessible and help their bottom line, but that won’t make seeing the $4.99 price any less abrasive to most fans. $3.99 was a hard enough pill to swallow as is.
Which isn’t to say their competition doesn’t also run high-priced issues. Marvel has frequently been releasing $4.99 “specials,” whether they be anniversary issues or annuals, and they promise similar 30-page story issues contained in a 40-page comic. In fact, I even wrote a similar $4.99-related article when Marvel announced 15 books (!) at that price point for September; while December sees only 9 $4.99 titles, 2 of which are part of a regular monthly (though neither of which being billed as “regular” issues), most of Marvel’s comics now hedge towards the $3.99 price point, with a single title still weighing in at $2.99: “She-Hulk.”
Marvel also hasn’t utilized their $4.99 price point very well. “Death of Wolverine” #1, for example, was solicited at 48 pages, only 22 of which were story (I personally counted this) while the rest was ads and self-congratulatory backmatter — an aspect of the book that our reviewer James Johnston called out with quite the visual metaphor. Each subsequent issue is billed as a 40 page story, each also containing backmatter, which results in a somewhat unjustified read for that pricing (given that its the same amount of story-content as their $3.99 and $2.99 books). The upcoming collection for the book retails at $24.99, which also brings up certain questions of high-priced style over actual substance.
Even beyond that, other companies have also increased price points all around. $2.99 used to be the general standard, for a time, but it’s not that uncommon to see comic publishers publishing their books at $3.50 or $3.99 regularly. At Image, for example, most of their “bigger” titles solicited in December are $3.50, with a a smaller but still prominent number of books at $2.99 and even less at $3.99; at Dark Horse, the majority will be at $3.50, with a bit less at $3.99 and only 4 at $2.99.Continued below
It’s not even all that confusing, though. While I’m sure most of us will complain about the rising price point, in fact I would wager that if I just said, “Well, y’know, the economy,” and waved my hands in a particular fashion, most of you would nod your head and say, “Oh, yeah, sure, I guess.” The industry strives on sales, and lack thereof causes books to either get canceled (which you hear a lot about, especially with creator-owned books) or, in some cases, increase their price to stay afloat — which would explain the shift of what books will be priced like next week from Marvel and DC and why in December Marvel will only publish a single $2.99 book (you’re kicking ass, Shulkie!).
Granted — I imagine most fans don’t care about the justification. Buying a $4.99 monthly is a tough prospect for a lot of people, especially when a) comic fans typically buy quite a few comics a week, let alone a month, and have fixed budgets and b) can just tradewait and pick up books later, often at a discount from online retailers beyond even just Amazon. I just find it interesting because it’s “Batman.”
So we’re going to be seeing a rise on cover price, and I’d imagine we’ll see a major shift in 2015 for a standard. The price of printing a comic is increasing, and sales often trend downward; it’s why we see so many relaunches and reboots (often debuting at a higher price point for a “special over-sized first issue”), because those little booms help the industry. It’s not as dire as some people would have you believe, and it could obviously be better, but I think now we can somewhat officially say that “Batman” is here to lead the way to more expensive single issue comics — for better, for worse, for everything in between.
“Batman” switching up to $4.99 could be a temporary thing in order to accommodate a book as big and bombastic-sounding as “Endgame,” whose first cover (pictured here) features Batman being taken down by the Justice League. Needing extra story-pages for that after how grandiose and epic “Zero Year” ended up being? Understandable, and I can’t stress that enough. However, should that $4.99 price point continue past March — something that’s possible, with DC keeping mum on the subject and not having responded to inquiries at this time — it will be interesting to see how “Batman” could potentially increase the standard prince of what we see on a monthly title.
(At least for me, anyway. I mean, I just spent a good deal of time checking back on the rising costs of comics from 2010 to today, so clearly I’m interested. I would imagine most fans would be interested in this given that we’re all spending money together, but, hey, NYCC is next week and there will be plenty of panels for people to ask about the price points to Marvel, DC and everyone else. I imagine we’ll be talking about this again soon.)