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  1. #16
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Username taken View Post
    Marvel and DCs problems in my opinion are as follows:



    4. Pricing. Comics are unrealistically expensive and it really doesn’t make sense for any lower to middle income adult to spend $4-$5 on a few minutes of entertainment each week. It just doesn’t make sense. This is stuff that needs to be addressed because my understanding is that comic prices are rising faster than inflation which is completely unsustainable.
    Pricing is a result of the problems, not the heart of the problem. Niche products cost proportionately more than the same product in the mass market. It's economy of scale in action. When a product becomes a niche product after once being a mass market product, it's cost/price increases at a rate that is not tied to inflation (the inflation comparison is only valid if it is the same product sold in the same market. Shifting from a mass market product to a niche market product means any comparisons of the product pricing to inflation rates is an invalid comparison. Comparing prices of comics in the 70s and 80s when it was a mas market product to prices of comics in the 2020s when it is a niche market product is comparing apples to oranges. Especially in printing/publishing where the more units that are produced the less the per unit cost is. Changing pricing won't fix the issue. In fact it will reduce profitability and hasten the entropy of print comics as a viable product because margins will become too low, and the only way to sustain it will be to cut production costs, which means paying even less to create comics, which would drive current talent form the market. The only way to "fix" pricing is to find a way to make comics a mass market product again first. If it reaches a wider audience, sales increase, units produced increases, cost per unit reduces and prices can come down without affecting the profitability and viability of the product. Reducing prices will not increase sales unless the product also reaches a wider potential audience. Al it will due is reduce the revenue generated by selling the same number of units. The mass market is not "not buying comics because they are too expensive"-they are not buying comics because it is an unattractive product not available for sale in the mass market, and because it is not sold and not selling in the mass market, it's prices are higher.

    Fix the real problems and the pricing issue will fix itself. Try to fix the price without addressing the issues causing the pricing disparity, and you will only further the problems facing the issue.


    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

  2. #17
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    Are the people who are in charge of Marvel and DC aware of these problems, do they have any plans to fix them?

  3. #18
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickswordfish View Post
    Are the people who are in charge of Marvel and DC aware of these problems, do they have any plans to fix them?
    They are well aware of the issues. There have been attempts to address the issues, but none have been particularly successful. DC made some inroads into new markets with the Ink and Zoom lines for instance, but not enough where it can sustain their publishing division entirely. One of the obstacles is that solutions are going to require capital investments to build infrastructure to create a new sustainable model, and the question is how interested and willing are the parent companies (Disney & AT&T/WB) in making such investments in a print business model when print seems to be dying.

    If there were easy solutions. they would already be implementing them. There are no easy fixes here, and a lot of them require more than what Marvel and DC can do without the auspices of their parent companies. Marvel and DC's strengths lie in content creation and the generating of IP that can be exploited for revenue, not in being publishing houses. Neither Disney nor AT&T really want to be in the publishing business, so fixing the publishing issues facing their subsidiaries is not really a priority for either parent company, especially when it requires a significant capital investment with a questionable return on investment in the future.


    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

  4. #19
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    What about digital?

  5. #20
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rickswordfish View Post
    What about digital?

    What about it? We don't have any actual sales numbers to measure how well or poorly digital sales are. The last estimate we got is that most books sell about 10% of their print numbers in digital. If that is still true, it's not sustainable numbers for the creation of new content without some other revenue source. 10% doesn't cover creator costs let alone a positive revenue stream for the company.

    There is also some question as to which digital business model they should pursue-sales of individual issues/trades via platforms like Comixology, or digital subscription services like Marvel Unlimited and DC Universe.

    There is no single cure-all solution that is going to fix everything. And it is a situation that has developed over years, so no solution is going to fix things overnight. Any fix is going to involve multiple strategies and take years to implement and reverse trends that have been embedded in the industry for decades. Any solution needs to address the root causes of these issues not be band-aids to address one of two symptoms of it, or it will fail as the root causes will still be there causing more issues and undoing any minor temporary gains a bad-aid fix might provide. And those root causes lie in the fact that the 20th century business model comic publishers operate with does not fit well in a 21st century market. Any successful solution is going to require a complete rethinking of how they do business and what a successful publishing model for the 21st century would be, not tweaking something here and there in the 20th century model and expecting a different outcome.

    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

  6. #21
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    Japanese manga and European comics (like Asterix) do much better in sales than DC and Marvel, and so any explanation for the Big 2's problems should take that into account.

    For example, if I weren't aware that some foreign comics do much, much better in sales than American comics, I probably would've guessed that there is just too much entertainment competition these days for comics to thrive between video games, streaming TV shows and movies, and just various other entertainment you can use the internet for, which wasn't available to consumers prior to the late 90s / early 00s. However, that explanation becomes unsatisfactory since those entertainment options are available in other countries as well.

    Personally, I think the current state of writing in American comics is awful (especially at the Big 2) and that plays a major role, and what others have said about the lack of an indirect market also plays a role, especially with regards to the inability to capitalize on superhero movies being so popular over the past decade. I don't know exactly what DC and Marvel should've done (maybe spinner racks in movie theaters complete with comics labeled "The Story Continues..." with stories spinning out of the movies) but it seems pretty likely an opportunity was missed.

  7. #22
    Incredible Member Tugger's Avatar
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    Marvel was responsible for the majority of the comics I bought and enjoyed in my youth but sadly it hasn't published anything I have wanted to read / buy for YEARS.

    I'm just not interested in anything X-related these days. I know we have a tendency to look back with rose-tinted specs but Uncanny X-Men & New Mutants from that period (mid 80s to early 90s) are rightly thought of as classics. I can't imagine that anything currently being published will ever be described that way.

    DC recently caught my attention with Future State, which I really enjoyed and it has reignited my interest in some of their titles.

    What puts me off though is the cost of single issues. I was really shocked, particularly for digital editions. No way will I pay £4 / $5 for Detective Comics which has a back-up story I have no interest in. I will just wait for a few extra months for the trade.

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRP View Post
    Pricing is a result of the problems, not the heart of the problem. Niche products cost proportionately more than the same product in the mass market. It's economy of scale in action. When a product becomes a niche product after once being a mass market product, it's cost/price increases at a rate that is not tied to inflation (the inflation comparison is only valid if it is the same product sold in the same market. Shifting from a mass market product to a niche market product means any comparisons of the product pricing to inflation rates is an invalid comparison. Comparing prices of comics in the 70s and 80s when it was a mas market product to prices of comics in the 2020s when it is a niche market product is comparing apples to oranges. Especially in printing/publishing where the more units that are produced the less the per unit cost is. Changing pricing won't fix the issue. In fact it will reduce profitability and hasten the entropy of print comics as a viable product because margins will become too low, and the only way to sustain it will be to cut production costs, which means paying even less to create comics, which would drive current talent form the market. The only way to "fix" pricing is to find a way to make comics a mass market product again first. If it reaches a wider audience, sales increase, units produced increases, cost per unit reduces and prices can come down without affecting the profitability and viability of the product. Reducing prices will not increase sales unless the product also reaches a wider potential audience. Al it will due is reduce the revenue generated by selling the same number of units. The mass market is not "not buying comics because they are too expensive"-they are not buying comics because it is an unattractive product not available for sale in the mass market, and because it is not sold and not selling in the mass market, it's prices are higher.

    Fix the real problems and the pricing issue will fix itself. Try to fix the price without addressing the issues causing the pricing disparity, and you will only further the problems facing the issue.


    -M
    Nice analysis.

    Basically, comics need to get into mass market and sell more to adjust prices.
    Black Lives Matter.

  9. #24
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Username taken View Post
    Nice analysis.

    Basically, comics need to get into mass market and sell more to adjust prices.
    Essentially, but the bigger issue is that the monthly periodical, which is at the heart of the current comic publishing model, may no longer be a viable mass market product. Comics need to find a vehicle to market in the mass market that is a viable and sustainable product. That means re-examining packaging, format, frequency of publication, etc. etc. etc. something which it seems Marvel and DC are reluctant tot do because it would hurt in the short term as it would mean losing a significant percentage of its current customer base. However that current customer base is small and shrinking, so something has to give eventually.


    -M
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  10. #25
    Incredible Member Zauriel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRP View Post
    Essentially, but the bigger issue is that the monthly periodical, which is at the heart of the current comic publishing model, may no longer be a viable mass market product. Comics need to find a vehicle to market in the mass market that is a viable and sustainable product. That means re-examining packaging, format, frequency of publication, etc. etc. etc. something which it seems Marvel and DC are reluctant tot do because it would hurt in the short term as it would mean losing a significant percentage of its current customer base. However that current customer base is small and shrinking, so something has to give eventually.


    -M
    If they are still using the monthly periodicals, then why not simply combine a few comic books into an anthology? The companies used to publish anthologies in the 1940's. For example, the Whiz comics published by Fawcett included Captain Marvel and other characters including Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Ibis, and Lance O'Casey.

    Action Comics used to include Superman, Zatara, and various characters

    Detective Comics used to include Batman, Martian Manhunter. and various characters

    Mary Marvel shared the Wow Comics with other characters. Captain Marvel Jr. shared the title "Master Comics" with other characters.

  11. #26
    Astonishing Member kjn's Avatar
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    MRP has already hit all of the main points here, but I do have a couple small points to add.

    One is that at least DC's senior leadership, at least until quite recently, was dominated by people who grew up with and likely were fans of the monthly model. How much the same affected Marvel I don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised if they also were affected. That complicated any attempt to reach or create new markets.

    The Ink and Zoom lines are a case in point here. From a creative standpoint I think they managed to publish some of the best and most interesting material that has done lately, certainly more interesting than their regular monthly comics, and they also had several stories that were commercially successfully—even very successful. But instead of pouring more resources into those lines—to reinforce success—the lines were first renamed and then their output was lowered.

    I do agree with MRP that it's really hard to create a new business model. But I also think that there are, or at least have been, factors within DC and likely also Marvel that have been actively working against any such efforts as well.
    «Speaking generally, it is because of the desire of the tragic poets for the marvellous that so varied and inconsistent an account of Medea has been given out» (Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History [4.56.1])

  12. #27
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zauriel View Post
    If they are still using the monthly periodicals, then why not simply combine a few comic books into an anthology? The companies used to publish anthologies in the 1940's. For example, the Whiz comics published by Fawcett included Captain Marvel and other characters including Spy Smasher, Golden Arrow, Ibis, and Lance O'Casey.

    Action Comics used to include Superman, Zatara, and various characters

    Detective Comics used to include Batman, Martian Manhunter. and various characters

    Mary Marvel shared the Wow Comics with other characters. Captain Marvel Jr. shared the title "Master Comics" with other characters.
    Anthologies have traditionally done poorly in the American market for the last 30 years or so. Dark Horse Presents was Dark Horse's flagship title featuring many award winning features and it still didn't sell enough to remain viable. And combining them into an anthology still doesn't solve how to get books to mass market customers as mass market retailers have as little interest in stocking anthology periodicals as they do any other periodical. So all an anthology would do is put a traditionally poorly performing product in the direct market where the existing customer has no interest in that product format, and does nothing towards expanding the customer base and growing that customer base in the mass market. It's one of those tweaks I mentioned that doesn't move the needle in terms of solving the issues that face the industry.

    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

  13. #28
    Fantastic Member ERON's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRP View Post
    Anthologies have traditionally done poorly in the American market for the last 30 years or so. Dark Horse Presents was Dark Horse's flagship title featuring many award winning features and it still didn't sell enough to remain viable. And combining them into an anthology still doesn't solve how to get books to mass market customers as mass market retailers have as little interest in stocking anthology periodicals as they do any other periodical. So all an anthology would do is put a traditionally poorly performing product in the direct market where the existing customer has no interest in that product format, and does nothing towards expanding the customer base and growing that customer base in the mass market. It's one of those tweaks I mentioned that doesn't move the needle in terms of solving the issues that face the industry.

    -M
    Anthologies sell poorly on the direct market, but that doesn't necessarily indicate that they would sell poorly if sold at retail outlets for a reasonable price. In Japan, sales of anthologies like Weekly Shonen Jump put American comics sales to shame. I'd be curious to see what would happen if Marvel and DC were to each consolidate their monthly floppies into 3 or 4 200-page magazines and get them into places like Walmart, Gamestop, and Barnes & Noble.

  14. #29
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    Marvel and DC comics are sold through specialty stores that are often seedy on the outside, are dingy on the inside, are crowded with slovenly middle-aged men, and are not places that are kid-friendly. The only customers for that product are the same group of guys who have been patronizing those stores for decades and are now gradually aging out of the hobby. It has to be the same group of guys, because no one could possibly pick up most of the main titles and have a clue what's going on, unless they had already read years' worth of issues of those same titles and many others that form the background for the current stories. To keep this core audience coming back, DC and Marvel rely on a constant stream of super-mega-crossover "events" that disrupt all the continuing stories and that end up back where they started. This seems to be the only thing that the Big Two know how to do, since hype has long replaced creativity as the means for selling the books. The parent corporations regard the comics as simply intellectual properties for retail marketing and especially for movie and TV adaptations, since they apparently know of no way to make the comic books themselves be anything other than a mere footnote on the Disney and ATT balance sheets. Meanwhile, companies like Scholastic sell graphic novels to kids at book fairs, in "real" bookstores, and via Amazon, routinely racking up numbers beyond anything that DC or Marvel would even dare dream of.

  15. #30
    Astonishing Member MRP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ERON View Post
    Anthologies sell poorly on the direct market, but that doesn't necessarily indicate that they would sell poorly if sold at retail outlets for a reasonable price. In Japan, sales of anthologies like Weekly Shonen Jump put American comics sales to shame. I'd be curious to see what would happen if Marvel and DC were to each consolidate their monthly floppies into 3 or 4 200-page magazines and get them into places like Walmart, Gamestop, and Barnes & Noble.
    1) the American mass market is not the Japanese mas market, and success in the Japanese market is not a predictor of success in the American market, where anthologies in any genre or medium do not fare well, not just comics in the American direct market. Anthologies of short stories do not sell well in the American book market either, and retailers often choose not to give them any shelf space because they do not pay for the retail real estate they occupy, giving the space instead to better sellers that offer a greater return.

    2) DC tried anthologies for a year in Wal Mart with the 100 Page Giants, and Walmart only carried them because an outside vendor game and did the merchandising in the collectible aisle. They could not be bothered to carry them in their small periodical section, again because there were other things that would sell better in the valuable real estate. so you can make the product sure, but good luck getting the retailers you listed to actually carry it. Periodicals are labor intensive sections with limited real estates and retailers would rather carry an extra Fantasy Football Guide or seven than give the real estate to a slow seller like a comic book anthology. It's basic retail theory that any buyer or merchandiser for those chains will use as a guiding principle in choosing what to stock. You may be able to interest a third party merchandiser who buys the retail real estate from Walmart and the like to carry them (as happened with the 100 Page Giants), but even then the space will be limited and the margins will be much smaller because you've added another layer to the distribution model, essentially halving your take for the product so each level can make something off of it (if the MSRP is $10 you probably sell direct to Walmart at about $5 for a 100% mark up, which is typical in a lot of retail. Add a 3rd party and you sell to them at $2.50 so they can sell to Walmart at $5 so Walmart keeps their margins as enticement to carry it, but you the producer get much les per unit because you have to divvy up the take at each level of distribution). And now you have the added burden of trying to convince the retailers that Walmart not doing well with those 100 Page Giant anthologies is somehow not an indicator of the market's potential for sales and not an indicator of how they will be received by consumers, meaning you have to spend a lot more on marketing the product to the retailers (not the consumer/end customer) just to have a chance to sell to the end customer, which adds expense and cuts margins even more, making it less profitable.

    I see a lot of ideas floated on things that will fix the market, but most of them do not take into consideration the realities of the American periodical market in 2021. For too long people have relied on the idea of "if you build it, they will come" as a strategy for fixing what ails omics, but all too often they have built things that do not appeal to the modern American consumer and no one came, Unless they can find a way to package comics as a product that appeals to the modern American consumer and that will achieve sustainable sales in the American mass market, none of those fixes will work.

    Comics as a medium for telling stories using words and pictures arranged in panels and pages will endure. It's almost timeless. Comics as a publishing business in the American market however is not, and it needs to adapt to the realities of the 21st century marketplace and the buying habits of American consumers if it wants to survive or thrive. Tweaking the existing model is not going to accomplish that. If this were a home improvement show, it is one that would require a complete tear down to the studs and starting over. The problem is, there's no guarantee there will be a buyer waiting on the other side of the rebuild, so the existing companies like Marvel and DC (and their parent companies) are hesitant to commit the time and resources to such a rebuild. So we have essentially a holding pattern where they are trying to milk as much revenue as they can from the current model in the short term while it lasts and not committing to the kinds of changes needed to transition to a different model for long-term viability. They may try tweaks here and there hoping to extend the shelf-life of the current model, but there is an expiration date looming on that model. Which is why I keep saying they would be better off shifting to focus full time as content creators and partner with someone else better suited to navigate the realities of being a publisher in the 21st century marketplace and with a better grasp of what is needed to bring products to that market that will have viable sales levels. That's why I like the move from Diamond to PRH for Marvel. PRH has their own graphic novel line that is growing and gaining market share with new audiences, they understand the marketplace, they understand what is needed to reach a mass market, they understand what types of products work and which do not. Marvel and DC seem to lack those things and are overly reliant on dinosaur business models and dinosaur distribution systems. It's as publishing businesses they need to evolve, not as content creators, and I am not sure they can given the limitations and realities of being subsidiaries of larger entities. Better to stick to what they are actually good at-creating content and IP.

    -M
    Comic fans get the comics their buying habits deserve.

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