You’re Getting “Free” Digital Comics With Marvel’s $3.99 Titles– Whether You Want Them or Not

Beginning this June, Marvel Comics will be including free digital copy codes in all their $3.99 comics. These free codes can only be redeemed for a digital copy of the same physical copy of the comic the code is paired with. The codes will be redeemable via the Marvel App for iOS and Android devices.

Marvel Senior Vice President-Sales David Gabriel had this to say about the initiative:

“We’ve seen a tremendous response to the digital codes in Avenging Spider-Man, our Season One graphic novels and the Ultimate Comics line. (Marvel) …is committed to bringing fans the best value in comics. By including codes for free digital copies on the Marvel Comics app we are doing just that.”

For the last few months, Marvel Comics has been testing the “digital waters” in the titles Gabriel mentions in the quote. I get that it apparently has caused a “…tremendous response…”, but the phrase that strikes as being somewhat disingenuous (and more on the HYPE side) is the “best value in comics” part of the statement. I also understand that any “sales position” (especially the VP position Gabriel is in) is mostly PR… But let’s be blunt: It costs Marvel almost NOTHING to include these digital download codes for their already existing clientele.

Since I’ve already made it clear I think Marvel’s $3.99 per comic price tag is pretty much a rip-off to begin with… I don’t see how including a free digital copy for the SAME comic makes the book you’re holding in your hands a “better” value. But I can see how Marvel, using the right words, can make some in the public believe that. It’s all about the perceived value, isn’t it? I’m sure some people will see a free digital copy of a comic as a bonus– but for actual thinking consumers, it’s kind of a joke.

Even worse, this new offer also seems like it could have a damaging effect on the industry as we know it. Until just recently, Marvel included digital codes in some of their more recent comics, but those books were polybagged.

Now, imagine every $3.99 Marvel comic on the stands in June being polybagged. Customers would no longer be able to flip though Marvel’s more expensive comics. You would have no idea whether the creative teams listed on the bag are actually the ones working on the issue (which happens frequently). You would no longer be able to check if you are actually getting 20 pages of story and art instead of say, 17— like in a previous issue of Moon Knight. Putting blind faith in any company that shuffles the creative aspects of their products with little or no notice is only something the most ignorant of consumers would do.

Marvel obviously recognized that encasing every $3.99 comic book in plastic was a ridiculous, costly idea… And did away with the ugly polybags, replacing them with a printed code covered by a sticker. (Thanks for the update Tiger Topher!)

But here’s the problem with this code system: Marvel could easily start poaching your local comic shop’s customers. These codes are not intended to attract new customers. They are meant to be added feature for existing comic book readers… And the more these customers get used to the “ease” of downloading digital comics, the more likely it is they could just stop buying physical copies of comics altogether. If this happens, Marvel will have effectively cut out the “middle man”– YOUR local comic shop. The money will now ALL flow directly to Marvel.

I am really interested in what our readers think about this. Do you believe this is a good or bad move on Marvel’s part? Is it a benefit or a detriment to the industry? Will you miss your local store… Or the variety many comic shops offer– if Marvel converts their primary readership to digital formats?

The last question may seem extreme now… But these are all baby steps that could easily lead to something else. As a comic retailer with some 20 years of experience– I can tell you with a certainty that almost every comic shop will go out of business (or have to morph into some other kind of shop almost entirely)– if Marvel converts their primary output to digital sometime in the future.

Via [ICv2]

This entry was posted in Commentary, Conspicuous Consumerism, Marvel Comics, Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to You’re Getting “Free” Digital Comics With Marvel’s $3.99 Titles– Whether You Want Them or Not

  1. Tiger Topher says:

    Regarding the polybags, Marvel has actually done away with them. Rather than use polybags to obscure the download codes, they’ve chosen to use stickers instead. As such, come June, you’ll still be able to flip through Marvel’s books to make sure they suck before you put them back on the rack.

    • J. says:

      I was completely unaware of that. Thanks, Tiger.

      They were using them up until a couple months or so ago though, right?

    • Insideman says:

      The sticker brings up a whole new collectible problem.

      If you peel off the sticker (I assume it one of those low residue papers) and use the code… I bet the cover paper doesn’t stick back on.

      You know the future definition of PRISTINE MINT will now include, “Is the code sticker REMOVED? If it is, it isn’t pristine mint.”

      Wonderful. While the sticker idea is much cheaper than the bag (cost of the bag + shipping the bag… Each one of the bags gathered together weigh a lot and take up a lot of extra room in each case of comics)… It now provides these other collecting headaches:

      Retailers will NOW have to keep an even keener eye on the dork who insists on reading comics IN the store. Now he/she will be memorizing the codes (or, more likely, surreptitiously putting them into their smart phone– you know how crazily adept some people are at texting with one hand and a thumb) after peeling the code cover back… And then rush home to download the comic BEFORE the person who ACTUALLY LEGITIMATELY BUYS the comic off the shelf does.

      This happens enough– customers will start making sure the sticker covering the code is not removed. If it is (because the retailer turned his back to sell someone a back issue or to take a leak), the customer will no longer buy the book or will want an extra discount– even if they have NO intention of using the code.

      If “thieves” start doing this enough in a store, then customers (not even thinking about that FUTURE ANNOTATION to the MINT designation I mentioned above) will rush home themselves and redeem the code– so no one else can… Even, again, if they have no intention of reading the comic online. Still, you know once people start looking at comics on their computers, they’ll keep looking. New bells & whistles and all that.

      Either way, Marvel gets a WHOLE GENERATION of people feeling FORCED to download comics onto different electronic devices to preserve their “rights” as the owner of a particular comic.

      That’s a short step away from only making their comics available digitally.

      Damn! I’ve got to hand it to them… They’ve thought of every angle.

      If this really catches on, I give it 3 years before comic price guides start denoting: “With Sticker” or “Without Sticker”

      • J. says:

        “Retailers will NOW have to keep an even closer eye on the dork who insists on reading comics IN the store.”

        But that is not Marvel’s problem so therefore they do not give a shit.

      • Tiger Topher says:

        And you just know that this sticker business is going to make some of the hardcore collectors buy two copies of a book. They’ll remove the sticker from their first comic so they can redeem the download code and then leave the sticker in the second comic so they can keep their issue in mint condition.

  2. kurumais says:

    without a trading card included in my polybags im afraid ill have to pass. btw going through some long boxes found a few polybaged milestone #1s.
    i think bleeding cool had something about marvel changing how they print covers and how that might effect page counts, i am sorry to say the article confused i thought they started out saying the books would lose like 4 pages but by the end i think it backed off that claim and basically said it was just a lesser quality paper.
    did anyone else see that?

    • TheMSpot says:

      Yes, I did. If I read it correctly it basically said the covers of Marvel’s $2.99 will no long be printed separately from the rest of the book, Instead, they will be printed with the rest of the comic, and to make room for the cover pages you will be losing story pages.

      • TheMSpot says:

        edit: Marvel’s $2.99 books…

        • Locusmortis says:

          I think the books will still be 20 pages long but will lose advertising pages.

          When 2000AD and Judge Dredd Megazine moved to self-cover printing it was much easier to damage the covers by handling them and much much easier to damage when stacking or storing them.

      • kurumais says:

        correct me if im wrong currently the $2.99 books are 20 pages of story but with the new covers it will drop to 16 pages, is this correct? thanks

  3. ed2962 says:

    It will be very interesting to see how this effects the industry in the long run. I think some stores may survive by incorporating more hobby/gaming materials (maybe?) and others by focusing more on collectibles and back issues perhaps. I think about how major music chains like Tower went under when the music industry started to change, but specialty stores that sell vinyl and used records are still around.

  4. M. Fewko says:

    I’m not hugely interested in having the same comic in two formats. It’s a nice idea though to collector’s who want to reread their comics but don’t want to go thru long boxes to find them, I’ve been in those shoes from time to time.

    But I’d rather their initiative in the comics market focus on, say, producing comics good enough to buy in the first place? (i.e. artwork that didn’t come from google searches but from the mind of the artist).

    So far, this will just be two ways to read one shitty story…

  5. Locusmortis says:

    The direct market is a headache for Marvel comics. Just look at how little support Marvel gives to retailers compared to DC. Just look at how Marvel editors treat shop owners who complain about their product.

    Having to appeal to shop owners first and then consumers means Marvel has to work harder and they don’t want to have to do that, they want to get people subscribing 3.99 per book per month and have that money rolling in Valve style.

  6. Adam727 says:

    I can see people shoplifting, because that’s what that is when they take the code without paying.

  7. To be honest, I don’t get where Marvel is trying to go here. If anything, they are just trying to find a way to bolster their electronic purchases. One of the big elements of the New 52 was same day digital copies for sale. The thing is it didn’t do much. The place I go, Stormwatch Comics in Berlin, NJ, barely saw a drop in store sales and they are one of the bigger east cost stores when it comes to amount sold of new product. I think the number is lower than the people think, espcially if they are looking at ebook sales. I think it will be a while before digital comics will be even to physical. That being said, Marvel is doing poor in physical sales, so it seems like a gamble that if they just give codes away, they can try and say, “Well, we are the top digital comic seller,” because you know they will never show numbers that exclude the free codes. That way everyone that is defecating on the comics can still have a job.

  8. Pingback: Going Digital: Five Crazy Ideas in Re-revolutionizing Digital Comics! « All Day Comics

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