Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Marvel: The Mighty Offender!

I got to the comic shop today and saw the first collection of Thor: The Mighty Avenger.  My first thought was:  who will avenge ME?

It's getting to the point now with me and Marvel that I have to check myself and assess.  Am I on a vendetta now?  Am I just so geared to hate every decision Marvel makes that I've wired myself to find things, things that maybe even aren't there?  What's my role, any way?  What the fuck am I, a consumer advocate or something?  Why am I so angry?

I don't know what I am.  I know that I'm not making it up, though.  And even though I am angry, I believe righteously angry, I will try to be rational when I explain why this collected edition represents the marketing savvy of a belligerent (and greedy) five year old.

First of all, let me be clear and say that my indignation is not pointed at Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee, who by all accounts are doing fantastic work.  I read issue # 1 and enjoyed it myself.  That's not what I'm wound up about.

First thing that needs to be addressed: why is this book so tiny?  And why is it so oddly tiny?  Just eyeballing it, it's about 70% the size of a regular trade paperback/comic book.  It's a packaging decision that adds nothing to the product but irritation.

Can you still read it at that size?  I guess.  But it's no help, that's for sure.  And it doesn't fit with anything else on my shelf, your shelf, or your local comic book shop's shelf.  It's not a digest size, it's not a TPB size, it's a brand new oddly sized ball of suck. It's going to look wrong on the shelf from across the room.  My guess is that if you file it between some regular sized trades it will do long term damage to the neighboring books, because there will be missing support at the top.

So why do it?  I would think the answer is simple: it's cheaper to print a smaller book.  Bam.  That's it.  And that's as far as Marvel's thought process seems to go these days - how can we make our consumer pay more for less?  How am I supposed to feel about that?  I don't know....congratulations on fulfilling your fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders, I guess, but you'll pardon me if I'm not impressed as a customer.

But it gets worse.  Thor: The Mighty Avenger Vol 1 collects the first four issues of the series for $14.99.  Now, the originals came out at $2.99, so if you'd purchased those you'd be out $11.96, so why in the world is this thing fifteen dollars?  Traditionally, buying collected editions is a way to bulk your way into some savings, not an extra gouge.  What's going on here?

What's going on is that Marvel decided that you needed reprints of Journey Into Mystery # 82-83 in the back as well.  So now you're at 6 issues for $15, or $2.50 per.  That's a bargain, right?

No, it's not.  Because nobody asked for that old material, and it doesn't make any sense.  The whole point of creating Thor: Mighty Avenger was to start a fresh take unbound by old continuity.  That was its charm.  Not only do those reprint issues add no real value to the product, they actually represent the very essence of what Thor: The Mighty Avenger was trying to avoid!

That's not just extra fluff, that's like putting 15% off steak coupons in the back of Vegan magazine.  Except they'd have to pay for the coupons.  It's absurd.

It's called knowing your product.  You know where that might actually work?  Bryan Glass is doing a mini-series right now called Thor: First Thunder.  It's an expanded retelling of the Thor origin story, and it has a direct connection with that ancient Journey Into Mystery material.  Now, my preference as a consumer would be to avoid paying up on my First Thunder trade for that, because if I wanted that, I can get it in the Masterworks or Essential format.

If Marvel were to provide some kind of DVD type extra and play around with that material, and have Bryan Glass kind of annotate that old stuff and say "This is what I stayed true to, and this is where I deviated, and this why I made page 8 of First Thunder look like such-and-such"...that might actually add a little value to the book.  Again, my vote would be against it.  But I could understand the guiding principle, and I could see where a customer might feel as though the product was better for it.

How does putting Journey Into Mystery # 83 make Thor: The Mighty Avenger any better?  If Marvel were to poll everyone interested in the collected edition, how many would respond positively to the edition of the Journey Into Mystery stuff?  I'll put the over/under at 5%, and I think that's generous.

So why do it?  They did it to "justify" upping the cost to $14.99, that's why.  Bam.  It's not trigonometry.  They killed the series at eight issues.  Given that fact, I would either release the collections in a pair of four issue chunks for $9.99, or one complete series edition for $19.99.  I'd probably go with option "B".  And by the way, that isn't much of a discount.  The price should probably be lower.

But no, they're going to try to squeeze an extra $10 out of you for reprints you don't want, and don't make a lick of sense.  And you know what?  For the next five minutes, that probably makes economic sense.  The people that are buying Thor: Mighty Avenger on the whole will not notice the chicanery or share in my rage.  Enough people will suffer that lost value without a thought that Marvel will probably be up for these collections.

But some people will notice, and they'll see through the bullshit, and they won't buy it.  And some people will be interested in the book, just intuitively understand that there's no value there, and move along without purchasing.  And some of those people will try other stuff, and some won't.  Some of them will trickle out.  The impact of Marvel's douche-baggery on this collection won't sink the ship.  But it's a trickle out, and it adds up over time, and if you don't believe me, go ahead and look at the data that Diamond is reporting and see for yourself.  We are bleeding out, and this is a big piece of why that is.

Don't make the book smaller unless you make the price smaller.  Or better yet, just don't make the book smaller, period.  It reads better and it stores better at standard size.  Don't throw in "back up" features into a TPB and then make us pay for stuff we don't want and didn't ask for.  Quit pissing on us and telling us about all the delicious rain we're enjoying.  It's transparent, and frankly suicidal.

Now is not the time to gouge, now is the time to reach out, engender good will, and grow.  Is this difficult to grasp?  Is it hard to see that gaining a couple of nickels now to flush your entire future is a bad idea?  I guess for some it is, because I can't remember the last move Marvel made that was good for the medium's future.

- Ryan


Killyrcomics said...

It seems Marvel's trade policy has been slowly descending into insanity for some time. As a consumer it basically means that I look at all Marvel trades with much closer scrutiny, and, more often than not, end up passing. Unfortunately, it is usually books I am intentionally waiting for the trade.
To be fair, Marvel isn't the only one screwing the consumer on the trade. DC is still pretty good, for the most part, but some of the smaller publishers are getting in on the gouging.


Irish Mike said...

My favorite line in your piece is when you reference urination.

You are absolutely right and unfortunately, in my main column for (blank), it's not the appropriate venue for me to pound this drum.

I am leaning towards an out-an-out boycot of all things Marvel. It may come to a point where I will just stop reviewing Marvel product, period.

Keep up the good fight and know that there are those of us at your side, holding up an umbrella amongst the torrential downpour.

Chronic Insomnia said...

Drew, you're absolutely correct when you say that Marvel isn't alone. Vertigo, once a bastion of value on those volume 1s for $9.99 are now offering that first IZombie trade for $14.99. They're not the only one...but I think they're the worst. Mike, I'm not ready to boycott Marvel yet, and I'm not even sure why. Maybe to avoid being as ridiculous to them as they are to me? I think what gets under my skin the worst is all the rhetoric that comes out of that camp about how they're always thinking about us. I might feel better about it all if they weren't always trying to pretend they're my best friend.

Moni Bolis said...

There is another trade I won't buy.
I heard so many good things about it, but the price is out of my budget