Marvel CEO Bill Jemas began today's press conference by swiping a line from Bush the Elder and declaring, 'Read my lips, we will not raise prices.' The hastily called conference call with the comic press was arranged to provide a quick Marvel response to price increases on 20 books announced by DC Comics earlier in the week. Though Jemas did note that many companies traditionally took advantage of price hikes by the competition to raise prices on their own goods, he promised 'that unless something drastic happens to the contrary, we will hold price indefinitely.' Jemas also noted that Marvel had, without any previous fanfare, been raising the paper quality throughout the company's entire line of comic books, and would be printing all its books on coated paper stock by the end of this year.
Marvel will also lower the price on the Peter David's Captain Marvel to $2.25, when that series is relaunched with a #1 issue for its much ballyhooed competition with a new comic series written by Jemas (see 'Marvel Prexy in Smackdown With Scribe'). Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada noted that average price of a Marvel comic ($2.54) was almost exactly the same as it was when he started working at Marvel nearly two years ago.
Marvel has also decided to drop the cover price of its hardcover editions by $5, following its announcement of price cuts on its trade paperbacks (see 'Marvel To Cut TPB Prices').
Earlier this week DC Comics announced price increases that will take effect in August on twenty of their comics. Six of the titles involved are animated Cartoon Network titles, whose cover prices will rise from $1.99 to $2.25, which is the price point for the bulk of Marvel's line (some 33 monthly titles). Wildstorm titles, which already sell for $2.95, will not see an August price increase. While a few of the DC titles that will see price increases like Detective and Gotham Knights are typically found in the top 50, most of the DC titles affected by price increases are less popular books. With a much stronger 'line average' for its titles, Marvel can make money at lower price points, whereas it may be more difficult for DC. DC already had more titles selling above $2.25 than Marvel and this latest round of increases only makes the differences more obvious. Marvel obviously feels it has an advantage over DC in pricing, which explains the reason behind today's press conference where Jemas's 'no price increase' promise was the company's only announcement.
When asked by ICv2 about Marvel's policy on the return of books that ship late, Jemas stated that since there was an on-going lawsuit (see 'Retailer Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Marvel'), he couldn't comment or discuss Marvel's policy on late books or even indicate if they have one.
ICv2 also asked Marvel if its decision not to mount a big booth at the summer's conventions would lead to a gradual diminution of the shows as has happened with the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Association) show, Jemas and Quesada defended Marvel's new mode of conventioneering, which debuted at the recent Wizard sponsored show in Philadelphia. Instead of a large booth, Marvel put its money toward bringing in as many creators as possible, a strategy that met with strong approval from fans according to Quesada. Marvel's Bill Rosemann also pointed out that Marvel was producing a free 32-page full color comic preview book that would be given out to all attendees at San Diego, Chicago, and other cons.
When asked by Maggie Thompson of the Comics Buyer's Guide what Marvel had planned for this year to continue to reach out and find new readers, Jemas replied, 'Typically these programs are announced by the clients, and by the time they do so, you guys usually aren't interested. Last year, for the whole year, we had in our back pocket that Burger King was going to create 25 million CD-Rom X-Men Evolution Comics -- Burger King was the second largest comic company for one month and published as many comics in a month as the rest of the industry does in a year. We have programs of similar magnitude that are coming out over the next twelve months, but I just can't describe what they are. Let me just tell you in principle, we're mostly using other people's money -- we are finding big sponsors and retailers who want to get behind Marvel, in general because of the success of the movies, and to get behind comic books because they understand that that's a great source of revenue and promotion, and that's how we are going to get most of our outreach.
Although the Marvel brass had talked about a 'Young Readers' line at previous press conferences, the current success that Marvel is enjoying (and the failure to land a line-anchoring Harry Potter comic) has led to a rethinking of the proposition. EIC Quesada came out totally opposed to a 'Marvel kids' line. 'The function of writing for little kids would be disastrous for us, so what we are going to do is to leave the 8-year-olds to the folks at Archie and keep writing Marvel comics as they have been.'