The Editor’s Notes is an opinion column allowing our writers to express their truest feelings about comic books, the comic book industry, and all that it inspires. The views expressed within belong solely to their author.
In 2011, Marvel Comics began offering digital redemption codes in many of their hard copy comics. The code was good for a complimentary digital copy of the purchased book. Digital comics were still evolving as a part of the industry in 2011 and Marvel figured out a way to get ahead of the game. However, as of February 1, 2017, Marvel has made a change to its digital redemption program that will have a negative impact on the company’s market share.
Since DC Comics refreshed its entire line with new creative teams, new titles, and a new price for its bi-monthly titles during the Rebirth event, Marvel has seen its market share shrink. Looking at the market share statistics provided by Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., Marvel dominated the retail market share in 2016 until July (a month after Rebirth began). Going forward, DC made the percentages a lot closer. Arguments can be made about the causes for the tighter retail race, but Marvel began to worry.
In what one can assume is a response to the retail market race, Marvel announced that instead of a complimentary copy of the purchased print book, its digital redemption program would begin providing two to three entry point comics each week. For the first week of this new program, Marvel provided a code that gave print purchasers Civil War II #0, Captain Marvel #6, and Wolverine #66. Going forward, each week the number and titles will change.
Now, I understand that I’m probably in the minority here. I don’t want to go completely digital. I feel a certain level of loyalty to my local comic book shop that keeps me buying print comics. I also find enjoyment in going into my local comic book shop each Wednesday to pick up my pull list, chat with the owner and regulars, and look through all the long boxes of variant covers. I also really liked that Marvel gave me mobility with their complimentary digital copies. Instead of limiting myself to a few titles, I picked up on average six Marvel titles a week because I knew even if I was traveling for work, I could carry my comics with me on my mobile device and stay current.
Marvel extended the value of my dollar by providing convenience. What it really boiled down to was that because of the mobility and convenience of the free digital code, I picked up more titles than I could read. I gave titles I really had no instantaneous interest in a chance because I knew I could download them and binge read on the upcoming eight hour business trip to the eastern edge of nowhere Missouri. Now that’s gone.
Marvel changes the game and I’m inconvenienced? I’m sure you’re telling me to evolve; buy whatever titles I’m not really committed to in digital, continue going to my local shop for my old-fashioned print copies, and shut up. I would, but here’s where I find the injustice. The black cloud of marketing gone greedy, if you will. Marvel had a unique service; one that DC, Image, Dark Horse, Valiant, IDW, and Boom collectively wouldn’t or couldn’t implement. Now, however, no matter how many Marvel titles you buy, you’re going to get the same damn books.
Are you going to pick up Black Widow #11, IvX #4, and Unworthy Thor #4 next week? I hope you also wanted the ability to redeem codes for the same damn books in each comic (this week Marvel’s offering issues from Invincible Iron Man, Avengers, and a Cloak and Dagger online comic). Personally, I already read Invincible Iron Man and Avengers, so in my case, I’ll get the opportunity to redeem an issue of Cloak and Dagger: Shadows and Light five or six times. It seems like to me that I should just stop buying so many Marvel titles and base my purchases off of the digital redemption schedule. In fact, I think I’ll probably stop buying those titles I place in my non-essential pile each week because I probably won’t ever get the time to read them in print.
But wait, won’t that hurt my local comic shop? Well, to make things more interesting DC Comics recently announced that they will start including digital copies of their books that don’t ship bi-monthly. That means going forward titles like Supergirl, Superwoman, Trinity, Teen Titans, and Batgirl will move to a $3.99 price and offer a digital redemption code for the purchased title (All-Star Batman is also included, but it was already retailing at $4.99). I guess I’m going to start checking out some DC titles. Then I can continue living my life in-between the print and digital world.
Marvel had the corner on a unique service. Those who run Marvel’s Sales division may believe that they are giving fans more value for their dollar, but when you look at it on the surface, receiving two or three issues of comics that Marvel needs to market — the February 1st offerings directly correlated to the release of the Civil War II hardcover collection — instead of copies of comics you might actually redeem or even trade just doesn’t stack up. Whether you agree with my assessment or not, Marvel has metaphorically walked the retail market share ball over to DC Comics side of the court, set it down, and walked away.