Last week, I started a discussion about the growing comic business, Valiant. In summary, I talked about how that, despite loving a great deal of their work, they have some faults. In particular, their efforts to include people that did not fit the typical male, white, straight demographics in their casts is lacking, made more noticeable by the less amount of output they have.
This week, I’ll put aside my, as one idiot correspondent called, “bastard SJW”-isms and focus on something that isn’t about inclusion and acceptance, but is something at Valiant that is concerning me not only for Valiant’s short-term, but how it will affect the industry as a whole.
This summer, Valiant is launching a big event called Book of Death. Yeah, it’s not just the Big 2 that have been crisis events. All shared universe companies must have a big event every one or two years; it was there in the Treaty all the companies signed on the grave of Jack Kirby. Obviously, being a bit facetious because I am interested in the main story of Book of Death and the one-shots that will show the “death” of main characters in the future.
However, Valiant is also launching, what they are calling, an “incentive series” called Book of Death: Legends of the Geomancer. So I guess this is time I explain to the non-comic fans what incentives are in this industry. Basically, it’s as the word is defined, they are items you are given if you purchase a specific amount of other items. Usually this takes the form of incentive variant covers.
For example, there is a variant cover for Batman #SomethingWhatever that is listed as 1:25. Your local comic shop would have to purchase 25 copies of the regular cover to get one of those incentive variants. As such, comic shops need to cover the cost of all those extra copies they may purchase but never sell. That’s why variant covers tend to cost more than regular issues. I have seen incentive ratios in 1:10, 1:25, 1:50 and even 1:200. The higher the ratio, chances are the more expensive the comic shop owners will charge customers for it.
The big kicker is that this isn’t just some variant cover. This is story that is going to be an incentive for retailers to purchase other stories. According to COO of Valiant Comics, Dinesh Shamdasani, he states that they expected the controversy to come from this idea and that it is based around the idea of giving a potential customer a greater amount of content for their dollar and also discusses the high returnability for comic retailers.
I can understand the desire to want to give the customer more bang for their buck (especially when things like DC trying to raise the price of the Batman Endgame issues to #4.99 a pop, which the universe quickly struck down). In theory, this could work. However, it’s only after you do a little digging we see some not so positive aspects from a customer’s perspective.
According to Previewsworld, Legends of the Geomancer has an SRP of $3.99, the standard price of a comic. According to Valiant’s July solicitations, the comic has 24 pages, which is less than the standard 32-page comic.
But that’s just what is listed. Like I said, because of its incentive nature, there is no way a comic shop will price this book at $3.99. In fact, Midtown Comics in New York City has this issue up for pre-order. The price they’re asking for? According to their website, $34, marked down from $40.00.
For 24 pages of comic.
To put into a bit further perspective, I am currently reading Marvel’s Runaways: The Complete Collection vol. 1. That volume contains issues #1-18 and has a page count of about 450 pages. It’s price? An SRP of $34.99.
Now, this can be only Midtown Comics, but the point stands. Comics are expensive enough as is. I do not see the benefit for the customer to pay so much for so little amount of content. What makes me really worry is that this will set an example for the rest of the industry and they will begin toying with the idea of incentive books that are priced way beyond a customer’s ability to purchase. Because if you don’t think Marvel or DC wouldn’t try to get in on this potential money maker… well then you have more faith in mainstream comics industry than I do.
Maybe I’m being paranoid and am ready to condemn an idea before it has a chance to prove/disprove itself. But as someone who also has a great love for the video game medium, I have seen the damage such anti-consumer tactics like Pre-Order Bonuses, Retail/Console Exclusive Content, Season Passess, On-Disc and Day One Downloadable Content have done when they’ve been exploited by an industry out to make money in the short term. So when I see suspiciously similar looking tactics beginning to seep into the comics world, I am not really inclined to trust it.
At the end of the day, I love Valiant a lot. Harbinger, Imperium, Archer & Armstrong, Ivar Timewalker, Rai; all of these series and more have been absolute treats and there is not nearly as much talk about this company as there should be. But like everything you love, you need to sometimes sit it down and have a talk and make it take a good look at not only its faults, but it’s potential future faults. Everything I have written these last two weeks involving Valiant is something I do out of love and admiration.
Also, launch a Generation Zero ongoing, for God’s sake…