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December 09, 2007

Comments

Brian Disco Snell

It wasn't just the "we're sorry we're raising prices letters." The letters pages, the fun-loving, "I can't believe we're doing this" attitude (especially at Marvel), the whole "stories YOU demanded" attitude...the whole she-bang seemed more joyous and caring back then.

It is interesting, as that was all pre-convention, pre-interent, pre-"professional" fan media. Now that the distance between the companies and the fanbase has dwindled, it almost seems as if they've deliberately pulled back and put up defensive shields.

Or perhaps it's our rose-coloured youth speaking...

McRingtail

I think part of the reason you won't see a letter like this anymore is because the comics industry wouldn't want to call attention to the price increase. It's one thing to mention it if it's a rarity. If you're doing it every few years, as a company you hope the costumer is in the habit of buying and doesn't notice.

Another part may that, when it comes to marketing entertainment, the advertising style these days tends toward the sarcastic. With this in mind, an entertainment company like DC or Marvel probably wouldn't think to draft a genuine letter of thanks to fans.

cinephile

I've been thinking about this very thing lately while re-reading the "old" (70s and 80s) Marvels. However calculated to look "friendly" (a good marketing ploy, after all), there seemed to be a genuine interaction on those old letters pages, and a respect for one another (esp., as I've said many a time, on the late Mark Gruenwald's books) that's refreshing. In fairness, the flip side of this is that the letters were often smarter, friendlier and more respectful, too-- publishers can be skinflints, but we (and I include myself here) can be snarks on our blogs (which is often good). So maybe it evens out.

Mark Engblom

"It wasn't just the "we're sorry we're raising prices letters." The letters pages, the fun-loving, "I can't believe we're doing this" attitude (especially at Marvel), the whole "stories YOU demanded" attitude...the whole she-bang seemed more joyous and caring back then."

Nice. You really touched on something there. I should try looking up one of the Marvel price increase announcements. You're right...those were even MORE reluctant or downcast in their tone than DC's were.

Mark Engblom

"Another part may that, when it comes to marketing entertainment, the advertising style these days tends toward the sarcastic. With this in mind, an entertainment company like DC or Marvel probably wouldn't think to draft a genuine letter of thanks to fans."

You're right...there's enough sarcasm and irony to go around these days...on both sides of the publisher/customer divide. Maybe you're right...maybe we're all "too cool for the room" when it comes to the simple courtesies of decades past, and any message of humility on the publisher's part would be greeted with the usual catcalls, disdain, and venom.

Mark Engblom

"In fairness, the flip side of this is that the letters were often smarter, friendlier and more respectful, too-- publishers can be skinflints, but we (and I include myself here) can be snarks on our blogs (which is often good). So maybe it evens out."

I think you're right, Cinephile. As I touched on in my previous comment, maybe the change goes beyond the behavior and outlook of the publishers themselves and extends to whole shabang, publishers AND retailers AND fans. Perhaps we're all one big, jaded mass of bitterness, huh? Well, maybe it's not that bad yet....but that old letter certainly gives me pause as to how far (or low) we've come in the years since.

cinephile

As another wrinkle in this-- I was looking at an old issue of COMICS FEATURE the other day (anyone remember that one?), and one of their columnists had a long, thoughtful article about how marvel raising their price to 50 cents (this was in 1980) would "destroy" comic book collecting by putting comics out of reach of buyers. It's not a bad column, but looking back, it feels like such a shock-- 50 cents being this big rubicon, whereas 27 years later, the prices are much, much higher.

Mark Engblom

Comics Feature, eh? Wow, that brings me back. I vaguely recall reading something like that. I suppose us fans have been sounding the death knell of comics ever since the first letters page...and that definitely puts things in perspective. But man...I can't justify many more price increases. I've already cut way, way back on my purchases, and there's always room for more.

greyman

I think another key to the reasoning, here, may lie in the "Your parents have to pay more for food, clothing and rent," line. Such a realization would not be intuitive for the comic industry's target audience at the time. By contrast, the average reader, today, has a greater grasp on economic trends and inflation.

That said, I have to say that the pricing of today's books has been a barrier to getting back into being a regular reader. It's difficult to justify, as an adult, the $25 to $50/week habit of my youth (which, given today's pricing, would translate into $40 to $70.

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