Posted by Don MacPherson on March 16th, 2008
It finally happened. Last week, DC Comics announced it would revise the pricing of its comics to better reflect the value of the Canadian dollar as compared to its weakening U.S. counterpart. The publisher is just, oh, six or seven months behind currency markets and its biggest competitor, Marvel Comics. Of course, Marvel’s current Canadian price is a shade higher than the American cover price, even though the dollar here in the Great White North is stronger than the Yankee Greenback. (This is an issue Eye on Comics has explored in the past. You can find previous articles on the subject here and here.)
So DC’s announcement, though incredibly late, is welcome news for retailers and customers, yes? Well, not really. The manager at my local comic shop, for example, is annoyed at the development; his preference would be that U.S. publishers leave the Canadian price off their comics and graphic novels altogether, allowing for easier adaptation to fluctuations in currency values. That’s what Dark Horse does and many others as well. Anecdotally, what I’ve been hearing is that many Canadian comics retailers have been disregarding the Canadian price for some time, even before the loonie achieved parity with the U.S. buck.
DC made its announcement in its March 11 “DC Comics Direct Channel” digital mailout. Here’s the full text of the applicable item from the e-newsletter to retailers:
“UPDATE ON CANADIAN PRICES
“Please note that beginning with items arriving in Direct Market stores on March 19, DC Comics periodicals will feature a single price for both U.S. and Canada.
“As an example, the price on the cover of ACTION COMICS #863, scheduled to arrive in stores on March 26, reads ‘$2.99 US/Can.’”
It sounds all well and good, and it even seems to one-up Marvel a little (given that Marvel’s $2.99 US titles are priced at $3.05 CAN at the moment). But what caught my eye about the news was what DC didn’t say. The item specifically refers to DC’s “periodicals” — i.e., its comics. What about the trade paperbacks and graphic novels? A message to a DC public-relations staffer yielded no answer to this question.
The last DC book I picked up was Showcase Presents: The Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 2, released a couple of months ago. It’s priced at $16.99 US/$20.99 CAN. Given exchange rates at the moment, the Canadian price should really be about 35 cents cheaper. Hell, it should be listed at par at the very least, not four bucks more.
According to its website, DC and its imprints have seven collected editions/books scheduled to ship March 19. They are Batman: The Killing Joke Special Edition, The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century Vol. 1: Tomorrow’s Heroes, Outsiders: Five of a Kind, Sandman Mystery Theatre Vol. 6: The Hourman and the Python, Moon Child Vol. 10, Musashi #9 Vol. 14 and Young Magician Vol. 11 (the latter three are manga releases from DC’s CMX line).
It’ll be interesting to see what prices grace the covers of those books, what retailers’ and customers’ reactions might be and what DC’s response might be.
Of course, there’s another player to consider, and that’s Diamond Comics. As the foremost distributor of comics in the industry, Diamond has the ability to direct its publisher clients regarding what’s required of the products it carries. If Diamond were to decree that Canadian pricing ought to be history, it’s a move that its retailer customer base would no doubt applaud. And the larger American retail sector? There’s no reason for it to give a damn one way or the other (save for solidarity with its hoser brother).
Hell, dropping the Canadian price from Marvel, DC and other comics would even save a little bit of ink.