It’s coming fast, kids. IDW recently announced a four-week window for digital comics releases, and Marvel today announced their first day-and-date release of a comic, the INVINCIBLE IRON MAN ANNUAL #1 by Matt Fraction and Carmine Di Giandomenico. While the story concerns the origin of the Mandarin, in future days, this issue may be remembered for ushering in a revolution as surely as the original DAZZLER #1, the first comics shops only comics release.

Fans can purchase the entire 80 page issue at their local comic retailer or purchase it on the Marvel Comics app, with all three chapters available the day the issue hits stores.

“We’re pleased to offer readers two options to experience Matt Fraction’s absolutely thrilling work on Invincible Iron Man,” said David Gabriel, Senior Vice-President of Sales and Circulation. “Fans going to their local comic store can pick up the entire Invincible Iron Man Annual at a low price that day or all three chapters through the Marvel Comics app.”

But what is that “low price”? CBR notes the cover price of the annual is $4.99. Marvel normally sells its digital comics for $1.99.

Clearly a pinkie toe in the water of the much-dreaded by some “day and date digital delivery” for periodical comics, we can hear fists clenching and teeth crunching all the way from the Charlotte hotel room where we’re writing this. Developing.


  1. I’d like to pay less for using my Internet connection to buy a digital copy than if the comic was printed on paper and driven across North America in a truck.
    Guess we’ll see how this all shakes out.

  2. So are they selling each of the three chapters as individual “digital downloads” for $1.99 each? That *must* be it, if they’re calling $4.99 a “low” price.

  3. In today’s market, $5 for an 80-page color comic *is* a low price. Think about it, 22-page comics are now selling for $3-4. So that’s almost 4 times the content for less than twice the cost.

    And I second Al. Publishers (be they comics, books, music, or otherwise) need to stop equating the pricing model for new digital delivery with old hardcopy delivery. It’s ridiculous to charge the same amount for a digital comic than a print one. While they both need to make money for the company (and pay the creators), the later involved costs of paper, printing, delivery, etc. which the former does not.

  4. I could be enticed to buy digital comics if there were a price break. I will not if they cost more than tangible comic books.

    It’s been suggested to me that the higher price point on the download may be to placate retailers. Could be, as it’s reminiscent of the $1 higher price on newsstand comics. Either way it doesn’t make me excited for Marvel offering digital downloads and my superhero reading is mostly Marvel. I’ll be curious what they learn from this experience and how things shake out in the long run.

  5. June 30th…
    Marvel Previews #80, April for June 2010, p.2

    So the final order cut off was May 13, with the issue scheduled to ship June 3, 2010.

    If Marvel pushes it back to June 30, 2010, then final order cut off is June 10.

    Will comics shops cut back their orders?
    (No way to tell, since this is an annual, and the Diamond figures can not be compared to the previous month’s sales.)

    Now, we’ve already seen day-and-date FREE digital comics releases (Boom! Studios’ North Wind). So Marvel selling a digital comic at the same time doesn’t seem that amazing.

    Will Marvel see an increase of circulation in the monthly Invincible Iron Man title, just as Boom saw North Wind sell out?

    Here’s the interesting thing… Dazzler was Direct Market only. It took Marvel almost a year before other ongoing series were shifted exclusively to the DM (Moon Knight #15, Micronauts #38, Ka-Zar).

    The Dazzler analogy is a bit off… a better analogy would be the day the Direct Market started, thereby offering comics at both newsstands AND comics shops. When Marvel starts offering ongoing series ONLY as digital comics, that’s when the Dazzler analogy will be apples-to-apples, and that will be truly historic.

  6. yeah that’s confusing about the price, but what i think they’re saying is that the book is going to cost you $5.97 digitally. interesting idea, but probably not going to be hugely effective.

    i don’t think that comics need to be substantially cheaper to sell well digitally. i think they need to be in an easily accessible and flexible open format that works cross-platform. that will sell well because it delivers value.

    they should be focused on offering their trades as digital books and not their single issues. the single issue market is already well-established and notoriously finicky. however, the collected editions market has a far wider consumer base.

    i also hope they go back towards their original model of trying out a wide range of digital comics retailers for sales, instead of selling it through their own app. using their own app is akin to when they attempted to be their own distributor — it helps their profits in the short run, but it’s a detriment to the cause of establishing solid infrastructure (and in turn, establishing a solid base of users) for digital comics.

  7. BTW, after putting my comic up in the Amazon Kindle store and testing it on a few different mobile devices in the past few days, i think that Kindle platform would be perfect for Marvel’s Essential books. that way, you don’t lose color on black and white devices, and you provide a big chunk of content. hell, sell the books for $11.99 or something like that. i bet they’d sell well.

  8. digital comics don’t need to be cheaper, necessarily–thought they probably should be.

    but they definitely shouldn’t be more expensive.

  9. “digital comics don’t need to be cheaper…”

    I actually think they *do* need to be cheaper, otherwise there’s no incentive for hardcopy fans to sample a digital book, and even less of an incentive for those who are already downloading illegal digital copies for free.

    I think the iTunes model has shown that the majority of consumers are more than willing to *pay* for their digital download if they’re guaranteed a high quality product at a lower price point than the physical counterpart. $10 for an album of 10 songs is much more palatable than $18-20 for the same thing in CD format.

    And to extend the analogy, imagine how many more comics readers would be enticed to buy the $1 single issue of Doom Patrol (a title they have no interest in whatsoever) that’s part of the Blackest Night crossover, than they would if their only choices were $4 pamphlet vs. free illegal scan of dubious quality.

  10. This is good news. However, my frustration over this whole thing is that all these digital comics are pretty much only iPhone/iPad comics. I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad. Why can I not pay to download a digital comic on my computer?

    Comixology’s browser reader is a step in that direction, at least.

  11. @dara I agree completely. I’m just saying that at a bare minimum there should be price parity between digital and physical copies. Digital copies probably should be cheaper. They cost lest to produce and ship. They have no resale value. And, for a lot of people they are just a downright less appealing format.

    I think that the brick and mortar stores are concerned that cheap digital copies will cannibalize their sales. I don’t think that they will. But, I can see why Marvel would want to placate them.

    But, it’s not just about getting hardcopy fans to buy digital copies. It’s about expanding the market. I think digital comics are for a different market than hardcopies. There are a lot of people (myself included) who like reading comics but have very little interest in collecting comics.

  12. “$10 for an album of 10 songs is much more palatable than $18-20 for the same thing in CD format.”

    It might well be, but that doesn’t appear to be the pricing model in 2010.

    Looking at Billboard, this week’s #1 album is “Glee: The Music, Vol. 3 – Showstoppers”. This album has, according to Amazon, a SRP of $14.97 for 20 tracks…. and Amazon is selling it for $11.99.

    You could buy the MP3 “album” for $13.99 from Amazon (or iTunes, for that matter) — or $2 MORE than the actual physical item from Amazon.

    OR you can buy the 20 tracks individually for $1.29 each — for $25.80 if you bought each track individually (not that many/anyone would do THAT), which is, what? 42% more?

    Knowing is half the battle!


  13. Y’know, the big assumption in this whole debate is that comic companies want to try and attract their existing customers to switch to digital, whereas their real aim is likely to try and attract new audiences, many of whom won’t recognize the difference between this and three issues of the regular title.

    Realistically, why would Marvel want to convert readers from physical to digital? They’re likely making approximately the same amount in either form, but print costs go up on a per issue basis the lower the print run is, so any cut in paper sales will realistically impact their profits.

    It’s all about alternative media drawing in new readers. To that end, this is a good experiment.

  14. Realistically, why would Marvel want to convert readers from physical to digital?

    It’s a false dichotomy, though. You can read physical AND digital comics. It’s about convergence rather than replacement. I’m sure I’d still buy the books I care about with spines, but try new things or read fringe titles in a digital format. However, charging the same amount for a digital comic will not encourage me to buy additional titles beyond my core interests. I don’t pay $4 for them on paper, and I’m sure not going to pay that for a digital file. I suspect many potential readers will share that sentiment. We shall see.

    Brian, if you want to use the song analogy it’s probably more appropriate to compare the single song download to a 7″ vinyl single or a CD single. Either will cost you $5-7 or so relative to the $1.29 or $.99 download. After all, there’s good reason somebody might buy just a couple tracks on an album (the hits, singles, song they heard on GREY’S ANATOMY, whatever) but have no interest in the whole record.

    You should probably also note that the GLEE soundtrack you cite has about twice as many tracks (20) as a standard album (10-12) and has unusual pricing as a result. If you browse the music section, you’ll see that most mp3 albums on Amazon are $2-$5 less than their physical counterpart (though some lower-priced titles are not).

  15. *I* wasn’t advancing the song analogy — just replying to it. Really, buying “singles vs album” is more like “buying pages 1-3 vs 22 pages” in comics.

    Looking at older music (which is where I was doing most of my early research) showed me that anything older than, let’s say, 10 years, was nearly comparable on CD vs Digital (I was looking at things like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the Stones and The Who), so I checked the #1 album in America today and saw the same pattern…

    (“Who’s Next” is $13.98 SRP on CD, and $11.99 digital… and, of course, Amazon has it on CD for under $10…)

    But, yeah, buying SRV or back catalogs of most major acts, it’s actually cheaper to buy the (new!) CD, and rip it than to buy the digital downloads, that I was seeing… Add in used CDs, and Physical becomes insanely cheaper


  16. If they are trying to reach new customers rather than the existing reader base then why are they including free download coupons in their print copies and why is there a need for same day availability?

  17. B — Okay, but those trends don’t hold up if you browse a random category of Amazon’s music by “Bestselling.” I’m thinking of new comics as equivalent to new music releases (e.g., Lady Gaga, MGMT) rather than steady back catalog sellers (e.g., SRV, Stones). There’s some pricing parity between new mp3 and CD albums, and some CDs are cheaper, but in most instances the mp3 album costs less (on Amazon, anyway). I’d hope to see similar trends among comics.

    Add in used CDs, and Physical becomes insanely cheaper

    Sure, but the distinction between new and old material is relevant. CDs or books are usually available at deep discounts once demand plummets relative to supply. People want to buy those GLEE albums (or read those BLACKEST NIGHT/SIEGE tie-ins) now, for example, despite the fact they’ll doubtless be $1 used on Amazon in the near future. I expect that the focus would usually be on sales of new digital comics rather than old stuff (with exceptions for steady sellers).

    It’s worth noting that a crash in price and widespread availability of physical products don’t always happen for comics (as you’re well aware) if there was a small print run, the publisher tanked, a book has premium value to collectors, etc. There’s a nice analogy there for comics, as OOP albums can cost a bundle while their corresponding mp3 downloads are the standard price.

  18. Regarding physical vs digital product pricing:
    I’ve always assumed that the point of Digital Comic releases was to sell to people who either rely on hand-held electronic boxes for their media/social involvement or who live lifestyles that limit the space they have for material possessions. In other words, young people (teenagers on the bus or living in dorm rooms). And the entertainment industries in this country live on appealing to young people…
    We 30or40-somethings have storage/display space (my 4000+ CDs, 22 longbox+ comic collection, and 600+ DVDs occupy more square footage than my entire Dorm room in college) and emotional personal history with paper and plastic physical products. We tend to view the intangible digi-product as having to compete with the traditional product. I suspect that The Young find the traditional product to be largely irrelevant…

  19. “In other words, young people”

    Problem with that analysis is that the sales of the iphone, ipad and things like the Kindle tend to be older consumers. The ipod touch is the exception to this.

  20. Another thought about phys vs dig pricing:
    Convenience! Recently there was talk here of switching New Comics Day from Wed to Tues. The comment thread of complaint and fear was filled with tales of the troubles working people went through to make Wed Comic Shop visits feasible for their schedules. With dig downloads you get instant gratification with no loss of schedule time!
    Judging by CD vs MP3 retail histories, it looks like convenience dominates over quality in the ultra-modern world marketplace.
    Again, I think there is a market for digi-comics that will happily accept non-comparable pricing.
    (And howabout the old trope that Women don’t buy comics cause they don’t like comic shop atmosphere? Marvel or DC shoulda paid for a moment in SexInTheCity2 featuring a comic download! THAT would be a significant marketing moment!)

  21. As long as the price remains the same between the print and the digital version, I’m guessing there will be only a slight impact upon physical comic book sales.

    I think comic book stores should be worried when the digital version is $1.99 and the comic book is $3.99.

    And that cover for the Iron Man Annual is horrible. The image is so disjointed. It should be either one complete face split between Iron Man and the Mandarin [thus emphasizing the ying-yang/positive-negative iconography] or each face should be 2/3 full with a shared/merged eye in the exact center.

  22. Don’t see this affecting my orders. The majority of my Inv. Iron Man sales are subscriptions and to folks that scoff at digital comics.

    That is safe water to put your toe in.

    If they were to plan this for the first issue of a mini-series that already carries a $3.99 price point, I would probably save my valuable shelf space and rely on special orders only.

  23. I have yet to read a digital comic….prefer paper for the moment. What I am wondering is won’t doing more and more digital mean that comics will be ripped just like music is now a days? These will spread all over the web illegally and mean the decline and end of comics. Just look at the music industry and its never ending battle against illegal copies being distributed.

  24. “What I am wondering is won’t doing more and more digital mean that comics will be ripped just like music is now a days?”

    Everything released is already ripped in days, if not hours. Pretty much 99% of everything marvel and DC have ever released is already available via pirate sites.