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Marvel Ends Current Free Digital Codes For Print Titles, Will Give 2 Free Classic Comics Instead


Be careful who you give exclusive news to. It doesn't always work as well as you may like.

Marvel Comics gave exclusive PR about their new plans to giveaway two free digital comics with every physical comic bought in February to Forbes.

And writer Rob Salkowitz presented it as, and I quote, "an apparent effort to shore up the retail channel and combat sagging market share and aggressive pricing moves made by rival DC Entertainment"

Which probably isn't as on-message as Marvel would like.

So, anyway, people who buy Marvel universe superhero titles in February will get codes to get free copies of, initially, Civil War II #0 and other past Marvel titles that might help promote current trade paperback collections.

This will replace the current system where people get a code for a free copy of the digital comic they have just bought – which they can download, or sell online. Forbes quote Jim Nausedas, Sales Director, saying "One of the free bonus digital comics offered in February will be Civil War II #0 in time to promote the CIVIL WAR II collection on sale that month… Then, each week, new bonus digital codes, available only in your local comic shop, will offer fans additional pathways into the Marvel Universe, promote Marvel's monthly trades, and create repeat retailer customers and Marvel readers for life."

And SVP Sales David Gabriel has told Forbes that the program is specifically designed to promote comics retailers. Though as usual I expect retailers will see it as a way to get their print readers more used to reading digitally and eventually go digital only.

Forbes has also taken this opportunity to highlight what the likes of Ross Richie and Dennis Barger have been talking about, a problem at the heart of the comic book retailer community and the likely collapse of a number of comic stores unless something is done.

 Despite the popularity of comic-themed entertainment, the business of selling comics at retail seems to be in a constant state of uncertainty, with the fortunes of small business owners rising and falling on how fans react to the next big storyline or universe reboot pushed out by the publishers. Rents are increasing, labor costs in some markets are increasing, competition from e-commerce looms everywhere, unsold issues are usually non-returnable, and retailers have little control over revenues beyond the ability to offer discounts, because the prices are set by publishers and printed on the comics.

And the bit Marvel really won't like,

Overall, comic sales were up year over year in 2016, but some in the industry are concerned about mass store closings in the new year. One of the culprits, according to industry analysts, is DC Comics' decision to price its Rebirth titles at $2.99 instead of the $3.99 price point predominant in the industry. This, combined with fan enthusiasm for DC's new direction, helped reverse DC's slide in market share almost overnight. As the year ended, DC emerged as the clear leader in unit sales for the first time in several years, with multiple books at the top of the monthly sales charts.

So Marvel have got their own PR out lickety split. In which they tell us,

Marvel is proud to announce that, beginning February 2017, all Marvel digital redeem codes found within the pages of Marvel Universe titles will unlock two or more BONUS DIGITAL COMICS on the Marvel Comics app for iPhone®, iPad®, iPhone® and select Android devices* at no additional cost!"

Aside from losing the digital copy of the comic you just bought.

Starting this year with Marvel Universe titles (excluding all-ages comics), only available within your local comic shop, the Marvel digital code will be upgraded to unlock two or more additional digital Marvel comics – stretching your dollars' worth!

Though you are less likely to be able to sell those codes for money in the aftermarket.

"Marvel is continuing our commitment by offering our fans the best value in comics along with honoring our cornerstone of the comic book industry – the retailers," said David Gabriel, SVP of Sales, Marvel Publishing. "Our intent in evolving our digital code program is to offer our fans more value per dollar spent.  Replacing the free digital copy, our BONUS DIGITAL COMICS will offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected editions and, in turn, invite additional and repeat traffic into our trusted retailers."

Though as we said before, some retailers fear this just makes their customers more used to reading digital comics instead of print.

Beginning February 1st, Marvel fans that enter the doors of their local comic retailer will now be rewarded when they purchase Marvel titles with a digital code that unlocks existing moments into the Marvel Universe they may have missed in the past.

Or in the quarter box.

"Marvel will always be a brand that looks to excite our fans as well as drive traffic to our tried-and-true retailers," said Jim Nausedas, Sales Director, Marvel Publishing. "One of the freeBONUS DIGITAL COMICS offered in February will be Civil War II #0 in time to promote the CIVIL WAR II collection on sale that month. Then, each week, new BONUS DIGITAL COMICS codes, available only in your local comic shop, will offer fans additional pathways into the Marvel Universe, promote Marvel's monthly trades, and create repeat retailer customers and Marvel readers for life."

Look, it could work., It really could. But plenty won;t like the change.

Marvel's BONUS DIGITAL COMICS will be updated weekly with consistent in-print and social messaging so fans know which BONUS DIGITAL COMICS will be made available that week.So find your local comic shop by visiting and get ready to experience new gateways into the Marvel Universe you may have missed in the past available through the comics you already read..

These are comic book readers after all. They hate change.


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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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