Marvel comics have long since been more expensive than DC’s, even before DC dropped most of their comics down to $2.99 (USD) per issue with their Rebirth relaunch. But Marvel’s issues also came with a free digital copy of the issue for their online service, which is also linked to Comixology, so buyers could sort of justify the higher price point. Well, no longer!
In a controversial move, Marvel announced that physical comics (excluding their all-ages stuff) will now come with two other digital comics, intended to “offer fans free entry points for current on sale collected edition”, rather than a free digital copy of the comic purchased. To me, this is just not good for most readers.
For one, the digital comic you’re given is just out of your hands. It’s up to Marvel to decide what you get, and it may even be something you already own. Hell, the first comic lined up is Civil War II #0, a comic I’m pretty sure 90% of Marvel readers have, since that was before everyone realised how crappy that event was. I’ve read that some people even sell the digital code they get with their physical copies, because it can offset the higher price point by a bit, but that options mostly gone now, since I can see lots of over saturation of the same issue.
There’s also the problem of whatever comic you’re being given is supposed to advertise whatever Marvel wants to advertise (the digital comic doesn’t seem to vary between comics within a given week). So whereas giving readers of X-Men: Prime a digital issue of Inhumans vs. X-Men would make sense, instead they’re given the first issue of whatever trade Marvel wants to push (who wants to bet there will be a decent amount of MCU-focused comics?).
There’s also this simple thing: Marvel already pushed free samples before. It was a while ago, I’ll give you, but not that long ago. Remember Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 2014? That comic was incredibly thick, not only because it was the launch pad for the entire Spider-Man line, but also because it had the entirety of Inhuman #1 included as a free sampler. But you still got the free digital issue of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1.
And finally, there’s the fact that whatever free digital comic you get is replacing the other comic you would’ve gotten. I know people who like to buy physical comics and support local comic shops, but find it simply impractical to read physical comics for a variety of reasons, but the free digital copy allowed them to still support their LCSs. And that Marvel is saying this new system is good for retailers is hilarious, because I know people who work at comic shops, and they’ve had nothing good to say about this. In fact, if anything this feels like an aggressive move against comics retailers.
This is just not a good move in my eyes, and the only people who benefit are new readers (and even then not that much, since the free issue is from a recent trade) and Marvel themselves. It pushes for more digital sales from people who were willing to buy physical, while taking those sales from retailers. I can’t say I support this move at all.