Marvel Comics made a jaw dropping announcement late last week which was this: starting in February of 2017 their physical comics will include two free digital comic codes in each issue, but there’s a catch (there’s always a catch). The codes can only be found in comics sold at comic book retail shops, not comics sold by other retailers like Barnes & Nobel. #Marvel is calling this new marketing effort “The Bonus Digital Comic” program, and alleges that the program is being initiated to drive business to comic book retailers. However, there is a second catch to all this (of course there is, it’s Marvel).
The second catch is that the codes can only be used to obtain three comics being offered through the program each month, which means that if you buy two comics at your local comic book shop within the month of February, you’re going to have four digital codes, but only three of them can be used by you. Now I’m no Bruce Banner, but this doesn’t seem very adventitious to the buyer compared to the way things are now.
Currently, Marvel provides one free digital download code with the majority of its comics, regardless as to where the comics are purchased. The digital code is of the comic bought which retails for the same price as the physical copy. So in a way, you’re getting double for your money, but that’s all about to change. Prepare yourself for the third catch to all this.
Beginning in February a digital copy of the comic just bought will no longer be included, which means if you want a digital copy of the comic you just bought, you’re going to have to pay another $3.99. I found the free digital code of the comic just bought to be ideal for comic collectors like myself because I could immediately preserve the physical copy (by bagging-and-boarding it), and still be able to read it on my iPad without having to dig out the physical copy.
I know what you’re thinking: “there can’t be a fourth catch to all this, can there?” The answer unfortunately is yes. Marvel is claiming that this program is to reward the retailers that stock their product from month-to-month, and the customers of those retailers. However, the program is designed to promote the release of upcoming Marvel products. For example, in February one of the three digital downloads is going to be Civil War II #0 in time to promote the trade paperback of Civil War II. Basically, the free codes are nothing more than advertisements to get me to buy what Marvel is promoting for that month, before I was at least getting a digital copy of what I wanted. Not any more.
To make matters worse, this program isn’t designed to help the retailers as Marvel purports, and I’ll tell you why. The Bonus Digital Comic program is specifically targeted at comic book retailer buyers. These are the customers that are more inclined to buy the physical copy of their comics, who may or may not care that they were getting a free digital copy of their comic. Beginning in February these customers are going to get as many as three additional digital comics that they didn’t have to pay for, which can be an interesting hook, especially for a customer that is just getting into comics.
In order to get these free comics, the customer is going to have to use the Marvel comic app. While using the app, you are introduced to digital sales that are going on, solicited to subscribe to Marvel Unlimited (think of it as the Netflix of Marvel comics), etc. In my opinion, I think this program is designed to entice physical readers to become digital readers, and the kicker to all this is, Marvel is using the retailers to do it. Think I’m wrong? Then answer this: why would Marvel target the retail readers specifically? If Marvel wants to help the retailers then offer the retailers specials that they can promote at their stores. It doesn’t make sense to give only retailer readers something more than those who get their comics through other means.