Recently posted this to a private listserve on the subject of the attempt DC Comics made in 1971 to make their books pricier:
It's always been a mystery to me that the preteen and teen buyers of
that time chose the 20-centers from Marvel Comics over the bigger 25-centers from DC Comics, since the
latter seems like the better bargain. I understand that in hardcore
fandom, Marvel has gained a great deal of good will/popularity and might
be considered top dog there. But the hardcore readership then was
surely just a fraction of the mass market.
I can only surmise two possibilities: (1) that the casual buyer of the
time was "penny wise and pound foolish," in that he didn't mind getting
fewer pages overall as long as he had five actual comics in his hand
rather than four, OR (2) that the casual buyer was dominantly
indifferent to or turned off by all the recapitulated
reprint-material with which DC padded its 25-centers.
By the conventional wisdom of the time, the casual buyers should've
welcomed all the reprints by the logic that "any story you haven't read
is a new story." Yet it seems that they did not, perhaps because they
weren't hardcore enough to be appreciative of the intricacies of DC Comics
history. Indeed, DC may have alienated some new readers by throwing
all this copious old material in the faces of Casual Buyer Guy. Most of the
casual buyers in the 1960s probably barely noticed if a regular issue of
Superman included a reprint, unless the editors explicitly called
attention to it. But counter-intuitive though it seems, a lot of buyers
may have rejected DC's emphasis on their storied past, using it to support the long standing characterization of "DC" as connoting "Doddering Codgers."
Sad though it is to many hardcore fans, many casual buyers don't like
having another generation's fantasies dumped in their faces. Regard, in
more recent years, how the kickass-but-retro double-film GRINDHOUSE, by
two popular directors, crashed and burned in the theaters.
ADDENDA: An undocumented source adds that when Marvel did their "quick-change" in the same period-- where they converted many books in their line to 25 cents, and then back to 20 cents the next month-- that they also made themselves more attractive to distributors by giving them a better percentage deal. But though that might have pushed more Marvel comics onto more stands, that in itself probably doesn't explain the audience's acceptance of the "bargain" of fewer pages for a marginally cheaper price.
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