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Fear Itself – The Two Price Tags

fear-itselfI’ve talked to other fans of Marvel Comics (we are also comfortable being described as nerds, dweebs, fanboys or dorks), and I seem to be in the minority with my discontent with the newest event, Fear Itself.  Besides the obvious Roosevelt reference in the title being a lame device, the  story is equally lame.   But then I thought, “Hey, maybe I’m not giving it a fair shake; after all, I’m just reading the main ‘Fear Itself’ series and the subsequent tie-in issues when they happens to pop up in my regularly purchased titles (Fear Itself has popped up in Iron Man, Iron Man 2.0, some Avengers titles, etc…), but now I wonder: maybe I’m rushing to judgment and I’m missing a big part of the story?”

If you’re not a comic book fan (AKA not lonely), this is how events work:  see, you’re reading your favorite comics (Marvel’s Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers, Vertigo’s House of Mystery, etc…), minding your own business and then blam-o!  Marvel releases a limited series that affects nearly every one of their characters in some way.  So you break down and you buy it – after all, what’s the difference?  It’s just one more book to buy, and limited series are usually only 4 issues long, (Fear Itself is 7, that’s seven issues long, but who’s counting?) so it’s not a big deal to go along with the flow and watch all the characters struggle together against a common threat… (Yeah, that sounds a lot like the plot of the Avengers books, but whatever.)  But it doesn’t end there – then they release a companion limited series to the primary limited series, Fear Itself:  Home Front.  And then they release another one!  Yep, here comes Fear Itself:  Youth in Revolt.  Plus, there are tie-ins in nearly every regularly published title, like The Avengers, Uncanny X-Men, The Invincible Iron Man and so on.  How many different Fear Itself limited series and other issues are out there?  And how much will it cost, when all is said and done, to read every single issue that proclaims that its part of Fear Itself?  I was going to buy Iron Man anyway, but now I’m buying this limited series… It’s only one extra book per month, but if I went all in like I did with a previous event (Marvel’s Siege), I would be buying a lot more that just 1 extra book a month.

I guess the question is, how much extra does Marvel expect me to spend per event?  What’s the price tag?

Well, so far, there are 85 (yes, eighty-five!) issues that encompass Fear Itself and subsequent tie-ins.  Sounds crazy, right?  You don’t have to believe me – get it from the horse’s mouth here.  At first, I thought the number was so high because of all of the variant covers, but when i dropped the titles into a spread sheet, that brought it up to over 150 different issues.  (By the way, Variant Covers means they put out the same issue with more than one cover.  Why would they do this, you ask?  To get collectors to buy the same thing twice.  Who knows which cover will be more valuable?  This is especially difficult to gauge when they put out multiple variant covers…  OK, I’m boring myself now.)  Anyway, Marvel Comics cost $2.99, $3.99 and sometimes, $4.99 – so just for giggles, lets say every issue and tie-in to Fear Itself costs $2.99 (they don’t) – when we multiply that by 85, what do we get, class?

$254.18.  That’s where I’m trying to keep my comic book budget FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR.  So I don’t care if I’m missing part of the story; I’m not spending $250 bucks on Fear Itself – and I don’t think that covers every single issue as the event is not over yet and publication dates haven’t been announced for all issues yet.  So the total for the event is probably going to be at least $300.

But the cost doesn’t end there – I am sure Marvel is hurting itself with this annual event strategy, or as the NY Times put it, event fatigue.  I went from going ‘all in’ – buying every single issue of an event (Siege), to only buying the primary series (Daredevil:  Shadowland)… and next year, am I going to buy any issues of whatever the event is?  I won’t know until I see what it’s going to be (and I think I can pretty much guarantee that there will be an event next year), but if i have to answer now, the answer is no, I won’t be buying.  ‘Fatigue’ isn’t a strong enough word – I have Chronic Event Fatigue Syndrome.

In the short term, Marvel made a good business decision to do events like Civil War, Siege and Fear Itself as they’ll sell more books, but  as the NY Times article noted, the profits are falling – when does it start to hurt regular monthly book sales?  At some point, people will get so sick of events, they’ll move away from their regular books because they hate the annual disruption from the storyline.  And that’s not good for business.

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About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com and BomberBanter.com

Posted on June 24, 2011, in comic book reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I won’t lie. I know this is probably the most horrible thing for a comic reader to do, but: years ago when CIVIL WAR was released, I was on my 10 year unintended sabbatical from comics. I loved the concept as that was the first line wide ‘event’ I had heard about at the time, (prior to knowing about the multiple CRISISES) but it wasn’t until years later, when someone was able to categorize and organize in chronological order, all the CIVIL WAR issues for me to read… in digital format. Yes, I know, blasphemous! But it was the only way, at the time, that I could’ve figured out which issues to read, which tie-ins to follow, and which supplemental issues round out the whole story.

    With events being huge nowadays, it seems like the banner of that event is stuck to whichever titles are fledgling so the publisher can gauge interest in those obscure characters, while milking more money out of said event.

    Sadly, when they preach the whole ‘accessibility to new readers bit’, they seems to not realize that the concept of event based story arcs that impact majority of the titles of that publisher, it makes it that much harder for a new reader to jump into a story for a year (or more).

    • I haven’t read any digital comics yet, but I don’t think it’s necessarily blasphemous… although I don’t see myself collecting PDF files. (or however that works) But yeah, when the scope gets unnecessarily big, it’s hard to know what issue goes in what order, and if digital is an easy way to figure it out, then so be it! =)

      I think Marvel and DC’s plan to increase accessibility to new readers comes this summer when a bunch of Marvel titles start at number 1 again (captain america, daredevil…) and DC relaunches every title in site.

      I know everybody loved Civil War, but the plot device reminded me too much of the mutant registration act from the 1980s – although the stories went down different paths in terms of scope.

  2. I can definitely understand your point of view. I will still go to the defense on one thing for Marvel. While at C2E2, I took in the Fear Itself panel. Mostly because I’m a lifelong Marvel Zombie and also that I felt like I was the only guy really excited for this for a few reasons I will get to in a moment. I was glad to see that at least 75% of the people there were excited. The other 25% wanted to be made excitement by what they had to offer. For me, I’m an Avengers guy and I always loved Thor stuff, so the story already was geared to bring me on board. The other reason was that it wasn’t the same old writers and artists doing the event. Matt Fraction has impressed me with Iron Man, so I wanted to see what he did with the whole of Marvel.

    For all the excitement I already had going in, the thing I took away from it was that they weren’t writing a story that required the purchase of the other titles. As they put it, “If all you want to get is the regular Fear Itself series, you will get a complete story. If you like what you see enough to want more, the tie-ins would give you more, but would not directly link to things happening in the series so you wouldn’t feel lost.” Fraction directly stated his goal was to write seven issues that flowed as a story and would rely on nothing else but itself.

    Now, I’m not going to gloss over the idea that they new people like me, people already invested in the Avengers, Thor, and Iron Man, would already get many tie-ins. I’m predisposed to to read more of the event, so therefore will likely be on the hook for even more, but I’ve chosen what I wanted to read. I’m not a Deadpool guy, and haven’t been for at least 10 years, so I’m not going to get his tie-in(s) just to know what he’s doing because I can already say I don’t care.

    As much as I’d like to have a 12-part story that covers everything, say like the original Crisis, I’d gladly settle for the kind of options I feel this is giving me. What the Initiative is doing isn’t important to the main title, but it’s there if you want it. The same goes for the tie ins to the Avengers side of Marvel. If you’re an X-Men fan, you don’t have to go buy Secret Avengers or Journey Into Mystery to get the whole story.

    At least we’re getting that and not feeling we need to read what’s going on everywhere to understand what’s going on from issues 3 and 4. Remember when Final Crisis took a month off from an already messed up schedule? Yeah, that didn’t help. At least Fear Itself is on time and flows from issue to issue. Final Crisis couldn’t even afford to give us that.

    • I get what you’re saying Geoff, and I agree to a point that it is self contained to the main series, and the rest are more… optional enrichment.

      And I’m not trying to argue, but more… providing a hypothetical thought:
      What does the reader that stayed with the self contained mini series do, when events of that one specific series, become the building blocks for another main event in the following year, but showcasing different characters; maybe some featured in the tie-ins of a previous event?

      I’m noticing that each ‘event’ series seems to focus on specific groups or characters within comics, who may have been struggling before, but a spanking new team comes in and revitalizes them with a few years leading into their own ‘event’.

      Sp… sure, you can pick up only the 8 (or 7…?) main issues of BLACKEST NIGHT and get a pretty basic story. However, if you weren’t a huge Green Lantern fan, it would’ve been very ‘huh…?’ getting into that event. Me personally, went back and scrounged up back issues of GREEN LANTERN series and the GREEN LANTERN CORPS. series… but that’s me. What about readers that haven’t kept up to date with the Sinestro Wars, Rebirth, Secret Origin… and then DC featured a year long arc featuring the Lanterns, and their regular heroes were thrown into this event as well?

      (I’ll be honest, I haven’t been following Marvel for the last few years, so can’t really comment on their approach to the whole ‘event’ series angle.)

      DC did the same thing with another character though, by building up to a new Flash series and backstory the last couple of years… and then featuring him in an event such as FLASHPOINT, where the other characters of the DC universe are thrown in as well.

      All I’m saying is, even though a main series can be enough to follow a storyline, it seems other events that come up will require some sort of background knowledge of storylines past… otherwise the series itself will lose a lot of impact among readers.

  3. Speaking specifically about Fear itself, anytime someone picks up a hammer, it’s a big deal, right? This brings me to Iron Man 2.0′s Fear Itself issues – if you missed these, I feel like you’re missing a big part of the arc. But then, there are literally A DOZEN issues I’ve skipped that tie in with Fear Itself, and there must be SOMETHING important happening in those issues; otherwise, why write them? (“To sell more books!”) Yet every time I read the main Fear Itself books, I don’t feel like I’m reading a story with a plot like I did when I was reading Siege; these issues feel like the highlights… the comic book version of sports center!

    Civil War ran during 2006-07 and ended with the death of Captain America… Final Crisis ran during 2008, which ended with the death of Batman… Then Bucky, Cap’s original partner, became Cap and Dick Grayson, Batman’s original partner, became Batman… then in 2009, marvel ran Captain America: Reborn and in 2010, DC ran Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne in 2010… anyway, if DC blows a hole through Dick Grayson’s chest or he dies in a future event (see issue 3 of Fear Itself for what happened to Bucky), well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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