You’ve Got Mail…and Comics.

imgres-4I have a confession to make with regard to pull lists. Simply put, I don’t have one, at least not in the traditional sense. Sure, I’ve got a mental pull list of comics I want to buy most weeks (as well as the list I use on this very site), a list that is constantly shifting, as I drop titles I’ve tired of or add new ones that intrigue me. But because I’m a wanderer when it comes to where and when I buy my comics, the idea of set pull list at one comic shop has never really appealed to me. It’s too much of a commitment and I like the freedom to patronize a variety of retail establishments. Plus, I think I’m put off by the idea that I’d occasionally have to go into my LCS and tell the dude behind the counter that this month I think I’m going skip The Incredible Hulk — “Just not feeling it, bro. No Hulk for this guy. Sorry you had to pull it…” — I’m weird that way. I fear authority.

But while that list in my head is in a sort of constant flux, there are a few titles that are a constant in my life…and that’s thanks to Marvel’s subscription service. That’s right, confession number two: I’m a Marvel subscriber. Now I’ve been collecting for a mighty long time and I can honestly say I’ve never met another human being who will cop to getting his or her comics from Marvel via the US Mail. There’s no real shame in it, I know, but it almost feels old-fashioned in a way. I’m sure there are other subscriber types out there, but I’ve never come across one as of yet. I know folks who use discount services and the like, but that’s essentially a mail-order pull list deal, which I’d argue is different from the classic Marvel subscriptions they’ve been offering in the back of comics for as long as I can remember.

And while I’ve been seeing those subscription offers for eons, this subscription thing is a relatively new development subscription ad - wolverinefor me (just a couple of years now), mostly because I used to worry about the condition of my comics a lot. Simply put, the thought of them being tossed around by embittered postal workers bummed me out. I preferred to go to the comic store and handpick a pristine copy of each book from way back in the stack. Yes, I was that guy. But with age comes wisdom and as I got older, I realized that it wasn’t about condition it was about content and economics. I wanted my books and I wanted them at a discount. Thus I took the plunge and subscribed to a couple of Marvel’s main titles, which up until recently were the only things they offered. If you look at Marvel’s options now, you can subscribe to most all their books.

For those who don’t know it, one of the main “problems” with the Marvel subscription service is the fact that your books arrive in your mailbox about a month after they’ve already been in the comic stores. And yes, they’re sometimes dinged up a bit, as the plastic baggie and lightweight board they come with isn’t much protection from surly mailmen. The month delay takes some getting used to, I admit, as being part of an online community loses something when you’re a month behind what’s really going on in any given book. But if you can deal with that sort of thing, it’s a nice deal. And speaking of deals, the subscription model gets you upwards of forty percent off the cover price. No tax either. Tax free comics delivered to your door. What a country!

urlThe big bonus in all this mail-order goodness is the fact that Marvel’s $3.99 titles come with the digital copy included. That was a pleasant surprise, as I was a subscriber before that was something Marvel had embraced. Pretty stoked when realized I’d be getting the hard copy and a digital copy of my comics for just a little more than half the cover price. Great deal. Can’t beat it really, especially if you’re like me and you want both digital and analog copies of your books. Still there’s that nagging issue of getting your books a bit later than everyone else. May not bother you, but it’s still something that gives me pause when I consider adding new titles to my subscriptions. With the inclusion of the digital copy in many of Marvel’s books, I started to wonder why they couldn’t do it the way many magazines do it, effectively granting digital access to the subscriber before the actual book arrives. For example, I have a subscription to Wired Magazine that comes complete with access to the digital copy on my IPad. Each month I get a little notification that the digital copy is available, usually a good while before the actual magazine arrives in the mail. That being said, it seems like Marvel (and other publishers for that matter) could do the same thing. Maybe that’s coming down the line. Who knows?

I’ll probably never fully commit the subscription thing, as trips to the comic store aren’t something I want to give up. But I can say that there’s something genuinely satisfying about finding a copy of New Avengers or Wolverine and the X-Men between the Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel catalogs in the mailbox. Any one else out there get their books from the good ol’ USPS? I can’t be the only one, but sometimes it feels like it.


Gabe Roth is a TV writer who often sits by his mailbox waiting for comics to appear. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.


  1. You should check out Discount Comic Book Service, same idea, get your books quicker and cheaper

    • I use it and love it! If getting your books quicker is a selling point you can also choose your shipping frequescy (Weekly, Bi-Weekly or Monthly). You just have to pay shipping for each shipment.

      I prefer to save the $$ and get my books once a month. I feel it’s worth it even though you do risk the occasional spoiler.

  2. Excellent article. Thanks for the heads up that mail-order subs arrive a month late. I’m moving this summer. One of my choices is out in the sticks and therefore does not have any nearby LCS that I can find. There were certainly none the last time I lived there. I was thinking about digging out my credit card and ordering my favorite mutant titles via the mail. But now I’m going to rethink that idea.

    Now, for the most part, after I get comics from my LCS, I head home, flip to the back and peel off the Digital Code sticker. Off to the Marvel web site I go to redeem and then download on my Android 10″ tablet (Original Transformer, if you are wondering). That way I can read a book or two before I fall asleep in bed.

    But can I go all digital? I’m a Marvel zombie, so everything is available day and date as the hard copy. I even went so far as to buy ASM 700 (thru the app on my iPhone which already has my CC number tied to my iTunes account) while on vacation away from home. However, when I got home, I still picked up the paper copy sitting in my pull pile. I still like having the paper copy. I consider it a back up just in case digital comics disappear some day (No Please!)

    I would love the idea of getting an e-mail with the codes for the books I’ve subscribed to that come out that week. But I can’t see this happening unless they know exactly what codes I will receive from the comics in the mail. Don’t think Marvel would like me have 2 copies of everything, especially since I could sell the unused codes or something like that.

    But then again, the whole point may be moot, as I’m hoping to get posted to my second location option (a major city, btw, with tons of shops).

  3. Gone digital on single issues but get a lot of tpbs and hcs online. The prices are so good the LSC just can’t compete. Had to cancel my single issues that I got from my mail order recently. Th price was just too much expense, especially when you’re a month or two behind the online community.

  4. I used to subscribe to about 8 or so Marvel titles. I usually chose the 3.99 titles because the subscription discount was pretty big. Come on, $20 for 12 3.99 books? That couldn’t be beat. Yes, it sucked being behind, but it was well worth the price.

    And then I stopped when Marvel farmed out their subscription service to Midtown Comics. The comics started to arrive damaged more often than usual, and they stopped allowing replacement copies. Marvel used to allow two replacement copies per subscription cycle, but they stopped that policy.

    • Same here. The Marvel service through Sunbelt was awesome. My experience after Midtown took over was so terrible I cancelled my subscriptions. I kept missing issues and some would arrive out of order and up to 2 months late. Too bad because it’s an incredible savings. I’ll have to switch to trades on a lot of $3.99 books.

  5. Living in germany I have no other option than getting my comics by mail. At the begining of each month i get a big pack with the circa 50 titles I pull. When its january I get the december issues. For example are batman#5, twd#105 or avengers#1 right now on my To read pile.( And no there is no discount, i m paying full cover price. And the damn weak € makes em even more expensive. Three years ago when we had an strong € the exchange rate was much better.) So I m naturally always a month behind on potw podcasts which sometimes can be a little annoying.
    I always have to study the previews catalogue so I m not missing out on titles I m potentially interrested in. I have to put for example hickmans east of west into my subscription list to get it “on time” so the guy i m ordering from can preorder it. If i cancel a subscription i have to wait till the next month until its really canceled.
    That and a growing space problem on my shelves and in my longboxes is driving me succesively into going digital.

  6. I think that comics are considered periodicals and and therefor not subject to sales tax. I’ve never paid tax on *new* comics from a shop (including shops in several different states. You generally do pay sales tax on TPBs, HCs, and above cover price back issues. It may vary state by state.

  7. I was very thankful for my comic mail subscriptions when I was no longer able to afford monthly comics. I was hoping to start subscriptions in December when I got birthday and Christmas money and then renew each year. Unfortunately Marvel double ships almost everything (or at least it feels like they do) so that plan failed. DC cancelled my subscriptions to Animal Man and Swamp Thing half way through and it would now be cheaper to just order single issues from DCBS.

    All of this is now a moot point, though, since I’m far enough behind that I might as well trade wait.

  8. I’ve been doing the order by mail comics for almost 3 years now and I while I hated being behind it was great for me because my closest LCS was hours of away. Only just recently have I decided to switch to trade because of budget concerns and let my Marvel subs run out(as well as canceled my TFAW subs).

  9. I used to subscribe to a bunch of comics growing up in the late 80s / early 90s. I loved getting issues of Batman, Detective, and ASM in the mail–something about opening the poly bag to see which issue came that day was awesome. I remember when Impact comics came out (all of the old Harvey characters that DC briefly rebooted in the early 90s), I convinced by dad to drop $60 bucks on subscriptions to all five titles for the year (yes, it was that cheap)– (The Black Hood, The Shield, Jaguar, The Comet, & The Web). There were a lot of turkeys but I loved getting the mail everyday to see which issues came. Ah, salad days.

    Same problems then as described here (one month delay, once-in-a-great while damaged issues, etc.)–I’d hate it when I’d go to my local LCS and see the great covers for the issues I wouldn’t see for another 2-3 weeks.

    Though I’m pretty much digital now I can see how the Internet might make you appreciate the tangible even more.

  10. Actually all the comics I currently get are via subscription. Sometimes they arrive a little late, but other than that no complaints.

  11. I agree 100% on the constant flux with my pull and have staples I know I’m gonna get as well, and I enjoy the hunt sometimes, I’m fortunate enough to have 3 lcs’s I love in a cpl mile radius then a few other really good ones within I’d say a 15-25 mile radius and love each for different reasons and my absolute favorite and one I’ve gone too forever let’s me add and drop things anytime with no complaints, they’re just cool like that. I’ll always like looking around the shop, back issue hunts & talking comix or whatever we feel like at the shops, also now I’ve recently started reading specific titles via digital only, and love it, pretty sure you can get full subscriptions digitally and I did have a mail order ASM subscription years ago when I was about 12 or 13 and clearly remember some of em arriving a little beat up, wasn’t a fan of that myself, if I did a mail order subscription now I’d do it through a shop like Midtown comics who bags n boards they’re issues and ships em in a box, but at the end of the it is refreshing to see a copy of your favorite comics between sharper image and pottery barn.

  12. I subscribe to all the comics I get and for exactly the reasons you described. Simply put comics are too expensive these days the only way I find them the least bit affordable is through subscription. I had quit all together until last year because my issues always arrive about 6 weeks late and in terrible condition. When marvel started adding a digital copy to their 3.99 issues I jumped back on, I am always fearful they’ll stop and I’ll have to cancel all 8 of the titles I just renewed.

    What I really want to know though is why aren’t we discussing the fact that marvel and DC DO NOT OFFER DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS? Seriously, this is a HUGE deal to me and I haven’t seen anything about it anywhere. Why is this not on everyone’s lips? If I could get a year subscription of the title I want, in perfect condition, and on the day its supposed to be released for roughly $25 bucks I’d buy the entire Marvel and/or DC catalog. Why isn’t this happening and why does no one seem to care?