Marvel at SWSX: Digital-Only Comics, New Browser

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By Todd Allen

Marvel’s SXSW panel has started and Twitter is going berserk.  (Remember, Twitter was launched at SXSW.)  There’s also a reporting from CNET who seem to have gotten a heads up, even if the reporter doesn’t seem to be aware Jack Kirby and Jerry Robinson are dead (or that the Joker isn’t a Marvel character).

What Twitter and CNET on:

There’s a new Marvel Augmented Reality App coming in April.  Essentially, it will provide DVD extra type features if you point your tablet at the comic.  Creator commentary, art from various stages of production, trailers for the book (apparently they think you’ll take your tablet/smart phone to the store, point it at the cover, watch a short trailer and then decide to buy the book — I’m not sure the market works that way, but maybe they’ve done some research on this).

Here’s the CNET guru doing a walkthrough.

And here’s a where a SXSW attendee defied security for our benefit and recorded the “book trailer” part of the demo.

There’s also going to be some digital-only comics.  Here the Twitter feed and CNET differ.  Everyone on Twitter seems to think Axel Alonso announced an ongoing digital-only Nova series by Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen.  CNET was told these comics will be 99-cent add-ons, tied to the main print comics getting this “AR” treatment:

“These are more like tie-in stories that tell stories that aren’t told in the comic–they’re compelling because of the characters involved and that they tell stories that develop key points in the stories,” Arune Singh, director of marketing at Marvel, wrote in an e-mail to CNET on Friday. “These are points you can understand without reading an Infinite comic but become more enjoyable when you’ve read this story.”

So it isn’t clear to me whether Axel was misunderstood and this Nova feature is a one-off tie-in to Avengers Vs. X-Men #1, if its going to be Waid/Immonen on Nova for each issue of AVX or if it really is an ongoing.

Here’s a picture of a Nova screen from SXSW:

8v1gt2 Marvel at SWSX: Digital Only Comics, New Browser

In theory, this is stage one of a more serious digital initiative.  Marvel has experimented with original digital shorts for their Digital Comics Unlimited program, but looked like it was falling behind DC and IDW, in terms of trying out original content for paid download/digital-first.  This catches them up on this experimental wing of publishing that should be of increasing importance in the future.  For now, Marvel is tying this very heavily back into the print product.  DVD extras for print.  Digital only comics supplementing the print story.  Add-on sales and extras, not fresh sales.

We’ll hear more about this soon.

Comments

  1. AndyG says:

    Hooray! Another couple of things to make comics cost more!

  2. Todd Allen says:

    Now, now… at this stage, they’re not charging for the extras, except the digital comic. You don’t have to buy anything.

    But yes, there’s some infrastructure cost added on and you do have to wonder how they intend to earn that out. They probably will get some curiosity seekers trying out AVX to see how this works — assuming they remember about it in a month — but we’ll have to see if this has more use than DC’s download codes.

  3. …but maybe they’ve done some research on this

    Unfortunately, it’s been my experience with big companies, that most new digital initiatives are half baked ramblings that come from interred marketing VPs with only the vaguest notion of how the digital experience works.

    Bottom line: DC Motion Comics scoot over. I new non-starter needs room on the bench. ;)

  4. 1. CrossGen’s Comics On The Web (patented) viewer offered DVD-style commentary. Is Disney/Marvel exploiting this patent? Might we see COW’s ability to translate comics into other languages? (The files already exist, thanks to Marvel’s overseas licensees.)

    2. Do retailers really want customers scanning covers with their cellphones to get more info? Customers already do this, using stores as showrooms for Amazon. (Scan the barcode, your app will find the cheapest price online. You can then order the book via your phone.)

    Why can’t the customer just read the book that’s on the shelf, just like they’ve been doing for the past fifty years?

    3. Will Marvel put an “AR” logo (Marvel Plus?) on the covers to advertise the extra content?

    4. Marvel did this (at least) once before, posting the full scripts to their “‘Nuff Said” month of wordless comics online. Those scripts are no long accessible. How can Marvel guarantee that this material will exist in perpetuity?

    5. Might we see a “digital copy” DVD included in graphic novels, just as Disney now includes a second (or third) DisneyFile disc in their DVD releases? Buy the book, get a DVD with the graphic novel which you can copy to a limited number of computers.

    http://disney.go.com/disneyvideos/disneyfile/textonly.html

    6. Is Marvel publishing original 22-page comics available only online? That’s the tipping point, just like when Marvel moved Ka-Zar, Micronauts, and Moon Knight exclusively to the Direct Market.

  5. As a customer who reads almost all my comics digitally now, i have zero interest in these things. Augmented reality is very buzzable right now, and its a cute gimmick in a creative meeting, but it rarely works as well in the wild as it sounds in the abstract.

    I wouldn’t mind all those bonus features on a digital comic by itself….click for hotspots or whatever, but i’m not going to buy a print comic and hover over it with my tablet to get an easter egg. Thats kinda obtuse and kinda lame. And i’m surly not going out of my way to find a print comic just so i can play with some gimmicks.

    Add some value to the digital comics that you’re offering. Release your entire catalog same day digital. Digital comics need more added value.

  6. Is this what Marvel readers want? I have zero interest in this.

  7. Genius. FREE content/apps on phones to ADD TO (not subtract from) the actual physical comic book. So instead of providing parallel digital comics at the same price as body snatcher replacements, Marvel seems to be putting its stakes back in the stores. To take advantage of the cool scanning, you have to buy the actual comic. Very cool.
    Sure it might bomb, but seeing all the scanning toys/games that are so popular now, this is definitely worth the risk. And if you are a new reader, just scan The Hulk to get his bio. Plus, they branded it. Not an overnight decision.

    Even better are original comics in digital only with A-list creators. This is creative thinking rather than just scanning everything under a Sword of Damocles. Kudos House of Ideas.

  8. I don’t normally try to mega plug on posts like this, but CBR has up stories with the particulars of the AR app:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=37458

    And the new comic from both Quesada as developer and Waid as writer’s point of view:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=37459

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=37460

    I’m not sure what was said onstage in Austin, but what we’ve been told is that there will be three AvX tie-in digital stories to start, followed by more stories told in the format to follow. Pretty much these are comics written to utilize the kinds of swiping tech that comiXology uses, so it’s just a bit more big image to image stuff rather than page to page.

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