SPIDER-MANDATE: The Lowe-down on "Secret Wars," Tie-Ins and Stacey Lee
I work in a comic shop (Metro Entertainment in Santa Barbara, California — cheap plug!), so to say that I’m wary of digital comics is an understatement. My livelihood depends on people wanting a physical copy of a comic book; if everything went digital, no more retail job. My store happens to work very hard at providing those physical copies of comics in every form we can put under one roof, including the rare opportunity for a deep back-issue selection. I can’t say it’s very cost effective, but having back issues from decades gone by available to customers has made many people happy and seek out our shop when traveling through California.
Buying comics from an actual person behind the register is a little like talking to a bartender: They know your name and what you like, and they can chit-chat about your woes with the business and give a few words of advice. I know the customer base, so I can provide off-the-cuff information about who’s on what book, when a title might be ending or, say, offer to save a Warren Ellis fan a copy of Moon Knight #1. I’m not saying that all this information isn’t online, but it’s nice to get that personal touch that we secretly crave. From a pile of 50-cent issues for a school art project to a rare copy of Amazing Fantasy #15, physical comics are still needed and wanted.
But for how long?
Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited service allows unlimited access to a library of more than 13,000 comics, all more than six months old. The service has been around for a while — I’ve been a subscriber for more than a year — but it took a great leap forward a few days ago with the release of a new iOS app that allows the user to read comics on an iPad or iPhone and download up to six comics at a time. Marvel executives discussed the new service, now rebranded Marvel Unlimited, over the weekend at South by Southwest, and it has received a good deal of coverage since its debut. I thought it would be interesting to dig a little deeper, so I asked ROBOT 6 contributors to join me in a discussion about how they read digital comics and whether Marvel Unlimited ties in with that.
Brigid Alverson: What do you think of the idea behind Marvel Unlimited, an all-you-can-eat streaming service? Would you prefer it to a download service like comiXology?
JK Parkin: I’m torn about it, to be honest. On the one hand, having access to Marvel’s complete library — or a huge chunk of it, or however many comics they have out there — sounds appealing. But I don’t think I’d have time to really use it enough to get the bang for my buck I’d be looking for. I spend most of my comics reading time trying to keep up with all the new comics I read — and I’ve got a stack of comics and graphic novels that tell me I’m not doing such a good job in that department already — so I don’t think I’d have time to make use of a library of stuff like this.
Digital comics | Today, Viz Media marks the first anniversary of the launch of its digital magazine by changing its name from Shonen Jump Alpha to Weekly Shonen Jump (the same as its Japanese counterpart) and going to simultaneous release of most series with Japan as well. Editor-in-Chief Andy Nakatani talks about the changes as well and looks back at how the magazine has done in the year since it changed from a print monthly to a digital weekly. [ICv2]
Digital comics | The U.K. children’s comic The Phoenix just became available internationally with its release as an iOS app, and I interviewed Russell Willis of Panel Nine, which created the app, about the challenges involved. Panel Nine has also published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John comics, David Lloyd’s Kickback, and the works of underground cartoonist Hunt Emerson as standalone apps, and Willis has big plans for more digital indy comics in the future. [Good E-Reader]
Legal | Both Warner Bros. and automobile customizer Mark Towle have filed for summary judgment in the studio’s 2011 copyright-infringement lawsuit against Towle, whose Gotham Garage sold several replicas of the Batmobile. Warner, the parent company of DC Comics, claims the design of the Batmobile is its intellectual property, while Towle argues that copyright law does not regard a “useful object,” such as a car, as a sculptural work and therefore the design can’t be copyrighted. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Crime | Police in Lincoln, Nebraska, are investigating the theft of 600 X-Men comics, dating back to the 1970s, from the communal storage area of an apartment building. [Journal Star]
As we finish off Year Five of digital comics (depending on how you count things), the distribution method is positioned to bring in a continually growing sector of new readers.
comiXology, the market leader, is ending 2012 as the third highest-grossing app of the year for the iPad. That’s up from the 10th spot last year, which is even more remarkable when you consider virtually no other app made an appearance on both lists. I can’t imagine that could be accomplished strictly with purchases from direct-market customers crossing over to digital. And when you take into account that direct-market sales have also been improving, that couldn’t happen even if every reader in comics got a big raise this year and was buying both digital and print copies. Worst-case scenario, we’re winning back lapsed readers. But mixed within those two groups (current and lapsed/returning readers) has to be a third, even if only a small percentage at this time. It seems too good to be true but it’s becoming more and more likely that the elusive new reader is being reached.
As digital sales continue to grow (“getting close to 25 to 30% of print sales,” for Robert Kirkman), several elements are in place, or just about in place, that could be creating a perfect storm to increase that new readers section of the pie.
Just like we did with Black Friday, we’ve rounded up various deals on comics and comic-related stuff that you can get on Cyber Monday. And since at least one of the deals kicks off at midnight Pacific time, I thought I’d go ahead and post the list now instead of waiting for tomorrow morning. I’ll add any additional deals I discover throughout the day.
Also, if you did check out our Black Friday list, some of these are repeats from it, as several places have deals that have been running all weekend and go through Monday. I’ve put the new stuff up top, after the deal that starts at midnight …
Dark Horse Comics has another digital deal set up for Cyber Monday: the first 500 customers through Dark Horse Digital will get a 50 percent discount. There’s a $20 minimum, and the deal runs for 24 hours beginning at midnight Pacific Time on Nov. 28; you’ll also need a coupon code: dhcyber. You can find more details here.
And if you buy $100 worth of stuff from Things from Another World on Monday, they’ll give you $10 worth of digital Dark Horse Comics.
Marvel’s big summer blockbuster Thor movie arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD Sept. 13, and retailer Best Buy will offer “limited edition packaging” featuring the cover to Journey into Mystery #83 by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott for folks who pre-order it from them.
But wait — there’s more! If you pre-order, you also get a one-month subscription to Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited … a cool little extra that hopefully will introduce folks who liked the movie to the comics.
You can find the complete press release after the jump.
Another week, another digital platform: Marvel announced last week that it will make its comics available on Graphic.ly. It has been almost three years since Marvel launched its first digital initiative, the subscription-based Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Since then it has also made its content available through a few different iPhone/iPad applications, including a Marvel-branded one created by comiXology. Like the Marvel app (and unlike Marvel DCU), Graphic.ly allows readers to download comics and keep them; what makes it unique is its social networking aspect, which lets readers post comments about the comic directly on the pages.
I checked in with Marvel’s Ira Rubenstein, executive vice president of the global digital media group, to see how all Marvel’s digital initiatives are going and how Graphic.ly fits into the mix.
Do you anticipate releasing comics on the same day and date on Graphic.ly and in print, either regularly or occasionally?
We have done it with a few of our books, and I can’t speak for future plans but I think we will continue to experiment. Graphic.ly is just another outlet, and we believe in as wide distribution of our content as possible. The big news for Graphic.ly is this is the first time we are on a PC in a sell-through model.
Even in a Nu-Marvel-era X-Men line that included Grant Morrison’s New X-Men and Peter Milligan & Mike Allred’s X-Statix, the Cable reboot Soldier X was a weird, wild, wonderful standout. Written by Darko Macan and illustrated by Igor Kordey, the series offered an almost absurdist take on the superhero concept, with a never-more-powerful Cable struggling with his methods and motives while tracking a super-powered Russian peasant girl. Though it’s never been collected in trade paperback, the series has become a cult favorite, with writers like Joe “Jog” McCulloch and yours truly praising the way it both explored and exploded the character and the genre.
Now you can find out for yourself what the fuss is about: Marvel will be rolling out the book’s first five issues at its Digital Comics Unlimited site all week long, for absolutely free. Issue #1, which sets the scene, is already up. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!
Sweet Tooth #1 by Jeff Lemire
Remember the 1940s Captain America newspaper strip? No? That’s probably because there wasn’t one, until now. ComicsAlliance has the details on a faux long-lost Captain America comic strip that Karl Kesel will write and illustrate.
“Bringing together a blast from the past (newly discovered strips from the ’40s) and the cutting edge future (Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited) is a match made in company synergistic heaven,” said editor Bill Rosemann, who described the book as “shield-slinging star-spangled Captain America joining his loyal, wise-cracking sidekick Bucky for a daily jolt of awesome action, daring drama, femme fatales, rampaging robots and no-good Nazis!”
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will post a new “Captain America” strip every day for three months, for a total of 85 comics including special Sunday-sized editions.
This sounds really awesome; hopefully they’ll be collected into print soon after. Head over to ComicsAlliance to see Laura Hudson’s interview with Kesel.
You might remember that Ryan Dunlavey did a humorous M.O.D.O.K. story last summer for Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited that tied into the events of Dark Reign. Well, he has another M.O.D.O.K. story coming out this week on the site, with this one playing off of the “Fall of the Hulks” storyline. It’ll be up on MDCU on Jan. 6.
Courtesy of Marvel Comics, you can find an exclusive preview of the story after the jump.
Fall of the Hulks: M.O.D.O.K. #1
On-Sale: January 6, 2009
About: M.O.D.O.K. has finally stepped out of the shadows of his hometown bullies and joined the ranks of the Intelligencia alongside fellow “big brain” villains like the Leader, the Mad Thinker, and Red Ghost! But can such a choice assemblage of evil nerds ever truly be free of lame-brain jocks? Find out as the Intelligencia comes face to face with… the Insmelligencia!
Jordan White (Editor)
Ryan Dunlavey (Writer, Artist, Inker, Colorist, Letterer)