Archive for Marvel
Marvel makes comics. Single-issue comics that you buy every month at the comics shop, or, if you’re a digital type, on comiXology. Sometimes they gather those comics into trades, but until now, Marvel has mostly shied away from the original graphic novel format. The standard model in comics is to have a monthly comic that both brings in the dollars and keeps readers engaged with your story, and original graphic novels don’t allow for that. In a press call covered by Heidi MacDonald of Publishers Weekly, Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort acknowledged that graphic novels are “more and more a preferred format, even with the rise of digital” but were always a “fiscal problem” until “openings of various other distribution channels allowed this to work.”
As is increasingly common these days, digital is a big piece of this picture. As MacDonald reported in March, “Purchasers will also get a code for a digital edition, and it will be available for download via the Marvel Comics app and online in the Marvel Digital Comics Shop. The digital edition will include extra AR [Augmented Reality] content via the Marvel AR app.”
The download code is a nice touch, as it enables the purchaser to read the book in two different formats. However, there was no mention of the book being available on e-book platforms (Kindle, Nook, iBooks), which is a bit puzzling given that part of the point of the new format is to bring in new readers. In an interview on the Marvel website, Brevoort said that the Avengers were picked as the main characters because “the entire world knows who they are,” thanks to the movie, and that writer Warren Ellis was chosen in part because of his large following. Given that, you would think Marvel would want to make the book easy for new readers to find, not lock it up in a branded app and force them to get a new account in order to buy it. Still, it’s early days yet, and while Avengers: Endless Wartime is not listed in the Kindle or Nook stores right now, that may change by the time it is released in October.
Either way, there is time for the model to evolve, because Brevoort says this is just the first in a series of new original graphic novels.
A few years ago, some wag decided that May 4 should be Star Wars Day (“May the Fourth be with you!”), and it has been a grand nerd tradition since at least 2011. (Shockingly, the producers of the original movie missed the opportunity and released the film on May 25, which I guess is the Orthodox Star Wars Day.)
Star Wars fans have much to celebrate today, and as is traditional with holidays, there’s a big sale as well. The sale is on Dark Horse Digital, which is offering a mega-bundle of 129 Star Wars comics for $100, almost $300 less than cover price. The bundle includes the first three issues of Brian Wood’s much-acclaimed Star Wars, which is set in the original universe of the movie, plus story arcs from the Clone Wars, Knights of the Old Republic, Dawn of the Jedi, and other storylines.
For younger readers there’s also a kids’ megabundle which includes 17 Clone Wars and Star Wars Adventures comics for $30. Page for page this might be a better deal than the adult megabundle, because these are trades, not single-issue comics, so each one has about 80 pages.
The deal is only good till May 5, so act fast!
Meanwhile, there was some good news for fans of Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics at last weekend’s C2E2. Dark Horse has expanded the universe quite a bit over the years, and the comics are generally well regarded, so when Disney bought Lucasfilm, fans were apprehensive that Disney would pull the licenses and turn them over to its own comics publisher, Marvel. At the Dark Horse panel at C2E2, however, editor Scott Allie had reassuring words for fans: “There’s no plans to move anything. We talk to Lucasfilm all the time about it, and nothing has come down from Disney to make any changes,” he said.
Marvel and Comixology announced a few weeks ago that they were giving away 700 first issue comic books. The demand to download them completely overwhelmed the Comixology servers and the vast majority of customers were unable to download even a single digital edition. The two companies have ironed out all of the quirks and have re-introduced the free promotional campaign.
Starting April 8th to April 9th, the signups will open to access 700 first issue digital comic books. You have to sign-up in advance and they will grant your account access for a staggered release. When you receive your invitation code you will be able to redeem it on April 11th, when the free comic program will officially open.
Marvel is hoping to hook people on the first issues of every major franchise during the next week. You can access your comics via Comixology’s Windows 8, Android, iOS, and web based service. Anything you download will be synced in the cloud and accessed on many different devices.
The newest Marvel Comics spinoff envisions a future world in which artificial intelligences take on a life of their own—and are able to spawn new, more powerful and complex AIs without human intervention.
That’s the world of Avengers A.I., a spinoff of Brian Michael Bendis’s Age of Ultron that will launch in July with the creative team of writer Sam Humphries (Ultimate Comics: Ultimates, Our Love Is Real) and artist Andre Lima Araujo.
“It’s a Pandora’s Box situation – once you fire that bullet out of the gun, you can never put it back,” Humphries told USA Today’s Brian Truitt. “The Marvel Universe within the blink of an eye is being colonized by A.I.s who may or may not have positive feelings about the way humanity has been treating them for the past 100 years.”
Regardless of how the A.I.s feel, they must be dealt with and so a new team forms, headed up by The Vision, an android created by the robot Ultron who has been through a number of transformations and is able to form real bonds with humans (he was once married to fellow Avenger Scarlet Witch). Other A.I.s on the team include Victor Mancha (the son of Ultron), a Doombot, and a new character, Alexis, who has one of the most advanced robot bodies on Earth” as well as extraordinarily high intelligence, Humphries says, but whose place on the team and in this new world of humans and A.I.s remains murky. The humans on the team include Hank Pym, the scientist/superhero who created Ultron, and Monica Chang, who comes over from Ultimate Comics: Ultimates as an artificial intelligence specialist from S.H.I.E.L.D.
The key to the story is that the humans can’t overcome the artificial intelligences, so the human/A.I. team must find ways for both groups to coexist. Otherwise, says Marvel executive editor Tom Brevoort, “ultimately the A.I. are going to wipe us out and we’re going to be very sad Cro-Magnons in a very short period of time.”
That gives Humphries plenty of scope to tell some interesting stories, which will exploit both the tension between humans and A.I.s and the potential of this strange new form of being. “Artificial intelligences are a product of human ingenuity, and although they are going to be going down their new path, they will remain a mirror to humanity,” he told USA Today. “Understanding that and exploring that in ways that are going to be funny and touching and endearing are definitely going to be parts of this book.”
Project Gamma adds sound to the comics experience—but it’s not a single soundtrack, nor is it simple sound effects. It is “a unique, immersive experience that brings fully adaptive music and sound together with digital comics to create an entirely new audio-visual event,” according to the Marvel website.
Unlike your standard audio comic, where a single soundtrack plays when the comic is opened or the reader taps a button, Project Gamma will tailor the sound not only to the action in the comic but also to the reader’s behavior. Here’s Peter Phillips, senior vice president and general manager of Marvel’s Digital Media Group said “The music will not speed up as you flip the page,” he explains. “Its modulated in such a way that whether you’re a fast reader or a slow reader, it will stick with you, it’ll be by your side. This is embedded music to enhance the experience of what you’re already enjoying. And it paces itself to how you’re reading. So that’s really the key.
“If there’s a piano expected to be on there for 30 seconds and plays music for 30 seconds, after that time is over it’s going to randomize in a way that’s completely intuitive. As you’re flipping back and forth throughout pages, it’s not going to be buffering; the audio will enhance that experience and take you back to where you were. You’re not going to hear any break in the music.”
In addition, there will be similarities in the music across different comics that feature the same character.
Marvel will roll out Project Gamma later this year and will pair up the new system with comics that have “Big events, big characters—honestly, ones that really lend themselves to music,” according to editor-in-chief Axel Alonso, who also managed to articulate why, exactly, anyone would want this: “It’s not unlike being in a video game, to be honest.”
Marvel Comics had some big announcements at its panel Sunday at South by Southwest. The list starts with weekly digital Infinite Comics, featuring four 13-issue story arcs over the course of the next year; the release of 700 free first issues for a short time; Project Gamma, technology that will enhance comics with sound; online videos about the company, including documentaries on their history; and the previously announced Marvel Unlimited iOS app.
Let’s start with the freebies. Between now and March 12, Marvel is offering 700 issue #1′s for free via comiXology. That’s the good news; the bad news is that the flood of traffic immediately after the announcement apparently crashed the site. Hopefully they will fix the problem quickly so everyone can get their free comics before the deadline.
The Infinite Comics are something Marvel introduced last year at SxSW. These are comics specifically made for digital media (I reviewed one just last week) that eschew the traditional page turns. Instead, a swipe may bring in new word balloons, a new panel, or a change in focus. (Marvel has a demo video on their site.) Up until now, they have been one-offs tied in to print storylines, but now Marvel plans four 13-issue story arcs, starting with Wolverine: Japan’s Most Wanted, which will debut on July 9th. Marvel CEO Axel Alonso told CBR,
What we’re trying to do is deliver a comic book that first counts for the long term fan and they’ll understand how it’s woven into the continuity, and secondarily is exciting to the new or lapsed reader. We want to make sure we use all the bells and whistles and props available on this new canvass to excite people… At the end of the day, you’re left with a very cinematic comics experience. There’s a sense of motion that the new technology allows for that makes for a completely different experience, but the reader still controls the pace of that experience.
The fact that there’s a Wolverine movie in the works is, of course, no coincidence at all. On the Marvel site, Alonso remarks that the writers of the monthly comics will also be working on the Infinite Comics, because they are all part of the same continuity. Marvel is keeping mum for now on the other three story arcs.
Project Gamma will provide audio enhancements to Marvel comics in the form of a soundtrack or other audio cues and will only be available for select comics; in the CBR interview, Alonso allows that he was skeptical at first but added, “Who out there hasn’t had that moment when you’ve been reading a comic book with your iPod on or the radio on, and you found that the music has changed your reading experience?” He called it an “adaptive experience” that will vary depending not only on the story but also the reader’s pace and other factors. There’s a video showing how it works on the Marvel site.
Finally, Marvel plans a series of in-house videos, to be hosted by Blair Butler (Attack of the Show) that will take a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s history.
Last December, I noted that Marvel had quietly released a beta version of its Digital Comics Unlimited service for tablets, and today they made it a real thing with an iOS app and the promise that an Android version is on the way as well. They also rebranded the service as simply “Marvel Unlimited.”
That’s a good description: Unlike the other Marvel app (and comiXology, which runs it), Marvel Unlimited doesn’t sell you one comic at a time; it’s an all-you-can-eat service with a subscription cost of $60 per year or $10 per month (and one of the few criticisms I have of the app is that you can’t find the price anywhere on it). The library currently numbers 13,000 issues. This is a service designed for readers who want to go deep and read all the back issues, not for those who want to get the latest thing. All the comics on MU are at least six months old. But if you’re OK with that, or if you use it as a supplement to comiXology’s Marvel app, it’s a pretty good deal.
The app does away with some of the complaints that people had about the original service: You don’t have to sit in front of your computer to read the comics (the one digital comics experience that is universally loathed), and while Marvel Unlimited on your computer is streaming-only, the app allows the user to download up to six comics to read offline.
How does it work? Beautifully, at least on the iPad. It’s true that the iPad screen is smaller than a standard comics page, but the images are crisp and easy to read. The pages load quickly and navigation around the page is simple and intuitive. There is a panel-by-panel view function, called Smart Panels, but it’s not all that smart. Unlike comiXology’s Guided View, which carefully pulls the page apart into individual panels and letterboxes each one, the Smart Panels feature just chops the page into pieces, each of which may contain several panels. In every sample I looked at, the panels were poorly cropped—either a strip along the edge was chopped off or a strip of the adjacent panel was left in. You can also use the iPad’s pinch-and-zoom to enlarge the page, but you can’t turn the page without going back to the original size. (This is an annoying feature of the Kindle as well.) The good news is you probably won’t have to, as the pages are pretty easy to read. The iPhone is a different matter: The pages are too small to read, and the Panel View is just as bad.
If there’s a problem with this app, it’s findability. The problemis that many Marvel characters are featured in different comics, and there are multiple lines that get renumbered from time to time. As a result, if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for—or even if you do—it can be hard to find things. I read part of Daredevil #1, and when I went looking for it again, I couldn’t find it. There were over 20 Daredevil series listed in the browsing area, but that particular issue was nowhere to be found. I have had similar problems on the website, so I’m not sure if I’m doing something wrong or the comics are just poorly indexed. Even in the best of circumstances, if you’re new to the Marvel universe(s), the array of titles and characters can be daunting. ComiXology does a nice job of organizing comics into story arcs, but Marvel just throws them up there, so it’s a little hard to know where to start and where to go next. In the past, users have complained about gaps in the story arcs, but Marvel is working on fixing that.
Even when I had to read the comics on my laptop, I thought the Marvel Unlimited service was good value for the money. The iPad version puts it over the top. The comics look great, and there are plenty of them. Marvel seems to be pretty serious about putting comics onto the service once they are six months old, so if you’re willing to wait, you can read to your heart’s content at a very reasonable price.
Marvel is offering four free digital comics to introduce readers to the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy, and they have two good reasons to do that: A new Guardians of the Galaxy series, written by Brian Michael Bendis, launched just last week, and there’s a Guardians movie in the works for next year.
The Guardians of the Galaxy first appeared in 1969, as a team of warriors from different planets, each the last of his or her kind, fighting to save the solar system from aliens called the Badoon in the 31st century. That series ended in the mid-1990s, and in 2008 a new Guardians of the Galaxy series was started by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, using existing characters from Marvel’s Annihilation: Conquest crossover event. These are the modern Guardians. Marvel’s problem, at the moment, is that these characters who will be starring in a big movie next year are relatively unknown to the general public.
Enter the digital comics. Each of them will focus on a different character. Bendis told Entertainment Weekly,
Each one is sort of a prologue to the very first issue that lets the readers know who these characters are and what their individual goals are outside of the team. What makes Gamora tick? What secret is rocket raccoon hiding? What cost comes from being one of the galaxies most famous warriors like Drax the Destroyer?
The first, featuring Drax the Destroyer, is available now from comiXology. These comics are part of Marvel’s Infinite Comics line and are made to be read on a tablet; most of the time, a single panel fills the page (sometimes with a second panel as an inset) and a swipe may bring up new word balloons or pictorial elements or a new page altogether. This is a completely different way of reading comics; rather than turning from page to page, the reader stays on a single panel for a while and it changes on each swipe.
On an iPad, the art is big and easy to read. Unfortunately, the art is weak in places; one early panel, in which Drax is drinking from a goblet, is so distorted it looks downright Cubist. The story is straightforward—Drax is hanging out, a trio of beings challenges him to a fight, and they battle for a while before he kind of blows everyone up. The fight scenes are a bit reminiscent of the old Batman TV series, with crazy angles and big sound effects like CRASH and BAM splashed across the page. Once Drax has beaten his challengers, some guy comes along and tells him he is needed on Earth; the Guardians are being reassembled. By the end of it I don’t know that much more about Drax than when I started; he’s a tough guy who usually wins in fights, but then, in superhero comics, who isn’t? Still, it’s a neat little comic, and there are some nice touches; it’s well worth a look just to see the story unfold in a new way.
Buy it in print, get digital for free: Marvel has announced it will include digital codes in its Marvel NOW hardcover graphic novels that will allow the reader to download a free digital copy. They already do this with some of their monthly comics and other graphic novels, and apparently response so far has been good.
Archaia pioneers digital variant cover: The publisher Archaia is working on a new version of Shotaro Ishinomori’s classic manga Cyborg 009, and last week, on what would have been Ishinomori’s 75th birthday, they released a digital preview that included a digital variant cover—one that could only appear on a digital comic. The cover uses the same technique that Mark Waid and Stuart Immonen used in the Avengers Vs. X-Men Infinite comic: Each swipe brings a new element into the picture. You can see an animated GIF of the cover at the link.
Explaining Shonen Jump: Just last week, Viz made some major changes in its Shonen Jump digital comics magazine, changing the name (from Shonen Jump Alpha to Weekly Shonen Jump), bringing several of the high-profile series (Naruto, Bleach, One Piece) in sync with their releases in Japan, and adding some new series. At The Comics Journal, Joe McCulloch has a nice introduction to Shonen Jump, in which he talks about how the magazine differs from its Japanese counterpart (not only does it not carry every series in Japanese SJ, it actually includes series from other magazines) and offers some suggestions for readers who are intimidated by jumping in at chapter 634 of a series.
Taking care of Viz-ness: Meanwhile, Viz is also adding the full-color Dragon Ball manga to the Shonen Jump lineup, and in their regular digital service, they are bringing back the classic shoujo (girls) manga series Please Save My Earth in digital form; you can check out a generous preview here.
How digital differs from paper: Artist Jim Rugg has an interesting post on his blog in which he looks at the print and digital editions of Hellboy in Hell and is amazed at the difference—the digital version is richer and has details he can’t see in print. Rugg then goes all practical and discusses how print techniques can be improved to bring up the standard to digital.
ComiXology continues its march towards world domination: Well, not exactly, but the digital comics distributor has opened an office in Paris to handle its international and foreign-language business.
Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited is an all-you-can-read service that offers unlimited access to a large library of comics. A subscription is $59.88 per year, which breaks down to $4.99 a month, while a single issue of a new comic is $3.99 on comiXology or the Marvel app. The difference is MDCU is a streaming service—you can read a lot of comics, but you have to have a live internet connection, and you can’t download them. If you let your subscription lapse, you lose access to all the comics. The MDCU and the comiXology apps are independent of one another; you can’t sync comics from one onto the other.
I signed up for the MDCU last year, when I was an Eisner judge, and I think it’s a good deal. I needed to read a lot of comics, but I didn’t need to keep them, so it suited me fine. The library is pretty big and leans heavily on back issues, so I can read a whole story arc at a time, but I don’t think it has as broad a selection of new releases as the comiXology app. I wasn’t crazy about the comics reader, though. The service uses Flash, so it can only be read on a computer, not on a tablet, and the reader is kind of clumsy. The two-page spread is too small to read comfortably on my Mac (which has a 15″ screen), the single-page option enlarges the page so much I have to scroll down to read it, and the “smart panels” option (which pans from panel to panel) makes me seasick. Unlike other panel-view options, it doesn’t gray out the other panels, so it feels like you’re sliding across the page.
So I was intrigued when I got an e-mail this morning inviting me to try out their new Beta for iOS devices, and I checked it out. This is not an app, it’s still browser-based, but the Flash is gone and the reader is simpler. Beyond that, it’s simply more comfortable to read a comic on a tablet than on a computer. In single-page mode the page fills my iPad screen and is very easy to read. Arrows on either side of the page and a slider at the bottom are the only navigational tools, so there’s no clutter. The old reader felt like a frame around the screen, while the new reader is unobtrusive. In landscape mode, the two-page spreads are small, but with the iPad’s retina display (and the fact that I can hold it close to my face) it’s still readable this way. There’s supposed to be a panel view option, but I couldn’t find it. On an iPad it’s not necessary anyway. On the iPhone, the comic appears tiny. The reader supports pinch-to-zoom on both devices, but it’s jerky and sometimes causes the page to disappear. On the iPad, it somehow shrank the comic to iPhone size, but refreshing the screen brought it back. One thing that takes getting used to is that unlike just about every comics app, this reader doesn’t turn the page with a swipe—you have to use the arrows.
The developers may not have worked out all the bugs yet, but if you just stick to the page-turn arrows, the iPad version of the MDCU is a much more comfortable way to read comics than the computer version, and even the iPhone version is fine if your eyesight is good.
If you want to take the MDCU for a test drive, the video chat service ooVoo is offering 30 days for free if you sign up with its service, or you could just get a one-month subscription for $9.99. Some comics are available without a subscription, but the tablet beta seems to be for current subscribers only—I wasn’t prompted to use it until after I logged in.
The email I got promised that improvements, as well as an Android version, are on the way. I have to admit I haven’t used my MDCU subscription recently, but the ability to read on my iPad has me interested again.
Disney made waves when it acquired Marvel last year and fans all over the world are going to be seeing even more superhero movies in the near future. Today the company has acquired LucasFilm for over 4.03 billion dollars. This gives Disney the full rights to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Industrial Light and Magic, and Skywalker Sound. Disney also confirmed that a new Star Wars will come out in 2015 and new movies will be released every two years after that!
Last June, Lucasfilm owner George Lucas announced his plans to retire, and named producer Kathleen Kennedy as chief executive of Lucasfilm, which he wholly owns. Once the Disney acquisition is complete, Kennedy will become president of Disney’s Lucasfilm unit and report to Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn.
“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next,” said George Lucas, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lucasfilm. “It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime. I’m confident that with Lucasfilm under the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, and having a new home within the Disney organization, Star Wars will certainly live on and flourish for many generations to come. Disney’s reach and experience give Lucasfilm the opportunity to blaze new trails in film, television, interactive media, theme parks, live entertainment, and consumer products.”
The deal is more or less all complete, but is subject to the whims of the Regulatory authorities, who must still approve the acquisition before it can close. Here is hoping for Disney remakes of Day of the Tentacle!
Thanos the Mad Titan took the Marvel Universe by storm when he wrecked havoc with the Infinity Gauntlet many years ago. Recently he was showcased in one of the end-scenes in the most recent Avengers movie. A new mini-series was set to be launched in the next few months that chronicled the origins of our favorite super-villain. It was set to be penned by writer Joe Keatinge and artist Rich Elson. Marvel has now cancelled this series with no rhyme or reason.
Thanos creator Jim Starlin was pissed at Disney and Marvel when his beloved creation was in the Avengers movie. He never received compensation for the character being in the movie and no royalties were ever issued. He mentioned in a recent interview that “This is the second film that had something I created for Marvel in it – the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor being the other – and both films I had to pay for my own ticket to see them. Financial compensation to the creators of these characters doesn’t appear to be part of the equation.”
Marvel is reportedly struggling to find records relating to the period in the mid-’70s when Thanos debuted in its comics. This factor is probably the main reason why the digital comic series was cancelled.
Marvel Comics has enjoyed a resurgence in the last few years with their official apps for iOS and Android. Both of these platforms are currently being maintained by Comixology and both companies enjoy a great working relationship. Today Marvel has announced a new single issue digital exclusive deal with Comixology that will make their content available via comiXology’s Digital Storefronts for brick-and-mortar retailers.
The Comixology-powered Marvel Comics app launched in 2010 and has remained one of the top grossing apps in the iTunes store and Google Play Market. This year Marvel has been on a mission to offer their digital versions the same day as the print ones come out. They even have offered incentives for people who buy the printed versions to get the digital editions for free.
Marvel fans will enjoy continued access to single-issue digital comics via the Marvel apps available for Apple iOS and Android, as well as the new web-based Marvel Comics Shop , all powered by Comixology. Marvel comics can also be found on the Comixology platform available on Apple iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, and their main website.
The main part of this deal is the enhanced distribution method for both Marvel and Comixology. When you download the official Marvel app you have to register for a Comixology account. This will sync all of your purchases across all of the platforms and allow you to access any of your digital comics on the official Comixology apps. If you wanted to buy new Marvel single issues, you don’t even need the dedicated Marvel app anymore, just the Comixology version.
“As the industry leader, Marvel is committed to growing the comics market through digital innovation—and bolstering our existing partnership with comiXology continues that,” explained Peter Phillips, SVP & General Manager, Marvel Digital Media. “This agreement is a huge win for current and future fans of the Avengers, X-Men, Spider-Man and Marvel’s entire library of exciting characters.”
Marvel released their first comic a few weeks ago that used their new Infinity Digital format. This is a very unique experience that gives you full HD comics on the new Apple iPad. It provides innovative features not found on any other platform and gives you a robust format to read your comic books.
The first comic we reviewed for this new format was Avengers VS. X-Men and is entitled “Infinity 1.” Honestly, I love the new comic format and hope the company releases new editions using this platform. You no longer have to pinch and zoom to make text readable. When you read in landscape mode the comics are full page and every different page is unlike the last.
When you turn a page you are greeted by a unique experience. You might have a full color image and when you tap on the right hand side you will see different boxes of text appear. On the next page you might see three different panels appear and then a fourth when you hit the page turn button. In other cases there is cool animation where a character will appear in the background and then appear incrementally closer.
Many comic book companies offer a guided view technology that gives you the ability to view the content, panel by panel. I don’t like this view because it tends to be slower and makes it harder to digest what is happening. The advance of Infinity is an unique way of displaying comics that is innovative. It does not hinder the reading experience and instead actually accentuates it.