Marvel Launches Digital Comics December 15, 2005GiantPanda 16 Comments Apparently, Marvel announced the launch of digital comics yesterday according to a post at The Beat. To read the complete comics you need to register, which according to the website is free.
Comparing a single title by a single creative team to an entire product line consisting of many titles produced by many different writers and artists seems like apples and oranges. Or apples and apple orchards.
To be honest, I think it’s probably more “worried” than “interested”
They attempted to break into the internet back in 1996, and apparently it didn’t succeed financially. There were no great profits. There was no massive upsurging of internet inhabitants to purchasing Marvel’s products. Instead, it was a fairly “ho hum” response… and Marvel shrugged and moved away.
Look what’s happened since ’96. Keenspot. Modern Tales. Black Label. A fairly extensive indie cred. Websnark. Comixpedia. And so forth down the line. None of these have been wildly successful (in terms of what the dotcoms of old behaved) but they’ve still been successful, making a modest-to-moderate profit.
Further, there are tens of thousands of webcomics out there.
Indeed, the Internet has become the new gathering ground for the Indie crowd. Ten years ago, before the bottom dropped out on print comics (well, might be longer than ten years ago actually) there were people who would create a comic book and self-publish! There were even guidelines (one written by Cerebus) concerning the best way to go about and do this!
I don’t know if it was greed on the part of the Big Two (Marvel and DC) or what, but prices started pushing up. People couldn’t buy a thick stack of comics for $20 a week any longer. And those people who enjoyed the indies as well as the main two (or maybe instead of) found they had to choose: Marvel and DC… or the black and white comics that amused them. (Add to that paper prices started going up as well and even the indies started to suffer.)
It no longer cost $3,000 to print five hundred comics and distribute them. And it’s hard enough to cough up $3,000, let alone whatever it costs these days. But… on the web, you can put up your comic book for free. And sure, you won’t get anything for it, but you’ve not spent thousands of dollars for the risk of no profit at all.
The problem (for Marvel) is… the audience who was reading the indie books are not spending their money on Marvel Comics now that the indie market has been stomped upon a few times. Instead, they’re giving up. They’re not spending their money on Marvel’s substandard fare, and in some cases are giving up on comic books entirely. Marvel’s audience is getting older… and shrinking.
The movies are no doubt a combination of two things. First, they give Marvel a boost in profits (as a successful Spiderman movie is financially a windfall, and even a mediocre film such as Fantastic Four can still bring in modest profits (for a film – compared to their print line, I could see the FF film possibly being fairly significant). Second, they encourage some people to start reading the comics.
If Marvel had thought things through, Spiderman would have been entirely digital as of the first movie. Once they saw what a success it was, they could have immediately put the Spiderman books on-line and drawn in new fans with the rich history and detailed backstory. Instead, they sat on it. They squandered an opportunity… and I’m unsure if now, after two blockbuster Spiderman movies, if putting their archives on-line will really draw in the fans of the movies.
It may possibly be too little, too late for Marvel to benefit from their archives on-line. Instead, they should be looking to putting forward internet-exclusive works, and when those works are complete, put out print compilations, much like Studio Foglio has done with Girl Genius. But there seems to be considerable doubt if Marvel would actually do something like this, despite the savings in printing costs.
But it may be our pessimism is ill-founded. Who knows…
Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews
I see. The new comic interface is only slightly different from the old DotComics interface. Thanks to “whomever” pointed that out. 😉 I admit I like the “smart panels” of the new Digital comics, but that may be what’s wrong with it. Print comics are not webcomics. All they have to do is look around to see that. Still, this is an interesting development, the sign that Marvel is either willing to come to terms with the web or worried about the web.
TC’s got a neat potted history of WebMarvel past in his blog. I agree about the interface and resolution.
Apparently Marvel considers this the next step in Dotcomics actually (basing that on this which says the internal codename has remained Dotcomics). The EIC is claiming to have seen the light, it remains to be seen if they’ll give it their best shot (rather then the half-assed shot they’re known for ;)).
I didn’t actually know about Dotcomics, and while I’m hesitant to call this a move to “webcomics”, I do hope it is. Instead of a random selection of comics, they actually appear to be the first ones in the “series” they’re in. So #1 in this particular spider-man series, #1 in this particular Captain America series, etc.
For those who would like to see the Dotcomics engine and the comics they had digitized you can find them here. Although ssssh. Don’t tell anyone I told you 😉
Marvel has been doing these sort of online comics for YEARS, haven’t they? DOT.COMICS, I think they used to call them. I remember reading them way back in 2000, I think. They would publish issues of their hottest new comics online, stuff like ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1.
Unless they plan on publishing EVERY current issue online (or more than just a handful of issues), this doesn’t seem to be a change from what they did before.
Really? Could you expand upon that?
This isn’t a launch. At best it’s a relaunch.
How soon they forget.
The viewer is nifty, but the resolution is horrible for those zooms.
And it’s hilarious how the graphic elements with text, have the text written over the graphic with very out of place looking Flash text (like the aspirin or the Magazine cover). It’s important though, so we know she’s just taking aspirin. 😉
I know. I just finished going over at that site and looking things over.
I’ll actually be writing up a fuller review tomorrow at Tangents. It looks interesting. I hope that Marvel takes this seriously, and follows the Girl Genius model. Though it would be interesting… this could be the death-knell of mainstream comics, if Marvel and the other companies stopped printing comic books and instead did electronic comics and print compilations.
But Studio Foglio has shown that this system works, and works quite well. This might be the future of comic books… and web comics.
I can see them putting out original online stories and maybe even a series of their more popular characters w/ tie-ins to print comics.
I like it as well. It’s a bit buggy (coded bugs), so it will take them a while to get use to publishing comics with it. And it’s also different enough from other systems, to cause me some problems. So it’ll take me some time to get use to it as well. But all in all, not a bad system (although the writing did get small in some cases).
I hope your wrong on all counts, because I’d like to see the big comic publishers continue to embrace digital comics more and more (and for this to happen, it requires the digital comics to become a success).
You’re wrong on the behind six months count, because the Spiderman issue they’ve published was originally published in October, 2005. I can actually see them publishing online and in print simultaneously (or as simultaneous as the process allows them to), once they’ve caught up.
As for it killing the sale of old comics, if Girl Genius is any indicator, they’re actually going to sell more then ever. Since going online Girl Genius has sold out in many of it’s books/issues because of the boost in sales because of the online comic. I’m pretty sure the amount of money the GG guys are making is either the same, or has increased.
Having said that, GG is actually good. Really good. It’s original, and a great comic (in both the webcomic and print comic worlds). Marvel’s comics, well, they’re old and not the greatest (IMO). So I can see them not having the same success as the GG guys.
I’m as excited as the next guy that a major comic publisher is deciding to give wbecomics a go. But are they truly webcomics? Can I expect every Spiderman to be published online within this particular continuity (I’ll admit, I don’t know how the Marvel thing works) until they decide to stop doing webcomics? If not that, will I get all of this particular storyline?
The first issue of Spider-Man: The Other has been published (which was in the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man series). Will they now publish part two which is in the Marvel Knights Spider-Man series? Or will they publish the next Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man issue? If they do publish the next Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man issue, can I still follow the storyline? Or am I going to need to buy the other issues?
If they do complete the Spider-Man: The Other storyline, will they continue to publish Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man issues online? (Assuming the series is still around of course). Will they publish all 3 series that are part of this cross-over online? Will it be the next issues in whatever series they continue to publish? Or will it be previous already completed storylines?
I never got into comics before I found webcomics. Sure I’d brought one or two books here, and I enjoyed them enough. But I never read anything more then that. I never felt they were good enough to buy more then that. So I’d like to use this opportunity to get into the (albeit bad ;)) marvel comics, but if it isn’t going to be any continuous series, just stand-alone storylines, then it isn’t really a webcomic. It’s just an expansion of the online advertising they’ve done before.
Having said all that, they do seem really excited, and are saying things like people checking out their archive. So here’s hoping they’ve decided to go the route of Girl Genius (publishing actual series (rather then storylines) online to boost book sales) and are going to do this properly.
Well, I’ve been expecting this for a bit now. I suspect what Marvel will end up doing is keeping the on-line archives at least half a year behind the print run, to encourage people to buy the older comics.
I bet this is going to kill the sales of old comics, with the exception of those that are true collectibles (such as the Death of Superman (for DC) or Peter Parker’s marriage and the like).
Robert A. Howard
The “smart panel” thing. Pretty amazing.
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