Today, Marvel announced that they would be discontinuing the “free digital copy” incentive that currently runs through their single issue comics. In its place, Marvel has decided to launch a new program that will offer two or more bonus digital titles to readers when they purchase a physical floppy comic. However, the books offered through this new program will be older comics which Forbes characterizes as “existing moments into the Marvel Universe [readers] may have missed in the past.”

One of the first two comics that will be given away after the program’s launch on February 1st is Civil War II #0. According to Marvel sales director Jim Nausedas, this specific giveaway is timed to “promote the CIVIL WAR II collection on sale that month.” This fundamentally shifts the nature of the digital incentives program from one that allows readers to create a digital backlog of their purchases to one that encourages cross-promotion and Marvel brand saturation.

While a number of Beat staffers, myself included, never used the digital codes that come with Marvel titles, many Twitter users were bereaved by Marvel’s announcement.

Stephanie Cooke’s tweet thread points out that the old digital copy system made it much easier to read while commuting.


According to Nausedas, the new program is designed to create “create repeat retailer customers” at comic book shops. Graeme McMillan, however, has doubts about that.


This sentiment is supported by an excerpt from Charles Paul Hoffman’s tweet thread on the subject:


Al Kennedy points out that, given the way this announcement is worded, it seems like readers who buy multiple Marvel books each week will end up with a lot of redundant codes.


This tweet thread from Sergio Alexis explains how many Marvel users used the old incentive system to introduce the Marvel titles they were interested in reading with family and friends (incidentally, this is the only way I personally ever used the codes):


While it remains to be seen how this paradigm shift will affect Marvel’s physical comics sales, it is clear that many readers are displeased with the change for a variety of reasons.

In my opinion, Marvel’s usage of Civil War II to promote this new digital program was a huge misstep. This event comic was largely panned by critics and readers. It has become the most recent example of corporate driven comics designed to promote sales through shock and name value over actual content. Associating the program with this title has served to transfer its negative reputation to the new initiative. Perhaps we’d be reading a different story today if the program had kicked off with first issues from more critically lauded series such as Ms. MarvelMoon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, or The Vision.


  1. Imagine how they’ll feel when they find out that DRM means Marvel can take away access to all the digital comics its customers have ever “bought”, any time, for any reason.

  2. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but people are complaining about getting 3 comics for the price of 1?”

    From what I can tell it sounds like this:

    Old way:

    Buy Moon Knight, Amazing Spider-Man, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Silver Surfer, and then you get a digital copy of each of those issues. Four issues = four digital copies.

    New way:

    Buy Moon Knight, Amazing Spider-Man, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, and Silver Surfer, and then for each title you get the exact same codes for the first issues of Civil War II, Captain Marvel, and Old Man Logan. Buying four physical issues = three digital copies of other comics.

  3. I made heavy and extensive use of the digital codes. As the physical quality of Marvel’s books declined when they started self-covering around the launch of the first Marvel NOW, it kept me buying the individual issues from my local retailer. It made me stomach the 3.99 price point, since I was getting a more portable, accessible copy free of the bumps, creases, and humidity damage they’re prone to in their current form. Admittedly, I’m buying far less now than I was then. (I’m down to Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Squirrel-Girl, with Scarlet Witch wrapping up next month and Vision in the rear view mirror.) But there were books that were interesting me based on reviews from these past couple weeks that I probably won’t be picking up now, at least not from my LCS.

    Still, it could be worse. They could have held off on announcing this altogether. This way, I get to notify my LCS to cancel my remaining Marvel pulls, in full knowledge that they can still adjust their FOC numbers to reflect this. (My shop isn’t losing me, mind–plenty more to read out there.

  4. With the emphasis on digital copies of old issues, this sounds like Marvel has discovered that digital readers are…SHOCK…readers and not collectors, meaning they don’t give much of a flip over Marvel’s back catalog or latest “big event.”


  5. I just informed my LCS that I am out. First, D.C. was irritating me double shipping all of my favorite titles and now this. I need to take another 90’s style break and build my silver and bronze collections. Hoopla has all of the current D.C. trades and Marvel Unlimited covers the rest. Peace out, to the big two.

  6. Elephant in the room: A LOT of people who didn’t care about digital give their digital codes out online to others so they can get a free book. I wonder if they’re trying to cut back on this type of “friendly pirating”?

  7. It probably isn’t happening, but dropping the in-kind codes would make sense if Marvel is planning a cover price reduction (perhaps for a “Marvel Now Rebirth”-type event?).

  8. I enjoyed the digital copies simply because I could read my comics anywhere. I travel for work a lot and enjoy catching up or re-reading on planes, for example. It made the $3.99 price more palatable. Taking the digital copy away is a big value hit for me. As an avid Marvel reader, I will already have copies of just about every book they’ll be giving away in the new promotions. Very disappointing.

  9. I am definitely disappointed by the news.. I’ve been an avid user of the codes. I liked having the issues on hand and I liked having a digital back-up of my current collection too. So I could read my books at home if I wanted, or choose to read them on a tablet/phone on the go. This is definitely going to affect my buying. I will probably switch some purchasing to Comixology and away from the retailer, and will probably wait for trade for some others because it is generally better dollar value than single issues.

    One more annoyance for me is that I commit to pre-order some comics (for better discount) and I put in my order for February’s books last week. If they had made this announcement prior to that, my order would have probably been different.

  10. My local comic shop is who loses in this. I greatly prefer to read my comics on my tablet. Much more portable than a stack of floppies. If I have to buy my comics digitally to get the digital versions now, I will, which means no more physical copies from a brick and mortar store for me.

  11. This is too bad. This is the only reason I picked up a physical comic in store at all. My local comic shop will lose out, at least for me. The bonus digital edition was the only incentive to purchase a physical copy.

  12. I began reading via digital and I’ve only been a customer at the local comic shop for the past two months because of Marvel’s free/bonus digital copy. I just started subscriptions to 8 Marvel titles and with this change, I’ll be cancelling 7 out of the 8 subscriptions.

    Great move Marvel. I guess now I have more funds available to buy all those Image TPBs on my wishlist – from Amazon with Prime 2-day shipping, that is. o_o

  13. AND it’s reasons like this that the December order I just placed for my store has the LOWEST Marvel total in almost 10 years. They would love for all of us to go out of business and go digital only because of keeping all the money. Unfortunately for them, it’s the LCS that get people to read new books. Without us on the front lines it’ll be very hard to promote new books without just giving them away for free.

  14. Purely a guess: the redemption rate for the codes is a meaningless number — 1-5% — and Marvel genuinely is trying to do something that brings more value to more potential readers.

    (I think one of the barriers they’re facing is how relatively difficult it is to redeem the codes)


  15. There’s really nothing stopping them from throwing in a couple old digital issues along with a digital copy of the issue you bought. Much like currently when you put in some codes and an extra free digital promotion comic will pop up. That would have been a nice, best of both worlds option to me.

  16. I strongly suspect the main use of the code was in forum where people traded or sold them. That obviously amounted to lost sales. In addition, from everything I’ve read online it doesn’t seem like it’s a bad move from Marvel, most readers are just saying they will switch to digital only (more profit for Marvel) and the one that are –very– critic are the usual haters that probably doesn’t even buy Marvel books.

  17. @Brian Hibbs
    Yep, redemptions as a percentage of Marvel’s total sales are probably meaningless for Marvel, sure. However, for a smaller LCS that’s already barely making ends meet, losing one or two customers who only buy for the digital codes – probably not so good.

    As a customer, I really don’t find this change as bringing more value. If Marvel continued providing the free digital copy and was giving 1-2 bonus issues in addition, that’s adding value. Replacing the free digital copy of a new release with an issue that was released 6+ months ago that I can and have probably already read via Marvel Unlimited, not so much.

  18. Personally, I redeemed every one. I then promptly bagged and boarded the new issues, and read it on my iPad via ComiXology. I loved it that way. Oh well, I was looking for a reason to leave 3.99, deconstructed, protracted comics behind.

  19. Seems to me this will simply push people to pirate more frequently.
    Those who want their current issue on digital but were buying the physical to get it could potentially simply move to more morally ambiguous means of getting those digital copies.

  20. I myself redeemed every code. So I didn’t have to carry my comics around and get them all damaged. Sad thing is they will keep price at $3.99 and throw in old digital copies that most people may own or read already. And if you buy multiple titles you still get the same issues for all your digital codes. Not good business. Marvel makes me sick to my stomach.

  21. I bought 10 comics from my local shop in February and ended up with a total of three free digital comics i didnt want and already had on MU that i will likely not use. I bought 10 comics in feb, dec & jan, got a total of ten digital comics free each month that i actually wanted and have used in multiple ways. Now that I wont be able to get the digital version on the various current works i was following, I would have to by both get what i was, meaning i wont by as many now. Further more DC has the pay a dollar more to get both option, so you basically drove me to dc. I now plan to only keep up on one of the ten i was current on due to this and am starting up good ol batman. this was huge blunder to me, i will be done with marvel after venom madness.

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