But they are their own comics!
Marvel’s much rumored online initiative was made public in several news stories today, starting with USA TODAY:
The comic book industry makes a long-delayed step into cyberspace today when Marvel Comics unveils the industry’s first online archive of more than 2,500 back issues, including the first appearances of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk.
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will offer the archive in a high-resolution format on computer screens for $59.88 a year, or at a monthly rate of $9.99, at marvel.com.
New issues will be put up six months after they are released in to the direct market, a far longer period than the 36 hour delay in posting to pirate sites, as someone alludes to in the article. The comics will NOT be downloadable, however. They will only be able to be read at the Marvel site via a Flash interface.
In a show of journalmalism rarely seen in comics book quarters, writer David Colton actually asks questions:
To help sell the experience to an audience unaccustomed to paying for content, Marvel will offer a free sampler of 250 titles. Asked why people would pay for superheroes when newspaper websites have been unable to charge for content, Buckley says, “You can get the news anywhere. We’re the only ones who have Spider-Man.”
The AP’s piece is even more analytical:
Still, it represents perhaps the comics industry’s most aggressive Web push yet. Even as their creations — from Iron Man to Wonder Woman — become increasingly visible in pop culture through new movies and video games, old-school comics publishers rely primarily on specialized, out-of-the-way comic shops for distribution of their bread-and-butter product.
“You don’t have that spinner rack of comic books sitting in the local five-and-dime any more,” said Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing. “We don’t have our product intersecting kids in their lifestyle space as much as we used to.”
After even a brief consideration, it’s self evident that this is an inevitable move. It’s also another coffin nail in what we think of as “normal” distribution of comics periodicals. We’re not for one moment suggesting that the graphic novel or book is going to go away — however, the normal means for dissemination of periodical comics, whether in strip or story form, is swiftly moving online.
Our second question, as prompted by a saucy Beat correspondent: are creators getting royalties on these comics?
PR in the jump:
For the first time ever, Marvel Comics, a division of Marvel Entertainment, Inc. (NYSE: MVL), is opening its comic book vault to the masses and making its legendary Super Hero(TM) adventures available in one location with the launch today of its online subscription service Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Curated by Marvel editors, this ultimate digital comic Internet destination allows unparalleled access to thousands of titles from Marvel’s historic comic book archives – from the first issues of Amazing Spider-Man, The X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Fantastic Four and other favorites, to unforgettable recent storylines, mini-series and special issues. The easy-to-navigate Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited site presents each digital comic in the highest-resolution ever available and offers innovative viewing options, user-friendly search and recommendation features, and personalized reading list tools. Accessible by both PC and MAC users directly through Marvel.com/digitalcomics as well as via the www.marvel.com homepage, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will have subscription rates as low as $4.99/month — making it affordable to new readers and longtime fans.
Also, for a limited time only, Marvel will offer audiences the opportunity to experience Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited at no cost with a special free sampling of 250 titles. Featuring a mix of epic classics and current favorites, the free sampling program will enable users to get a true sense of this highly appealing and unique Marvel Comics online service.
“We are truly excited to be able to present in one location such an expansive treasure trove of Marvel Comics’ favorites to a mass market audience. We wanted to make sure we presented a site that would set the standard in digital comics and offer readers an affordable way to experience our vast archive of content,” said Dan Buckley, President, Marvel Publishing. “With Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, we believe we have built a state-of-the-art online destination that will not only engage comic book readers of all ages, but also serve as the ultimate complement to our primary comic hobby market print business through which all new Marvel Comics monthly titles will continue to be released before their availability in digital format.”
At launch, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited offers more than 2,500 comic books. Each week, Marvel will add at least 20 additional titles to the site that will be chosen based on editors’ picks and subscriber requests. The initial offerings will run the gamut from unforgettable classics, to current favorites, to titles designed for young readers.
Selected highlights include:
— The first 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man
— The first 100 issues of The Fantastic Four
— The initial 66 issue run of Uncanny X-Men
— The first 50 issues of The Avengers
— The issues marking the first appearances of such Super Heroes as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, Thor, Daredevil, and Silver Surfer
— The issues marking the first appearance of such renowned villains as Dr. Octopus, Sandman, Lizard, and Dr. Doom
— The issue that showcased the first appearance of Spider-Man’s black costume
Recent and Current Favorites
— Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men
— Selected titles from the Ultimate line including: Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic Four and The Ultimates
— The House of M
— Amazing Spider-Man
— New Avengers
— Young Avengers
Young Reader Series
— Marvel Adventures Spider-Man
— Spider-Man & Power Pack
— Marvel Adventures Avengers
— Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four
— Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius
Each Marvel digital comic will be presented in the highest resolution ever available. To ensure this, Marvel has gone back to the original source material and optimized it for the web by painstakingly re-coloring and re-digitizing select content.
To further enhance the online reading experience, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will offer three distinct viewing modes. Subscribers will be able to read the books in traditional single and double-page formats. Additionally, Marvel has developed an innovative, patent-pending “Smart Panel” viewing feature. In this mode, viewers will be presented with an unequaled experience as they are taken panel-by-panel through the comic book in a smooth, action-packed progression.
The user-friendly nature of the site enables subscribers to easily navigate this ultimate Marvel Comics collection. Readers can search in a variety of ways, including by character, creator (writer and illustrator), specific book title, mini-series, and date of publication.
The site’s recommendation engine will also provide subscribers with top selections based on member feedback and ratings. Additionally, subscribers will be able to customize their experience by building personal reading lists that can be shared with other members.
John Dokes, Vice President of Online Operations and Marketing, Marvel Entertainment, commented, “With Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited we have created the simplest way for fans to have instant access to our comic book content. All someone needs is an Internet connection and a computer. We have made it so that our content can be read seamlessly online, without the need to download material.”
Look for more details as they become available.