Marvel-unlimitedMarvel’s library subscription program used to be called Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited A.K.A. Marvel DCU – an in-joke at DC’s expense that likely flew over the head of anyone who didn’t go to the comic shop on a regular basis.  Marvel’s rebranding it and tweaking it a bit.  They’re also talking about it ahead of their SXSW panel on Sunday.  Some of the changes are new, some aren’t.

First off, the name is changing to “Marvel Unlimited.”  That makes more sense, especially in an age where Marvel’s movies are ruling the box office and there’s more chance to get the general population to see the app.  There’s now an iOS version, so you can *finally* see the material on the iPad and iPhone.  (This goes back to the old DotComic program, which was Flash-based.  Marvel’s finally gotten around to upgrading to an HTML 5 system that’s compatible with Apple products.  Technically, you can blame Steve Jobs and his hatred of Flash for why the old DCU didn’t work on your iPad.)  That’s been announced, but it finally came live.

There are two new bits of information that are also interesting, but not just to people with Apple products.  These are revealed via the Gizmodo blog.

The first interesting one is letting you store up to 6 issues on your device for offline reading.  That’s probably enough for a one-way daily commute (both ways if you’re fortunate), but is a drop in the bucket for a road trip or plane flight.  Says Gizmodo’s Kyle Wagner:

Something like 12 or 15 would be infinitely better, but 25 was at least suggested, and seems like a really nice number. Marvel’s being understandably careful about demolishing day-and-date sales, but Phillips says, “We’re listening.”

I’d call that a step in the right direction.

And here’s the other one that might get a bit interesting:

The comics available through MU are all at least six months old, and while Marvel wouldn’t commit to every title making it into the service, SVP of Marvel Digital Peter Phillips told us most major titles “should be in there at six months; we’re pretty timely with that.” Basically, it’s like waiting for the trade.

This isn’t exactly _old_ news, so much as it’s been sneaking up on people.  Phillips isn’t about to announce it as a feature of the service, but $10/month (or $60/year with the current sale) for all/most of Marvel’s monthly output on a 6 month delay?  That’s starting to get interesting.  Correction, that would get interesting.  Currently the app lists most of the major titles as having April 2012 issues as the most recent.  So that’s more like an 11 month delay.

It would be a lot more interesting if there was a binding understanding of exactly what you can expect to be added from month to month.  The biggest complaints about the old DCU program were the lack of iOS support (fixed), lack of off-line reading (could use a little more work, but being addressed) and a perception of haphazard content assembly.

By haphazard content assembly, I mean seemingly random issues being put online, not always in reading order.  Now, there are a LOT more issues up now, but that image has lingered.  It would be good to _know_ when you could expect current titles to be added.

But, all things considered?  Positive trend.  I’m now considering the service and I really hadn’t been before.

I downloaded the iOS version of the app on an iPad and flipped through a few of the free issues.  It’s definitely readable.  Phillips sounds like he’s moving in the right direction, so I’m curious what else comes out at SXSW and what the next upgrades teased at by Gizmodo turn out to be.


  1. The most interesting piece of news I heard was that Marvel Unlimited and the comics available from Comixology use different scans. Seems like a waste of effort. Why not just use the same for both?

  2. You can store up to six issues for offline reading? Really not impressed! The Dark Horse, DC, and Vertigo apps store everything on the iPad which means I can read them offline anytime. And many, many of the Dc and Vertigo trades are now available from the iBooks store as well. Again all iBooks are sorted on the iPad and you back them up to the Cloud or to your computer. Once backed up, you can delete them from the iPad as you wish and re-add them as you wish

  3. “Technically, you can blame Steve Jobs and his hatred of Flash for why the old DCU didn’t work on your iPad.”

    Actually you can still blame Marvel. While the Flash Player never made it onto iOS (except for those who rooted their phones) Adobe introduced a way of compiled Flash applications to iOS. Apple did block Adobe initially, but this lasted only a couple of months in 2010 before Apple relented (possibly before a massive anti-trust lawsuit happened). Now there are many thousands of Flash based apps in the iTunes App Store. Adobe’s own Photoshop Touch for iPad & iPhone is Flash based and Apple included it in their best apps of 2012 list. Apple has featured a number of other Flash based apps in their iTunes store, so it seems to be all water under the bridge and it’s not like Apple is even allowing it but looking down upon those apps, it’s just not an issue anymore.

    That said, while iOS devices have gotten faster, most Flash content can’t just be pushed from desktop to mobile, some work still needs to be done to optimize the content.

  4. @matthew, that’s all well and good, but the old DCU was browser-based and that’s not supported. That’s why you see all the work-around app articles like: or

    @Nicholas – You’re actually buying the issues (or at least a license for the issues). Marvel Unlimited is pure rental.

    That said, there appears to have been an exaggeration with the description of how fast things are getting uploaded.

  5. I was able to download the app, login, and read ETERNALS #1 ON MY FREAKING PHONE. In what universe is that not utterly awesome? The interface is 1000% times better than the the old browser and they got it up just in time for SXSW. Bravo Marvel — again.

    First thing I read: “Outer space technology translated in terms of mythology — Incredible!” Do you DOUBT KIRBY? If you like Marvel, the subscription is well worth it.

  6. @Nicholas What Todd said.

    And Marvel’s first comics app (the one powered by comiXology) works the same as DC’s and the others. That being said, I do wish they could have found a way to integrate the functionality of the Unlimited service into it instead of having a separate app.

  7. Todd Allen, yeah but Marvel could have spent a small amount of time & money on porting the browser-based Flash app over to iOS so that it was a downloadable app on iOS. In the end they have made an app for iOS that I imagine is what the majority of the people are going to use, rather than read issues in the browser. The only difference now is that it is an HTML5 based app in a native wrapper (I’m guessing using PhoneGap which is also from Adobe) rather than it being Flash based.

  8. I think I am going to give this a try. It looks like the newest comic is about 13 months old. Does anyone know how much history there is in back issues? There are some comics that I have never really gotten into, but if I had this and all the back issues were there, I’d definitely want to check them out.

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