By Todd Allen

There’s a new wrinkle is the burgeoning battle of digital exclusives.  Marvel has signed a digital exclusive with iVerse.  I know, you’re thinking “Marvel has all their new comics with Comixology.”  Yes… but that’s in English.  Marvel just signed with iVerse for every other language.  And that Marvel just handed a multi-year deal to someone else is awfully interesting.

This isn’t the first deal iVerse has done with foreign languages.  They’ve been translating Archie into Spanish for awhile now.  Marvel has the potential to be a much bigger deal.  I spoke with iVerse’s head honcho, Michael Murphey, and he said to think of it in terms of Marvel’s foreign box office.

I popped over to Box Office Mojo and here’s what I found for the global split on Marvel’s movies:

  • Amazing Spider-Man: 65.1%
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence: 60.9%
  • Thor: 59.7%
  • Avengers: 58.8%
  • Captain America: 52.1%
  • X-Men Origins: Wolverine: 51.8%
  • Iron Man 2: 49.9%

Now, to be fair, foreign box office includes  a few English-speaking countries like the Australia and the UK.  Still, the movie audience for foreign language Marvel would seem to be a bit over 50% of the of total audience.  The theory being that comics should behave proportionally to the movies and if you have native language editions around half the total digital sales ought to be foreign and thus double your existing English-only circulation.

The general idea, as Murphey puts it, is to make the translated comics “look like they were always intended for that language.”  Some countries will already have some translated print editions of Marvel and some won’t.  They will have seen the movies.  Murphey’s looking at this in a fashion similar to anime spawning the manga industry in the US, hoping the translated editions will take off “much the same way manga has come over here.”

The plan is to launch in Fall 2012.  The early releases will be in Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. iVerse will add languages each month as they roll out and they’re looking at an initial “double digit” list of languages.

Coinciding this foreign push with the Marvel Now initiative probably makes for good timing.  I wouldn’t want an entirely new audience jumping into the middle of a multi-title crossover as their introduction to Marvel’s comic product (as opposed to film).

The foreign initiative will formally be called/branded “iVerse International” and they’ll be looking to get on every platform that they can.  It will be particularly interesting to watch their progress in Japan, since digital comics have been a staple in Japan, particularly on cell phones, for the better part of a decade.

Murphey also says “no partner is off-limits” for iVerse International and was hinting that more announcements would be forthcoming.

So there you have it.  Marvel and Archie are going international.  Marvel gave iVerse the foreign language exclusive for single issues and graphic novels (iVerse will continue having the graphic novels in English).  And I guess we’ll start seeing what the foreign digital demand is when you open it up to native languages.

Marvel’s official press release follows.

Marvel Entertainment Signs Exclusive Foreign Language Digital Comics Agreement With iVerse 

New York, NY—September 19, 2012—Today Marvel Entertainment, one of the world’s most prominent character-based entertainment companies, announced it will exclusively distribute single issue and collected edition foreign language digital comics worldwide with iVerse, an innovator and unique voice in the mobile publishing field.

This multi-year agreement reinforces both Marvel’s position as one of the leading global entertainment brands and the number one comic book publisher in the world, while also bringing its unparalleled library of popular characters and acclaimed stories to the widest possible global audience. This foreign language content will launch in late 2012 with staggered releases worldwide.

“Marvel and iVerse both recognize the opportunity global publishing content expansion brings to Marvel fans worldwide,” explained Peter Phillips, SVP & General Manager, Marvel Digital Media Group. “This partnership with iVerse allows us to introduce Marvel’s rich history of exciting, action packed stories to new audiences who want to know more about the Avengers, Spider-Man, Wolverine and more in their native languages.”

Marvel and iVerse first partnered to distribute single–issue, English language digital comics in 2009. The ComicsPlus app, available through the App Store and Google Play, currently offers a robust selection of Marvel Digital Graphic Novels.

“At iVerse we believe that there is an unprecedented opportunity to expand readership by providing content in readers’ native languages,” said Michael Murphey, CEO, iVerse. “We are lifelong fans of Marvel – their characters and their content. It’s truly an honor to be able to partner with them to bring this spectacular content to the world on as many platforms as possible.”

Soon you can experience the greatest comic books, featuring the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and more worldwide in foreign languages for the first time ever in the digital realm!



  1. Questions:
    What stake do the foreign print licensees have? Or did Marvel retain those rights?

    How does this compare to the Disney Digicomics offerings? Ehapa’s website directs to the German iTunes Disney store, run by Disney Publishing Worldwide. (Where the comics can be read in “German, Bokmål, Norwegian, Danish, English, Finnish, French, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish”.)

    How much of Marvel’s catalog has been translated in various languages? Are the translations up to date, or dated? (And should they be updated, like Marvel tried for a few months in the 1980s when they reprinted the Ditko & Lee Spider-Man stories?)

    If Disney can produce digital comics in-house, why not Marvel? Or why not have DPW produce the digital comics, just like DPW produces the comics magazines for Marvel?

  2. Hmmm… searching various German comics publishers, it seems there are not many e-books or digital comics available…

    If there are no territorial limitations on whom can buy where, then a clever retailer could market these to Germany directly.

    And since many German fans do not wish to wait for the German translations, and read the original English comics, a retailer could easily set up a mail-order business to Germany. (Or even set up a small warehouse in Europe fed by Diamond UK which mails the English comics to European addresses…)

  3. Holee…. here’s an example of readership from Ehapa (the German licensee of Disney comics):
    Germany has a total population of 81 Million. People age 0-14 years make up 14% of the population. Ehapa’s calculations below total 6 million kids.

    In the U.S.? 20.2% !! (Sixty. Million. Children.)
    So those circulation figures below? Multiply them by ten to get what the U.S. could do if it had Germany’s saturation and distribution.

    (“Gesamt” = total, “Jahre” = years, percentages use commas instead of periods) This is “reach”… eyeballs. Micky Maus has a weekly circulation of about 180,000 , but a readership of 708,000 (each comic is read by four kids). Of course, many adults read it as well, so that reach could well be 1 Million or more. But these are figures for advertisers, so only kids are tabulated.

    Barbie: Gesamt 4-13 Jahre 4,8 % 362.000
    Cars: Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 3,6 % 218.000
    Donald Duck Sonderheft (special edition):
    Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 8,3 % 511.000 (70/30 m/f)
    Hello Kitty: Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 4,4 % 269.000
    Das Lustige Taschenbuch (a monthly paperback, 5.50 euros):
    Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 11,1 % 682.000
    Micky Maus Magazin (weekly):
    Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 11,6 % 708.000
    Disney-Prinzessin: Gesamt 4-13 Jahre 3,9 % 292.000
    Spongebob: Gesamt 4-13 Jahre 5,6 % 420.000
    Wendy (a horse magazine for girls):
    Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 7,0 % 430.000
    Winnie Puuh: Gesamt 4-13 Jahre 3,4 % 256.000
    W.i.t.c.h.: Gesamt 6-13 Jahre 2,4 % 147.000

  4. Torsten, you made me do a quick google:

    The Dutch “Donald Duck” weekly reports a circulation of 298.650 (for a total population of 16.7 million) and claims to reach a whopping 35% of all 8-to-12 year olds.

    I’m not sure, but this all sounds like iVerse, rather than local licensees, will be handling the translations. As a professional translator, I feel a sudden urge to send in my resume.

  5. Soleil is not a major actor in the French bd numérique scene (unless you consider le kiosk something relevant or are really into Lanfeust.) For French comics, you either have izneo or, to a minor degree, avecomics (there’s also digibidi, but they don’t even seem to have an app, only a flash reader!) What I’m wondering is how this deal will work considering Panini’s large number of translations. And I wonder if iVerse will make you buy a copy for each language or if comics will have multilingual options or something.

  6. The translation angle is interesting!

    You see, Disney (via CrossGen) owns the American patent for a digital comics reader.

    In that patent, a screenshot is shown (Figure 10) where a user can change the language displayed (button 304).

    The translations are probably work for hire, and probably belong to Marvel, which can reprint them via whichever publisher has the current license. (German readers: Has Panini reprinted any of the Condor Verlag translations from the 1980s?)

    I’ve heard that Denmark has the highest circulation for Disney comics, which is why Don Rosa’s stories always appeared first in Danish (since he only earns royalties on the first publication, not on subsequent translations or printings).

    (Apparently not true… Finland has a greater circulation. Perhaps the royalty is better?)

    Denmark Anders And & Co Donald Duck 52 52,773 376,000 7.1 Egmont
    Basserne Beetle Bailey 26 13,789 .. .. Egmont

    Finland Aku Ankka Donald Duck 52 324,500 1,076,000 3.3 Sanoma
    Roope-setä Uncle Scrooge 12 79,525 .. .. Sanoma
    Nalle Puh Winnie the Pooh 12 46,960 .. .. Sanoma

    Iceland Andrés Önd Donald Duck 52 .. .. .. Edda-útgáfa hf.

    Norway Donald Duck & Co. Donald Duck 52 99,216 604,000 6.1 Egmont/Orkla5

    Sweden Kalle Anka & Co Donald Duck 48 83,000 288,000 3.5 Egmont

    (issues per year, circulation, readership, readers per copy)

    Donald Duck magazine:
    Denmark 7 readers per issue
    Finland 3.3
    Norway 6
    Sweden 3.5

    (Yes, Beetle Bailey is very popular in Scandinavia!)

    So… if you can convince just ONE of those ancillary readers to buy a digital copy for their own personal reading, then you’ve doubled your readership.

    If iVerse works well with Marvel, might they then get to market the foreign Disney comics as well? Because… that’s where the true Bombastium is.

  7. I had no clue about ebooks in French, I just remembered that Marvel had a deal with Soleil for some print titles and wondered if it carried over to ebooks. Thanks for the clues!

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