The webcomic space is heating up even more: Marvel has just announced a huge relaunch of their Marvel Unlimited app. In addition to offering digital versions of Marvel’s back catalog, the app will offer all-new “Infinity Comics” – which are essentially comics formatted to be read on mobile platforms: full screen high-resolution vertical comics designed for phone and tablet. The app launches with 27 new Infinity Comics by some of the industry’s biggest names including Jonathan Hickman, Declan Shalvey, Skottie Young, Dax Gordine, Alyssa Wong, Nathan Stockman, Kelly Thompson, Gerry Duggan, Lucas Werneck and
Jeffo Geoffo – with more to come.
Characters featured include X-Men Unlimited, Giant-Size Little Marvels, Captain America, It’s Jeff, Black Widow, Amazing Fantasy, Deadpool, Shang-Chi, and Venom/Carnage.
The debut title is X-Men Unlimited #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Declan Shalvey. While the new app is launching with 27 issues, there are plans for 100 more issues by the end of the year.
So yeah, it’s big.
With DC rolling out its own Webtoon collab this week – to some acclaim – it’s clear that the Big Two have finally realized that getting kids to read comics about superheroes on their phones is a good way to extend the reach of their characters to new readers.
The two companies have very different approaches, however – DC teamed with a big existing player (Webtoon) and gave creative control over to mobile native creators. The approach definitely worked for the launch with Batman: Wayne Family Adventures.
Marvel, by contrast, is sticking with names best known in the direct market (
although maybe some surprises as the inclusion of Jeffo – a YouTube creator – suggests. That was actually a typo – the artist is Geoffo, who has done various thigns for Marvel and even Webtoon). As you can see from the screen shots, the launch titles include Giant Size Little Marvels, Captain America and Black Widow – creative teams are not immediately evident, however the quality is high. Marvel did not release images from the actual comics, so here’s a screenshot of X-Men Unlimited from the trailer (above.)
Unlike Webtoon’s transparent system of likes and subscriptions, it’s not evident how we’ll be able to see what’s popular on the app. And of course DC’s comics are free; Marvel’s are not.
The launch was teased on social media this week, including this Tweet, which led to a mixed reaction on Twitter.
“The goal for Marvel Unlimited has always been to provide the best digital experience for our fans by giving them direct access to all of their favorite Marvel comics. With this relaunch, we’re bringing fans an even richer experience with Marvel stories designed in a vertical format for the first time,” said Dan Buckley, President of Marvel Entertainment in a statement. “Our new Infinity Comics give our creators a chance to tell stories in entirely new ways, and we’re looking forward to connecting our fans to those stories in the months to come.”
Marvel Unlimited launched in 2007 as a before-its-time streaming service for comics – for $9.99 a month (or $69.99 for the year) you got access to over 29,000 comics as of this date. New comics were originally put on a six month delay from their print release, although that changed to a three month lag in recent years.
Some may note that “Infinity Comics” sound a lot like “Infinite Comics,” a previous umbrella term for Marvel’s original digital offerings. In the past the term referred to comics with added VR content – this time out, they seem to be just good old scrolling digital comics. No need for bells and whistles, as we learned the hard way.
The initiative launched in close collaboration with Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) technology team and promises to “dramatically improve how fans discover and read comics.”
The app now has unlimited downloads, so fans can dive into new stories anytime and anywhere. The app also features best-in-class speed and search tools, greater stability, as well as personalized reading guides based on user preferences. Other new additions include content sharing capabilities outside of the app, an annual plan app subscription option, and new comic titles added weekly. New titles are added as soon as three months after they’re in stores.
“These updates and a focus on personalization will allow us to reach a new generation of Marvel fans and enhance the experience of current fans,” said Doug Vance, VP of Product and Marketing, DMED Technology in a statement. “When we redesign apps like this from the ground up, we align with business goals of our different partners and subsidiaries of The Walt Disney Company with the ultimate goal of growing our audience and digital subscriptions while also delivering an even more visually immersive experience.”
The new app will also integrate with existing Marvel Insider members, allowing them to earn points, see their progress as they consume, and get rewarded for returning to the app.
And here are some screenshots – the new app looks to have great functionality based on this – as well as full color headshots of your favorite Marvel creators, always a plus.
More to come!