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This past weekend at the SXSW (South by Southwest) Interactive Festival, Marvel announced a new focus on digital content that covers the entirety of their brand. From free comics to sound being implemented in your digital reading experience, Marvel had a lot to say at their press conference. gamma

The first big announcement was Project Gamma, which is promising to be an adaptive audio experience that adds music, voice and sound while you read your comics digitally. Marvel AR has done bits of this in the past when you scan the comic’s AR code, but Project Gamma is hoping to make the digital reading experience more expansive and in-depth. Marvel SVP Peter Phillips explains:

“What we’re trying out here is something that allows us to take musical scores — not lyrical music, but score music — that is thematically linked to the stories and the characters. Not only that, but timed in a way that it’s paced.”

Editor-in-Chief Alex Alonso expanded:

“What comic book reader out there hasn’t, at some point in time, been reading a comic book — you’ve got your iPod on, or something’s blasting in the background, and then the magical moment where the music complements your read? The enthusiasm in the room for this was incredible. Most of these guys have music dancing in the back of their heads when they’re writing this stuff. The moment we’re able to open this up so the creators can be involved, and they’re thinking about this as they’re doing things, we’re stepping into whole new territory.”


Another thing announced at SXSW was Marvel #1 in which Marvel, through ComiXology, would be releasing 700 (or close to) free comics, new and old, for people to download onto their digital library. David Gabriel, SVP of Publishing explained:

“One of the great things about the Marvel Comics App is its immediacy. Unfortunately, as much as we’d love a comic shop to be 5-10 minutes away from everyone’s house, it’s not the reality. For folks who have a vague interest in Marvel, or have seen the movies, the cartoons, wears the apparel — this is the easiest way to get them into our Universe. Then, from there — we’ve seen folks go straight to their local comic shop and become a regular Wednesday Warrior.”

On why the decision was made to give 700 of their new and old issues away for free, he had this to add:

“We stand behind our product 100% and beyond. Between the best talent and editorial staff in the business, we decided to show everyone how much we believe in the material by letting them try the first issues free because we’re confident they’ll come back for more. New fans can discover the exciting adventures of characters they love on the big screen and hardcore fans can perhaps try out a series starring heroes they’d never considered before.”

Since the announcement was made, ComiXology’s servers have taken a major hit, causing a plethora of outages, errors and lag, with a number of people unable to download the comics. Because of this, ComiXology decided to halt the promotion until they can get their servers under control. The promotion will still happen, and those with an order confirmation will get their orders redeemed as soon as possible, but for now the promotion has ben stopped. To learn more about the situation and how to be notified when it goes live again, ComiXology CEO David Steinberger wrote a blog post with all the details.

Also announced at SXSW was a new focus on original video content entitled “Marvel Original Video” which will be launched this summer. Already announced is “Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Show” which will be hosted by G4 alumni and comic writer Blair Butler, and an untitled reality/documentary series.

What are your thoughts on all the announcements? Would you like sound and/or music in your digital comics? What about Marvel #1? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

4 Responses

  1. thisjohnd

    All this sounds great as long as it works properly. I recently bought a smartphone so I’ve been trying to use the Marvel AR and it’s very hit-or-miss. Occasionally when it works it’s a nice little supplement to reading a book but mostly I find little reason to actually use it. This music incentive could be interesting but the stuff I’d rather have Marvel AR be used for is telling backstory and history on certain characters so that I don’t have to run to Wikipedia every time I come across a reference I don’t understand. I’ll adopt a wait-and-see attitude to Project Gamma, though it’s a shame they aren’t using lyrical music because something like the fight scene in Young Avengers #1 could really come to life using this service.

    As for the Free Marvel #1s, I’m torn between being excited and disappointed. I think the idea of it is a great step toward a digital future that has me interested in purchasing this way once again. However, this massive outage is just another reason for me to stay away from digital full-time. I understand that outages like this Comixology one is very rare but it still reminds me that these comics are not tangible and can easily be taken away with one major online hiccup.

    • thisjohnd

      Also, if Marvel wants to sway its readership to go digital, the best thing it can do right now is not add new features or give away free comics but instead lower prices. I see no reason that new books should be the same as their print counterparts. At the very least they should drop prices of older books the same way that DC does now. Ideally if all their books were $.99-$1.99, I’d probably go all digital.

      • Travis McCollum

        I feel you on the Marvel AR thing. At first it worked fine and actually ended up being a big help (case in point: the issue of A Versus X in which Black Widow and Magik fought while speaking Russian and the AR translated it for you) but I’ve found as time goes on that it can be a bit too sensitive and only work about 40% of the time. I’m still holding out hope, as I’m going to be getting a new phone here shortly and it could just be my phone, but I wish they could update it to lower the sensitivity to a more reasonable rate.

        I am excited for Gamma, only because while I am a print guy, it would be nice to see my digital copies have some added benefits like sound and music. Might be cool to play them concurrently while I read. But like AR, it really does come down to whether or not it works.

        Yeah the #1s thing has proved to be a really interesting experiment. Like I said I’m a print-only guy, but the prospect of suddenly having a large digital library to work with sounded like something that would interest me and if nothing else a couple of friends who may or may not be regular comic readers. But there are some hiccups, as evidenced by the server blackouts, and that does worry me, as only about half of my downloads have actually shown up. But I remain optimistic that ComiXology and Marvel will get it all sorted out. Who knows, this could be great for the company. But I am in a wait and see mood as well.

      • Travis McCollum

        And I do agree that lowering prices would probably help the digital buying base more so than what it is at right now. That’s one of the big detractors to me. If you’ve seen the Unlimited feature I did though as well today, maybe that could be something utilized in the future…for a price.

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