Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Marvel to Offer Digital Backissues

Marvel Comics has announced they will be doing aggressive online launch of current and classic comic book titles. Marvel has had limited "dot comics" availability in the past, but the December 14th announcment makes it clear that Marvel views digital presentations in Flash format are a part of Marvel's marketing future.

As Cinerati has discussed before, comic books are in many ways "loss-leaders" for the companies that produce them. When an excellent print run of a comic book is 100,000 the profit margin on a monthly basis is fairly low. In order to make reasonable profit comic book companies rely on either licensing of their intellectual property or, in the case of Marvel, the release of IP in other formats. Both DC and Marvel, as well as other comic companies, release their intellectual property in the form of movies, action figures, and games. In the past, Warner Bros., who own DC Comics, have had one up on many competitors in that they were able to reap all the profits from their theatrical releases. Marvel on the other hand has had to deal with unpaid licensing fees. The recent struggles over the Spiderman franchise have led Marvel to create their own production studio. Warner is still reliant on other companies, among them ToyBiz the owner of Marvel Comics, to produce their game and action figure merchandice. Marvel has had an advantage in the toy market since they were acquired by ToyBiz when the action figure manufacturer realized it would be cheaper to buy, the then bankrupt, company than to pay licensing fees.

Marvel's press release (below) focuses on how the digital comics will introduce the comics medium to a new audience, an audience who consumes Marvel media in other formats. Marvel gets a double benefit out of the deal. First, some who read the digital comics will want to read the real thing and thus increase the profit of the loss leader. Second, the digital comics work as a permanent advertising campaign for Marvel intellectual property. Fans of the Fantastic Four movie who eagerly await the next film (to be released in 2007), will be able without charge to read the past and continuing adventures of the Fabulous Foursome.

For those who think current fans will be disgusted and end their comic purchasing ways, remember how few you really are and that new comics like Nextwave will not be offered in the digital format. If the only comics "hits" Marvel gets are digital, they will make sufficient profit on the other media to compensate and new fans will want physical copies. In other words, the disgruntled will be replaced and the market may even expand.

Wouldn't you, the comic fan, like to share your hobby with a new generation? Think of the Dot Comics as Afternoon Cartoons that require kids to be able to read. That's the right mindset.

Marvel is embracing the digital medium as a second loss leader and shouting out to the competition, "It's Clobberin' Time!"

MARVEL GOES DIGITAL! HOUSE OF IDEAS LAUNCH CLASSIC & CURRENT COMIC TALES ONLINE!

Industry giant Marvel Comics has launched their popular characters and their adventures into the digital realm. Marvel.com is to be host to online versions of classic and current tales of Spider-Man, the Hulk, X-Men, and more. Stories from throughout the company’s long history will be translated into a form that can be viewed right off the fan-favorite website.

“There are two audiences that we're trying to reach,” observes Peter Olson, Creative Director, Online for Marvel Entertainment. “For people who have only been exposed to our products through movies and TV, we want to use this as a vehicle for introducing them to comics as a medium. For our long-time fans we feel it'll be a good way to check out titles they aren't familiar with and also to catch up with our archives.

“I'm working on a classic X-MEN run right now, actually,” he says, with the gleam of a true fanboy in his eye.

Although a black and white version of a Nextwave digital comic was shown to a select group of the press, there are no plans to make the digital version of this comic available to the general public. Nextwave #1 (Diamond code: NOV051973) will be available in local comic shops on 1/25/06.

Marvel is truly excited about the launching, especially concerning the technology being utilized. Every effort is being made to make online comics viewing a joy for the fan. “The reader is extremely flexible,” says Olson. “It allows the user multiple ways of
going through an issue, including a very innovative ‘smart panel’ mode that allows the reader to focus on the book one panel at a time. It provides convenience for the user as they can read their favorite comics from any computer with an Internet connection.”

John Dokes, Marvel Director of Marketing and Business Development, is understandably proud of this new venture, as well as eager to receive feedback on its operation. “Offering Marvel’s characters and stories in a new way such as this is something we’re very passionate about. We believe that there’s a large percentage of comics fans that will simply love to view our comics online and we hope we can all work together to make this as pleasurable and successful an operation as humanly possible.”

“The thought that classic Marvel tales and their current counterparts are being translated into the digital realm is as exciting as it is comforting. They’ll be preserved and strengthened for future generations.”

As this new feature of Marvel.com ramps up, the posting of stories will increase. “We'll be adding several new issues every week. Eventually it'll be up to one new issue every week day.” Dokes points out.

To view the newly launched Digital Comics, visit http://www.marvel.com/digitalcomics/catalog/catalog.htm

To find a comic shop near you, call 1-888-comicbook
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