The Other Shoe Drops: Marvel Online

I haven’t bothered talking about Marvel’s Digital Comics Unlimited. (DCU — and that’s the difference between Marvel and DC. DC, if they came up with a Marvel-related name, wouldn’t use it.) That’s because I don’t care. You can’t download the comics, so you have to be tethered to an internet connection to read them. They haven’t been designed for online, so they won’t be a good reading experience on my laptop. They aren’t considered a product in themselves, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to read complete storylines or that comics you’re interested in won’t expire. They’re protecting their retailers with a six-month posting delay, so you won’t be able to read what people are talking about in a timely fashion, which is the kiss of death for a periodical with an implicit expiration date.

Wow, I guess I did have something to say about them. Anyway, that’s not the point. Why I’m posting is this: because of Marvel’s online comic effort, they’ve yanked the license for those wonderful DVD-ROM comic compilations as of the end of the year. If you’re interested in any of them, buy them now (complete product list).

The good news is that they’ll have Archie compilations coming in 2008. Hopefully, those products will have more attention to detail (like accurate and honest creator credits) than the usual Archie historical project.

Similar Posts: The Other Shoe Drops in Archie CEO Battle § Archie Digital Comics Launches § ArchieComics.com Redesigned, Drops News History § What’s Going on at Archie? § Read Drinking at the Movies Pages Online


12 Responses to “The Other Shoe Drops: Marvel Online”

  1. Jer Says:

    … and that’s the difference between Marvel and DC. DC, if they came up with a Marvel-related name, wouldn’t use it.

    So … you’re saying that DC is slightly smarter than Marvel?

    Anyway – while it’s good to see media companies start to take an interest in this new-fangled “Internet” thing, Marvel is once again showing that they don’t quite get it. The six-month is the killer – the rest of their proposed system are bugs to work around, and user complaints and constant tinkering could eventually shake out the problems. But the six-month delay kills the utility of it completely.

    Eventually, one of the “Big Two” are going to take the plunge and have some number of “web exclusive” series that run online only (the way both Marvel and DC did with the Direct Market back in the early 80s), with an eye towards the eventual collections, rather than just taking stuff they’re already selling off-line and digitizing it. They’re letting the indie guys take the lead on this model (much like they did with the Direct Market model back in the day), and I’m sure that they’re afraid of ticking off their Direct Market retailers, but it’ll happen eventually.

  2. Dave Says:

    “So … you’re saying that DC is slightly smarter than Marvel?”

    My take on Johanna’s comment was that she was not referring to relative intelligence but rather Marvel’s punk/adolescent propensity to look for any way possible to take the piss out of the Distinguished Competition. DC seems to have a bit more class.

    Other than that, it seems some further discussion (harkening back to Brian Hibbs’ trade vs. singles/publication date debate from last month) is in order. I’d like to see someone come up with a web publication model that serves three purposes: 1)stands alone as a viable format (I agree, I don’t like reading traditional full-page comics on the screen) 2) drives potential readers to the singles 3) drives potential readers to the collections.

    I think we are now looking at three distinct markets but there is the potential for the different markets to cross-pollinate (I like that better than “feed off each other” which is what I started to type….).

    Just a for instance: I’d like to see some mechanism where, when the first volume of a series is released in TPB, the TPB includes an un-lock key that would allow you to read all subsequent single issues up to but not including the latest release for free. When volume 2 is released, that offer goes away, but is carried forward from the last issue to be collected. That would beone way to leverage the strengths of each format to keep the audience interested.
    I’ve purchased a few CDs in the last few years that offered something similar with a free bonus track for download (polluted with all kinds of DRM crap, but still….). It seems like something similar could work here.

    I’m just brain-storming here but I think the potential is great if someone can come up with the right model and a way to market it. The real weakness right now is more related to hardware. Digital music was not really on the public’s radar until the iPod (i.e. the killer app) hit the market. Until something like a very cheap, very very lightweight and durable tablet PC for displaying text hits the market, I’ll stick with the printed page.

  3. Johanna Says:

    I wasn’t thinking of intelligence or class but either fear or discretion, depending on how you want to phrase it. DC almost had a character named “Marvel” until cooler heads prevailed.

  4. jamesmith3 Says:

    It’s quite surprising that a company which co-owns “superhero” failed to lock down its own initials.

    I don’t understand the problem with the 6-month lag. It’s necessary, unless every online account gave a fee back to ComicsPro or something. Sort of how public performances of music pay back to ASCAP and BMI.

  5. Tim Says:

    Minutes before reading this post I was checking out the free preview comics they offered. On my 22″ screen 1650×1050 they looked awful. Full of jagged pixels and hard to read text. Their claims of image quality are laughable.

    Before checking it out I thought the biggest downside was that you needed internet access. Now I realize that the biggest downside is the comics are nearly unreadable.

    Do those DVD collections have higher quality images? If so I might have to invest in a few.

    Stupid flash… I love how DC previews (well at least Vertigo) are downloadable .cbr. If Marvel offered this service with something like that I would be all over it.

  6. James Schee Says:

    I tried the “free” samples and was really annoyed. Since at least the ones I tried would let you read about 4 or 5 pages then tell me “this book is available only to members.”

    My impression was that you were supposed to get an entire issue at least.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Reportedly, the system downloads the entire issue to your browser’s temp folder, so if you access it that way, you might be able to read the entire sample.

    I agree, that’s a terrible impression to leave people with, an online bait-and-switch.

  8. James Moar Says:

    You can see all of the free issues, but you have to do a free signup to Marvel’s site first. (Still gives a bad impression, though)

    Also, you can actually see the first six or so pages of any of the pay comics without signing up.

    I think they’ve, quite understandably, blocked the thing with the temp folder now — for the first few days, it was downloading the whole thing into the folder even for the pay issues.

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  10. Jer Says:

    I wasn’t thinking of intelligence or class but either fear or discretion…

    That’s what I was figuring you meant, but rather than “fear” or “discretion” I assumed it was “good business sense” – why go out of your way to build your trademarks around a mark that your competitor already has a claim on? At BEST you’re going to be giving money to your lawyers that could have gone into the business itself (or to your shareholders). At WORST you’ll build up a name for yourself only to have a court order you to change it – after giving money to your lawyers that could have gone into the business itself. A whole lot of stupid for what is, essentially, a juvenile ego tweak. Not that a ton of what goes on in the comics industry between Marvel and DC isn’t juvenile ego tweaks, but still – the corporate lawyers should have taken one look at that and said “um – come up with another name, dummies”.

    That said, I’d like to comment on this:

    I’d like to see someone come up with a web publication model that serves three purposes: 1)stands alone as a viable format (I agree, I don’t like reading traditional full-page comics on the screen) 2) drives potential readers to the singles 3) drives potential readers to the collections.

    2 and 3 are mutually exclusive with each other, for the most part. If you are giving away/selling content on the web. If you’re buying collections, why buy singles? Especially if you can read the digital equivalent of the “singles” for free/cheap online? This is what the “six month gap” is supposed to take care of – to artificially give a reason to drive people to pick up the singles. That would work better if the digital versions were free instead of a pay-for subscription since the free views from six months ago could lead you to pick up and pay for the current issue and become a regular reader. But if you have to pay for the digital, then pay again for the single, you’re much more likely to just read the digital version and pick up the trade collection when it hits the shelves.

    I’ll also note that CrossGen comics pretty much explored these business models years ago with disastrous results – they could only get people to buy the same single issue so many times before people got fed up and stopped. CrossGen had a LOT of issues that Marvel doesn’t, but it still looks like Marvel didn’t bother to pay attention to all of the mistakes that CrossGen made before jumping into the digital arena this time around.

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