Marvel Digital Originals Are Hard to Keep Track Of
Various publishers have smartly created digital comics to tie into popular movies or video games. In addition to providing obvious starting points (sometimes a huge problem for superheroes with decades of history and multiple titles), they also mean a better chance of getting a hit when someone is randomly typing in a search online.
The problem with these comics is that they can’t really change anything or do anything significant with the character. They’re not “real” in the eyes of comic fans and publishers, you see — they want the boost from the additional media audience, but they often don’t value customers unless they’re willing to sign on for weekly purchases.
That’s why I was surprised at how well-done the recent (beginning last summer) line of “Marvel Digital Originals” was. Each of the five titles consisted of three digital issues (45 pages for $3.99, which is a bit pricy for online issues, but the same price as print comics these days, which are half the length). They came to print as complete graphic novels for $20 (or $14-15 with typical discounts), or the whole storyline digitally for $11. Here are some Marvel press release quotes:
From Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski, “It’s an innovative new format, perfect for new readers who can come in and get double-sized digital comics. It’s always important for us to strike a balance between new readers and the old school, hardcore fans. And Marvel Digital Originals are perfect for that because not only do they tell stories in continuity with the classic characters, they’re also the perfect gateway for new readers to discover comic shops around the country.”
“With the Marvel Digital Originals, we have an unbelievable slate of characters TORN from your small screen, come to life on the comic book page with these crazy amazing stories that you’re never going to forget,” says Executive Editor Nick Lowe.
I don’t know about that… some of them did keep my interest, though. And I liked that the inside cover of each collection listed other books to read more about the characters. While it would be nice if Marvel would realize digital is just a better format for some people, I know retailers appreciate the lip service to trying to get fans into stores.
In case you were wondering about the imprint, Marvel seems to have given up on updating the series page on their website, so here are the books involved.
The line kicked off with Jessica Jones: Blind Spot, written by Kelly Thompson and illustrated by Mattia De Iulis and Marco Takara. A woman is found dead in Jones’ PI office, someone from a case she didn’t solve six years ago. It’s snappy, it’s immediately intriguing, it tackles hot-button current issues, and it fully plays into the Marvel universe in a way the fractured (based on who’s licensed what) TV shows can’t. In additional to baby daddy Luke Cage, this book guest-stars Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Misty Knight, Elsa Bloodstone, and several other heroes whose presence I won’t spoil. Easily the best read of the bunch.
This one got a sequel, Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter, out just now.
Luke Cage: Everyman, written by Anthony Del Col and illustrated by Jahnoy Lindsay, wraps together a Harlem heat wave, class warfare, CTE (brain damage caused by too many hits), and killer diseases. It’s thought-provoking, and I loved seeing Cage worrying about being a good dad for his adorable daughter while fighting for justice. (That’s a big difference from the TV shows — both of these books firmly rely on the Jones/Cage family, which I enjoy.)
Two Marvel books in a row I liked? This line already has a better track record than the regular Marvel periodicals!
Cloak and Dagger: Shades of Grey moves away from the Netflix shows for one that airs on Freeform (a channel owned by Disney, as Marvel is). It’s written by Dennis Hopeless with art by David Messina, Elisabetta D’Amico, and Francesco Manna.
Fans of the show will find this quite the departure, as the title heroes have split up. They’re ten years into their relationship and living on different coasts. (I know a lot of superhero writers want to get work elsewhere, but I’m pretty tired of the “it’s hard to make it in Hollywood” setting.) Plus, they’ve got to stop a mass murderer from their own past. Not a great read, but it’s at least trying something meaningful. They also got a sequel, Cloak and Dagger: Negative Exposure.
Iron Fist: Phantom Limb, by Clay McLeod Chapman and Guillermo Sanna, I didn’t bother with. I don’t like anything about Iron Fist.
Daughters of the Dragon: Deep Cuts, written by Jed MacKay and illustrated by a bunch of people, is a surprise, since Misty Knight and Colleen Wing haven’t had their own show. This collects three different stories which vary in interest and achievement, but together, they give a good idea of the characters’ range.
This particular set of collected editions wasn’t the first time Marvel did something like this, by the way. There’s also a line of Marvel Premiere Graphic Novels that came out every few months last year to tie into various movies (with the exception of the first). At least the name has gotten more descriptive in the current go-round.