NYCC 2012: Marvel Digital Looks to INFINITE COMICS Future

Friday Morning, Marvel hosted their annual House of Ideas: Digital and Infinite Comics panel, which promised to touch on everything from Marvel's digital and Infinite comics, to their recently introduced AR content, to their social media presence. Hosting the panel was Marvel's Director of Communications, Arune Singh, joined by David Gabriel, the Senior VP of Sales & Circulation, Kristin Vincent, the Director of Product Strategy & Digital Media, Senior X-Men Editor Nick Lowe, writers Mark Waid and Matt Kindt, Ryan Penagos, AKA Agent M, and Steve Wacker, who Singh introduced as "the star of TV's Mad Men."

The first topic of discussion was Marvel ReEvolution, which Singh has declared is "not a spelling error," but a concept introduced at the SXSW music festival which aims to update, integrate, and evolve all aspects of Marvel's product line, with a particular focus on digital comics. According to Singh, thousands of fans are downloading and enjoying Marvel's digital content on their mobile devices, which Marvel hopes will encourage people who don't have regular access to comic stores to seek out their product.

Something many fans may not know is that Marvel gives fifty cents to retailers for every redemption of a free download code from their print comics that were purchased at that retailer. At this point, digital redemptions have returned nearly $200,000 to retailers, and the program will continue for at least six months, through Marvel NOW!.  Nick Lowe described the situation as "Win, win win!" and Singh said, "Retailers are the lifeblood of this industry, and we wouldn't want to do this without them." Additionally, it looks like the AvX hardcover will include download codes for digital copies of all the individual issues of AvX, AvX Vs., and the Infinite Comics tie-ins.

On the topic of Marvel NOW!, David Gabriel described the relaunch not as "rebooting, but recharging." Numerous Marvel NOW! titles will include an increased amount of AR content, including appearances from celebrities such as wrestlers Diamond Dallas Page, who has a particularly insane AR segment in issue 1 of Waid's Indestructible Hulk, and Hulk Hogan, whose energetic recording session caused Agent M to "transcend his body" with excitement.  

Next, discussion turned to Marvel's Infinte Comics, comics designed specifically to make use of digital media. Waid said that Infinite Comics offer opportunities for unique storytelling devices, and evolving art. "The only place I can surprise a reader in a print comic is on the upper left panel of a page," Waid explains, "But because Infinite Comics are based on screens, not panels, there are more opportunities for 'Oh my God, he's dead!' moments." 

In honor of Spider-Man's anniversary, New York has declared Sunday "Spider-Man Day," and Marvel is releasing a free Spider-Man Infinite Comic, wherein Spider-Man meets New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Several fans, including one dressed as Marty McFly, were invited onstage to preview the book. The reviews came in, and they loved it. McFly compared it to a cut-scene from an old school video game, where you're being taken through a story, rather than just reading a comic. 

Steve Wacker was presented with a signed proclamation from Mayor Bloomberg in honor of Spider-Man Day, which Wacker described as "loved by Mayor Bloomberg, hated by J. Jonah Jameson." Mark Waid is encouraging fans to take pictures of Wacker with the large, formal looking Proclamation, and photoshop the text of the document.

Next up, Kristin Vincent took the stage, proclaiming that "women DO work in comics!" Wacker feigned indignation, proclaiming that he's there to represent the "men of Marvel." Vincent announced that, by the end of the year, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will be available on iPads and other mobile devices, and that early next year, there will be an app that allows fans to queue books to read even when they don't have internet access.

Vincent also instituted a program at SDCC, that is continuing this weekend, called Marvel Advisors, which allows fans to provide feedback about Marvel's product line and web presence. She compares the process to the dialogue between fans and creators from old-school letter columns. One of their main goals is to revamp the Marvel website to provide "full service editorial content," and to update the user interface, and add new social features.

A fan wanted to know whether AR content will be available in Infinite Comics, but Lowe and Wacker said that you'd have to have two devices. Lowe said, "I guess you could scan your iPhone with your Android," to which Wacker responded, "But the spacetime continuum would collapse - don't cross the streams!" The fan suggested an AR button instead of a scan, and Vincent said that's already in the works. Wacker also told a fan that he wants to present Superior Spider-Man's letter column as AR content featuring video messages from fans. He may reach a deal to make that happen by the end of next year.

Agent M wanted to show some of the exclusive content being developed for Marvel's web-presence, inclduing "Marvel Superheroes - What The?!" which Singh describes as "Like Robot Chicken, but funnier, and featuring Marvel Superheroes." The short they presented was preceded by a disclaimer warning of violence and nudity, and showed the Marvel characters at a cook out, which was also being attended by some of Capcom's most popular characters. Things quickly devolve into a hilarious group fight scene, which prompted Dr. Strange to desperately ask, "Is this happening?!?" before being disintegrated. Also, Taskmaster is apparently a vegan. After the short is done, Wacker indignantly demanded to know "where was the nudity?"

Also evolving is Marvel's video game universe, which Singh calls "Marvel XP," and is based around Marvel's popular Facebook game, Avengers Alliance, and the recently released mobile game Avengers Initiative. Singh compares the game world to the Avengers film franchise, saying the storylines of the various games are building to something "huge."

Finally, the floor was opened to fan questions, including more questions about AR content, which seems very popular, and a fan asking how Marvel's merger with Disney has affected the company. Singh explained that the biggest change has come from an increased toolbox for promotion and digital presence, with virtually no changes in content, or any editorial interference. "They acquired us cause they liked what we were doing, not to change us."  "They made us kill Nightcrawler," Wacker quipped.

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