Beginning Nov. 9, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will begin to offer original, in-continuity stories that tie into the world of Amazing Spider-Man.
"The print comic is going to continue into the online comic and vice versa," said Spider-Man "brain trust" member Bob Gale, who will write the online Spider-Man stories. "If you're familiar with what we're doing in the print comics, it'll make this better. But if you're not, it's OK, because we're going to do footnotes, etc. So it's going to be a very reader friendly format in terms of what you do or don't know in terms of current continuity."
The comics, which were announced Friday at San Diego Comic-Con during the Cup O' Joe panel, will run every other Monday. This isn't the first time Marvel's online service offered original content. In fact, Marvel announced last October that original Amazing Spider-Man stories would be among the digital-only comics launched at the Digital Comics Unlimited portal.
However, the ongoing series of stories will be a first for Spider-Man, one of the company's premier characters.
"Spider-Man is one of the most fun and complex fictional characters who has ever existed," said John Cerilli, director of content for the Marvel Digital Media Group. "He's such a rich persona that there are countless great Spider-Man stories to tell. So if we have the opportunity to explore Spidey's universe even more by publishing this material digitally first, why not? We enhance and enrich what's going on inside the printed comics and that's got to make any Spider-Man fan happy."
Gale said the storytelling style in the first few issues is inspired by the way Marvels was told from the point of view of everyday people, showing how superheroes influenced others' lives. The writer is introducing some new characters to Spidey's supporting cast in the story, which is based on an idea he introduced at a recent Spider-Man summit.
"Steve asked me to think about doing some original content for the website way back last year, but we weren't really sure when it would happen or if it would happen or how we would do this thing," Gale said. "Then at our last retreat, I threw out an idea almost as a joke, and Steve got ahold of me afterwards and said there could be something to that. We thought maybe we could do this in the original online comics."
The writer thinks Spider-Man is the ideal character for this type of online tie-in because he's already so well-known, so newcomers can enjoy the stories as well as long-time readers.
The comics will start with a serialized story, with the first chapter being a little longer than the ones that follow, which will be the equivalent of six to nine pages, Gale said, although he's not writing the comic as "pages."
"We've all read comics on the internet and seen the CD-Rom collections, and it's not a good way to read comics if you have to scroll around the pages," Gale said. "But we're going to do this so nobody ever has to scroll off the screen to see a piece of artwork. We're just going to present the comic one panel at a time. So instead of thinking of one page as the form, I'm doing this as each panel. We can make the panels different sizes, depending on what the dramatic impact of each one is going to be. You know, an isolated Peter Parker might be a single panel in the lower right corner of your screen. But we're going to show one panel at a time."
Gale said he actually sees a benefit to both the creators and the readers in using a comic format that shows one panel at a time.
"It was appealing to me because we'll get to use the element of surprise, which you don't get to do so often in a comic, because you can thumb through it or you happen to look at a page ahead and you kind of didn't get the dramatic impact that the creators wanted you to have," Gale said. "But this is the chance to do that, plus a bunch of other original stuff. And that, to me, is what is exciting is the form. I'm really jazzed about doing something different with this."
Cerilli said that while the"digital first" comics are less than a year old, the program has been successful enough for Marvel to continue offering original content for online subscribers.
"We will continue offering a huge variety of titles and as the exclusives concept grows, we'll see where it makes sense to tie-in to current continuity," he said. "We just had great success with the Captain America Reborn: Prologue free digital exclusive, which tied directly into the first issue of the Reborn series, so we'll certainly be looking at more of these types of things.
"It's something we want to do because we see an opportunity to entertain both new and longtime fans alike," he said. "Ultimately, we see it as an opportunity to expose what's happening in our paper comics to people coming to us digitally. If they like it online, we know they'll seek out more of what they like in their local comic shops."Newsarama Note: Artwork in Header not from Digital Comic