Digital Initiatives PROJECT GAMMA, MARVEL #1 Revealed


Update, 3/11: Upon the "Marvel #1" sale going live Sunday afternoon, ComiXology's servers have been plagued with outages and lags due to unprecedented demand, stretching to midday Monday.

ComiXology CEO David Steinberger tweeted late Sunday night, "Thanks to all for your patience. @comiXology team is working non-stop. If you get a 'download error' your purchase has been recorded."

The main ComiXology account tweeted Monday morning, "Current status: all of the coffee. Still digging at getting things back to normal. We’ll keep you folks updated here and at @cmxsupport."

Original story: Marvel's presentation Sunday afternoon at the South by Southwest interactive festival in Austin, Texas contained the reveal behind three of their recent teasers: "Count on Marvel" (weekly Infinite Comics, much more on that here), plus "Project Gamma" and "Marvel #1."

Project Gamma is described as an "adaptive audio experience" aimed to enhance digital comics, and Marvel #1 is the publisher offering more than 700 #1 issues free to download — starting Sunday and ending at 11 p.m. eastern on Tuesday, March 12 — on the general ComiXology and Marvel-branded apps.

"What we're trying out here is something that allows us to take musical scores — not lyrical music, but score music — that is thematically linked to the stories and the characters," Peter Phillips , Marvel senior vice president of digital media, told Newsarama. "Not only that, but timed in a way that it's paced."


Though Marvel admits it's easier to see in action than describe with words —  a demo video of the technology was show at SXSW, and can be viewed below — it's music and sound (not voiceovers) intended to complement the comic with "no loops or skips," co-developed with Marvel by Momentum Worldwide and CORD. No specific plans have been announced for when Project Gamma will debut, or which comics will initially get the treatment, but Marvel is hoping to roll it out this year.

"What comic book reader out there hasn't, at some point in time, been reading a comic book — you've got your iPod on, or something's blasting in the background, and then the magical moment where the music complements your read?" Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso asked. "But it only lasts for a few seconds or a minute. This is an attempt to sort of control that. Not only for us to control that, but for the reader to control the experience, because it moves at the pace of the reader.


The technology was previewed at Marvel's latest editorial summit, and Alonso reported that the gathered creators were excited about its potential.

"The enthusiasm in the room for this was incredible," Alonso said. "Most of these guys have music dancing in the back of their heads when they're writing this stuff. The moment we're able to open this up so the creators can be involved, and they're thinking about this as they're doing things, we're stepping into whole new territory."

For Marvel #1, Marvel SVP of publishing David Gabriel said making this offer is a testament to the evangelical effect of the existing comics apps, and emphasizes what he characterizes as a direct link between digital and print sales.


"One of the great things about the Marvel Comics App is its immediacy," Gabriel said in an interview with Newsarama. "Unfortunately, as much as we'd love a comic shop to be 5-10 minutes away from everyone’s house, it's not the reality. For folks who have a vague interest in Marvel, or have seen the movies, the cartoons, wears the apparel — this is the easiest way to get them into our Universe. Then, from there — we've seen folks go straight to their local comic shop and become a regular Wednesday Warrior."

The decision making process behind what to include in Marvel #1 was simple — virtually every #1 currently for sale digitally by the publisher, from Fantastic Four #1 to current Marvel NOW! series, is free until Tuesday. Gabriel said he's confident that the promotion will appeal to both new and existing readers.

"We stand behind our product 100% and beyond," he said. "Between the best talent and editorial staff in the business, we decided to show everyone how much we believe in the material by letting them try the first issues free because we’re confident they’ll come back for more. New fans can discover the exciting adventures of characters they love on the big screen and hardcore fans can perhaps try out a series starring heroes they'd never considered before." 

Also at SXSW, Marvel announced a re-focus on their video output titled "Marvel Original Video," including a Marvel-filtered pop culture show called Marvel: Earth's Mightiest Show hosted by Blair Butler — formerly of G4 and the writer of Image's Heart — and unspecified documentary/reality programming. Marvel is looking to launch their new Original Video content this summer, and state that these programs might not necessarily be hosted on, and could end up elsewhere.  

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