Marvel is now taking their digital comic book presence a step further by announcing at today's Marvel Digital Comics panel that Spider-Woman will be offered as a motion comic on iTunes as an ongoing, in-continuity, current comic book series.
On the panel were Jim McCann, Christos Gage, Jay Faerber, Ryan Penagos, Ivan Brandon, Margarita Vaisman, John Cerilli, Dan Buckley and John Dokes. Joe Quesada, Alex Maleev and Brian Michael Bendis joined the panel later to announce the Spider-Woman motion comic.
The announcements in the panel included:
- Spider-Woman will be the subject of a digital motion comic with voice actors playing the part of various characters from the Marvel Universe. Brian Michael Bendis, writer of the Spider-Woman print comic, is writing scripts specifically for motion comics that will be offered for purchase on iTunes. Alex Maleev, who did the art for Marvel's motion comics presentation of Stephen King's N by Marc Guggenheim, will be doing the artwork for the Spider-Woman motion comic as well as the print comic. It will be released as an ongoing series in tandem with the print comic, coming out at the same time. The motion comic will come out first, then the print comic will follow a week or two later.
"We've hired the actors, the voices. They're really fantastic," Bendis said. "Alex is kind of the director of the project. It's more than being just the artist."
"It's a new territory for all of us," Maleev said. "We'll be doing our best to please you guys."
"With the new medium comes a new storytelling language," Bendis said. "We're very excited to see where that takes us. And for those who are worried that all their comics are going away, that's not the way we're looking at it... What we're hoping this will do is be one of those gateway books that gets people excited about comics."
"We're experimenting," Buckley said, adding that the length of the motion comics, the price point and all the logistics of this medium are still being figured out. But he's excited that Marvel is taking the first step.
- Astonishing X-Men will be released as a motion comic soon, with a preview being shown of John Cassaday's art in motion with the dialogue and story from Joss Whedon's run being voiced by actors. It will come out in the next six to nine months.
"John Cassaday is actually going to be very, very involved and will act as almost the director," Quesada said. "We're going to do more and more of these down the road... I think it's going to open up whole new avenues for us as creators and an industry."
Dan Buckley said what he likes about the motion comics is that the creators from the comics are the ones who are working on it. He said Marvel is working with Neal Adams on the Astonishing X-Men motion comic.
- War of Kings: Warriors will be an online comic series by Christos Gage and Jay Faerber that will provide spotlights on some of the event's key players on both sides of the conflict. The four 16-page stories will focus on Gladiator, Crystal, Lilandra, and Blastaar.
- Dark Reign: Made Men will be a Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited exclusive with all new stories tying into Dark Reign and focusing on the various characters' interaction with Norman Osborn. Written by Frank Tieri, the series will have a variety of Marvel characters, including the Gamma Corps, Attuma, the Enforcer, Jack O Lantern, and Spymaster.
Dokes also highlighted the games, videos and content on Marvel.com, as well as the Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited portion of the website, where more than 5,500 comic books are available for subscription, including web-exclusive content.
He then said that fans who haven't signed up for a subscription to the digital comics on Marvel.com can go to the website now and type in the discount code SPIDEY46 to save 10 percent on signing up for Digital Comics Unlimited.
The panel was then opened up for questions:
- What kind of story is Spider-Woman going through with the new series? Bendis: She gets a job offer from Agent Brand to be one of the only agents of SWORD here on Earth. All of her past will come back too. It will feature Avengers, Hydra and all kinds of Marvel characters.
- Buckley: Of course we're concerned. Retailers are our most important partners. There will be opportunities for comic shop owners to make money off this down the road, but those are not being announced yet. For now, we're just generating interest. "We are aware of it, we are cognizant of it, and we will make sure our number 1 partners, the comic book retailers, will be a part of this."
Bendis also pointed out that a lot of print media is disappearing, but we want print comics to keep going. He's hopeful that using these motion comics as a gateway to print comics and will get people interested in reading comic books. "We have to make sure that comics stay the viable medium they are," Bendis said.
"All these things feed one into the other and end up bringing people into the store," Quesada said, pointing out that trade paperbacks didn't ruin print comics, and the movies like Iron Man didn't ruin print comics. They actually brought people in to comics. "This is one of the waves of the future in comics."
- What's been the response to web comics? Quesada: All you have to do is look around and see what's happening. It is the digital age. "We either have to embrace technology or grow old and extinct."
Cerilli pointed out that there is a generation of kids growing up with computers and iPods and iPhones, and Marvel needs to be aware of that audience. "The response from our readers is very positive," he said.
- Is there artwork that Maleev has to do for the motion comic that doesn't make it into the print comic? Maleev: Yes. I work in the digital comic format first, then I figure out how to fit pieces of that into the comic book.
- How do you find the appropriate amount of jiggle for Jessica's body? Buckley: This will be a PG comic. Maleev: Oh, then I won't answer that question, because I had an answer.
- When these new comics become motion comics, are they formatted just for motion comics, or are they just trying to make a comic book story move? Bendis: I wrote the scripts in something closer to an animation script, with notes for the print version, like "this will be a double-page spread."
Cerilli said the static digital comics are different from holding a comic book, but the experience is just getting better and better.
- What does Marvel do to combat piracy? And will they ever have downloadable comics instead of the reader that not everyone likes? Buckley: There have been a lot of conversations about downloadable vs. streaming comics. Piracy is a big issue for us. Streaming was relatively simple for us to begin with because it protects us from a piracy standpoint. This is all new to us, and we'll continue to evolve.
- Have you ever considered stealing back the scans people do? Buckley: No. It's stealing. It's illegal. "That would be a tacit endorsement from us and I will not endorse it."
- Who is directing the voice actors? Bendis: For Spider-Woman, we'll all be there doing it. Everyone involved will be there -- everyone who has an idea about what it sounds like.
- Does Marvel have any plans to use user-generated content? Dokes: We're not ready to comment on any fan fiction, but we've embraced people doing movies on YouTube and that kind of thing on Marvel.com. Buckley: We know fan fiction is out there, and we're not going to kill it or anything. But how we proceed with that, that's something we'll deal with next.
- There are webcomics that choose to give everything away for free digitally, but then sell print on their site. What do you think of that kind of stance and why doesn't Marvel do that? Buckley: They're trying to build a brand. We are a publishing company that is also a very big licensing entity. We're a company that has to answer to shareholders. If people didn't buy it, we wouldn't do it anymore. We're a business trying to generate revenue. They're building a business and I respect what they're doing, but we're just in a different place.
- Once you do enough of these motion comics, is there a possibility you'll bundle these into a DVD? Buckley: Yes.More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page