After introducing comiXology Unlimited earlier this year, the dominant digital comics platform is furthering their Netflix trend with new, exclusive titles from outside publishers. Although comiXology experimented with developing and publishing their own titles in 2010, company CEO David Steinberger told Newsarama that the new comiXology Originals line furthers their goals as a distributor and curator of comic content.
comiXology Originals kicks off in the next six months with with Adventure Time Marshall Lee Spectacular from BOOM! Studios and Valiant High from Valiant Entertainment, with a third – Harvey Kurtzman’s Marley’s Ghost – scheduled for winter 2017. Both Marvel Comics and Dark Horse have offered exclusive comic book content on their own digital reading services before, but this new initiative by comiXology aims to grow the digital platform from being a place to read comic books to being the only place you can read some titles.
“There are a few different reasons we’re doing comiXology Originals,” said Chip Mosher, comiXology’s Senior Director of Communications. “Exclusive content to attract new customers and to get our current customers excited is a big deal. And to take a brand like Adventure Time, get straight to those fans with a product that will only lead to comiXology? That’s great. But also, to support outside pitches like Harvey Kurtzman’s Marley’s Ghost, and helping to bring that fruition. We see it as a great gift to the comic book community as well. It’s fun trying out different angles and different content.”
So far Adventure Time Marshall Lee Spectacular, Valiant High, and Harvey Kurtzman’s Marley’s Ghost are the only titled announced for comiXology Originals. When asked those publishers involved – BOOM! Studios, Valiant Entertainment, and Kitchen, Lind & Associates– had signed a larger deal to feature more comic books by them in this program, comiXology declined to say.
“The interesting thing with comiXology now having exclusive content is that it gives us to the ability to work with the publishers on different windowing options for titles,” said comiXology CEO/co-founder David Steinberger. “And doing pre-orders like we are raises awareness of the books before their release, then cycling them into the normal sales venues on comiXology.”
The announcement of comiXology Originals follows the announcement earlier this year of their Netflix-style reading service, comiXology Unlimited. Although these three titles aren’t listed as part of the program yet, Steinberger said the two programs aren’t mutually exclusive.
“I’m sure at some point you’ll see a comiXology Originals title on comiXology Unlimited,” the comiXology CEO said. “We’re doing interesting stuff with windowing the content we acquire.”
This isn’t the first time comiXology has sold digital comic books exclusive to its platform; in 2010, the online platform published and released three titles – Box 13, Moon Girl, and The Pandora Process. When asked how that experience – acting as distributor and publisher – informed their plans for comiXology Originals with their publisher partners, Steinberger said surprisingly, nothing.
“The Box 13 experiment came out of a couple of things. At that point in time, Apple didn’t allow free apps with in-app purchases. So in 2009, the comiXology app cost 2009 for iPhones, and Box 13 was new weekly content to help customers feel like the purchase of the app was money well-spent,” Steinberger revealed.
“Publishing Box 13 in-house also gave us a chance to experiment with what it means to make and present a comic using our Guided View technology,” the comiXology co-founder continued. “David Gallaher and Steve Ellis really dug in and explored the format.”
However, Apple quickly changed their policy preventing free apps with in-app purchases, with removed one of the key drivers for comiXology creating their own content.
“comiXology Originals is almost like our first time doing this – although you’re right, it’s not,” Steinberger said. “We’re not, by definition, a publisher. We’re much more interested in helping creators and publishers get interesting, great books out to comics fans and onto comiXology.”
Those three titles comiXology published as digital exclusives in 2010 did end up seguing to print through outside publishers years later. The comiXology Originals titles are advertised as ‘exclusive to comiXology and Kindle,’ keeping them off the shelves of brick-and-mortar retailers for the foreseeable future – but not necessarily forever.
“We have a nice long exclusivity period, to maximize exposure of the comics to our customers,” said Mosher, although he declined to specify the length. “And after that period, it’s up to the publisher what they want to do with it.”
Publishers and creators can already submit their books to be sold on comiXology, but the invitation to comiXology Originals is strictly invite-only.
“comiXology Originals is a completely-curated line,” said Steinberger. “We’re actively pursuing relationships with publishers for this. There will most certainly be people from comiXology Submit popping up here, but we have nothing to announce right now.”