Marvel Comics unveils online archives

Digital back issues now are available from Marvel Comics...for a price.
On Tuesday, 13 November, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited
officially went online with the industry's most extensive offering--more than 2,500--of digitized back issues from Marvel's archive, USA Today's DAVID COLTON reports.

Subscribers will be able to access the first 100 issues of key titles--including the first appearances of Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Incredible Hulk--in high-resolution format.

THE GOOD: By viewing the issues in a Web browser, readers can turn pages with a click of the mouse or navigate frame-by-frame with a "Smart Panel" viewing feature, and even zoom in on details of panel art.

"We did not want to get caught flat-footed with kids these days who have the tech that allows them to read comics in a digital format," said Dan Buckley, Marvel's president. "Our fan base is already on the Internet. It seemed like a natural way to go."

THE BAD: Archive access at costs $59.88 per year or $9.99 per month, and the issues are not downloadable.

However, Marvel is trying to lure wary readers in with a free sampler of 250 titles.

The online project comes as publishers deal with the popularity of traditional magazine-style comics giving way to trade paperbacks and hardcover anthologies--formats that stand on bookshelves and don't need cardboard boxes.

Also, while the archive holds more than just comics from the '60s, it won't be offering issues fewer than six months old, so as to protect Marvel's investment in new issue sales.

"This is just another means of reprint when you come down to it," said comic writer Peter David.

Additionally, Marvel Digital is an attempt to address another, illegal, form of reprint: pirated downloads.

"About 90% of the comic books sold today are scanned and put online within 36 hours," revealed Newsarama analyst Chris Arrant.

Marvel editor in chief Joe Quesada had an answer to that statistic. "Our quality is much higher; the library is huge and will never go out of style."

[Thanks to ANDY KHOURI at Comicbookresources for the link.]
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USA Today