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Original Marvel Comics Going Online 172

Posted by Zonk
from the pay-up-true-believer dept.
An anonymous reader writes "In a tentative move onto the internet, Marvel is putting some of its older comics online Tuesday, hoping to reintroduce young people to the X-Men and Fantastic Four by showcasing the original issues in which such characters appeared. The publisher is hoping fans will be intrigued enough about the origins of those characters to shell out $9.99 a month, or $4.99 monthly with a year-long commitment. For that price, they'll be able to poke through, say, the first 100 issues of Stan Lee's 1963 creation "Amazing Spider-Man" at their leisure, along with more recent titles like "House of M" and "Young Avengers." Comics can only be viewed in a Web browser, not downloaded, and new issues will only go online at least six months after they first appear in print. Dark Horse Comics now puts its vibrant and large images of 'Dark Horse Presents' up for free viewing on its MySpace site. DC Comics has also put issues up on MySpace, and recently launched the competition-based Zuda Comics, which encourages users to rank each other's work, as a way to tap into the expanding Web comic scene."
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Original Marvel Comics Going Online

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  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:51PM (#21338595)
    As with everything else, the older stuff looks great because we forget about all the junk that no one ever bought. That being said, there is some classic Chris Claremont stuff and John Byre stuff from the 80s that I keep on reading even now.

    The first 50 issues of New Mutants. Uncanny X-Men 100-200, Fantastic 4 140-175. Good stuff all around.

    That being said, I have all of these in print and have no moral reason against downloading them in .cbr format from a .torrent site. :-)
  • good way to catch up (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cooldrew (1184399) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:52PM (#21338609)
    I've been out of comics since the X-Men animated series. Ever since I started playing City of Heroes, I've been wanting to get back into them, already bought a lot of Transmetropolitan. Here's hoping they'll eventually put up something like Civil War, so I can see it and hate myself for reading it.
  • Re:yeah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ansonmont (170786) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:52PM (#21338613)
    True. I bought the X-Men Ultimate CD_ROM which has all of the issues on one disk (only about $8 or so). It displays as a PDF that is unreadable when made to fit my 15" laptop screen and way too big when put at readable resolution. Hopefully they will take care of this for the online version, but I couldn't even get through the first issue....

    -A
  • $10 pm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Silver Sloth (770927) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:52PM (#21338615)
    $10 per month seems a little excessive to me. In fact this looks more like a cash in than a 'let's get a new generation interested'. The only people willing to pay that sort of cash are Baby Boomers reliving their childhoods.
  • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MalleusEBHC (597600) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:53PM (#21338627)
    In the long term, this is of course a good thing. However, the idea that issues 1-100 of X-Men will encourage anyone to take it up is, at best, optimistic. Let's face it; they may have been good at the time, but nowadays they're extremely dated. Of course, it does have Iceman looking like a snowman and Cyclops being called 'Slim' which might be good for a laugh, but overall I don't think they'll encourage many people.

    When I was around 10 years old, someone got me a subscription for the reprinting of the first 12 X-Men comics. Even though some of it was dated (this was almost 15 years ago), I was still hooked and pretty soon I had subscriptions to the latest X-Men and FF comics. I think this is a great way for them to get new kids interested, and it's very low risk for them. All it costs is some scanning and a webserver.

    My only hope is that this doesn't lead to the death of the physical copy of a comic book. I still go back every few years and read through my old collection, and the fun of reading a physical comic book never gets old.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @01:58PM (#21338705)
    and you will NEVER have to pay for another comic book ever again
  • Re:No downloading? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by JeTmAn81 (836217) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:11PM (#21338899)
    I wonder if these aren't going to be the same digital comics as have already been released in packages by GITCorp. They've already released full runs for X-Men, Avengers, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man. I've bought them all. It's not been exactly cheap at $40 per package but since you get 500+ comics with each package you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.

    I have often thought that I would be very interested in a subscription service for comics, but now with these complete packages the service would need to offer new comics to get me to subscribe. But if they did it, I'd be all over that as far as reading new monthly comics. I don't want to buy them and instead wait for trades, but it would be worth $5 a month to me to be able to read whatever comes out and follow along instead of spending $100+ a month on single issues and having to go into the comics shop every week.
  • Missing their market (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Telvin_3d (855514) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:14PM (#21338947)
    Marvel, and comics in general, have a problem here. It is the same problem that the other entertainment industries are facing. Scanned comics are already a reality online. They are on the torrent sites right beside the music and movies.

    However, one thing that makes digital comics a little different from other media is that the community has had to create their own file formats, standards and viewing software. While the means to play movies and music files have been built in for as long as they have been technically possible, there is no long standing computer format designed to show a series of pictures. So, the community has created their own standards in using re-named zip and rar files and viewing applications created to display them.

    So, now Marvel is trying to get into the digital market. They have a problem here though. The market already has some well defined segments. The first is the people who already read comics on the computer. This is going to be a hard segment to win over. Not only do they have their own practises and conventions, but their selection is up to date and in-depth. 99.9% of the (surviving) comics ever produced by Marvel or DC are available, from WWII right up to the new releases each Wednesday. Trying to compete with this using not simply a limited, protected format but one that is incomparable will be vary hard.

    The next market segment is comic fans who do no already download. This is going to be a small market. It is limited to those who are not digitally inclined and thus poor targets for any digital service, or who have chosen not to download for various reasons.

    The final market available are people who are not currently into comics. Unfortunately for Marvel, traditionally when launching a new service the smallest returns are going to come from outside the established fanbase. And those who become interested are likely to divert to the 'pirate' comics scene if only to avoid having all the surprises spoiled six months before they can read them.

    Is this worth doing? Absolutely. I suspect that it won't take much interest for Marvel to at least break even. Costs on this have to be minimal, and much of it can be written off as basic archiving work that is necessary anyways or possibly already done for other projects in the past. It is also good to see them start to look at new distribution channels. As an industry, they have been fossilized for the past 20 years.

    Still, you would think that after a watching each other, one of the various entertainment industries would work with, or at least follow, the communities when it came to digital media.
  • Re:No downloading? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by an.echte.trilingue (1063180) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:15PM (#21338979) Homepage
    That's OK. The vast majority of people are not "knowledgeable individuals", neither do they have the patience, and as such, will not bother with figuring out how to save these comics. It's the same principle that keeps movie people encrypting DVDs long after DVD Shrink became available: most people will by a new copy of a DVD rather than figure out how to make a backup before they destroy it.

    All you need is a minimum of security through obscurity on your product and most people will either pay for it or do without.
  • Re:Not gonna happen (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jayp00001 (267507) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:24PM (#21339081)
    I don't think they are trying to get folks hooked by reading the classic issues or if they are its a dumb idea. Anyone reading the classic issues and picking up a new issue of Xmen, Captain America, Spiderman (et al) will wonder if the guy writing today's issues ever read the classic issues. The only thing the new issues have in common with the old ones is the name.
  • this company just wants money. ... they have stories run in multiple books to milk the cash cow even more.
    Gee, DC would never [wikipedia.org] do [wikipedia.org] anything [wikipedia.org] like that. DC invented [wikipedia.org] the universe-wide crossover event spanning multiple titles. Such things have become summer fixtures for both companies.

    their dated characters rehash the same stories over and over to infinity.
    You mean like having WWII-era superheroes fighting a multiverse-shaking battle-to-end-all-battles? Yeah, never seen that before...

    This post reminds me of a DC panel at one of the Cons where a fan asked some DC execs "How's it feel to be whipping Marvel's ass?" (during the post-Infinite Crisis DC sales implosion) and was promptly laughed out of the room by the entire audience. Seriously, besides JSA and Hellblazer (which is Vertigo, so it doesn't count), there's not much worth reading on the DC side of things. Well, except the couple times a year an All-Star Superman sneaks out...

    they have forgotten about making a comic into a engaging story and relied upon art to sell the books.
    Even assuming that were true, then at least they still remember the damn art, unlike most DC stuff. And to say the company that's printing Daredevil/Captain America/Hulk/New Avengers/Iron Fist/New Universal is the one which has forgotten how to write an engaging story is the same as saying "I don't (ever) read any Marvel books but I'm going to give you my opinion anyway." I'll take the company with Bendis/Brubaker/Ellis anyday.

    marvel attracts kids, dc keeps the adults.
    See, funny thing is, I work at a local comic shop on occasion. Spend a lot of time there when I'm not working. More adults do buy DC comics, than kids, true, but that's because no one's buying DC comics. Meanwhile both adults and kids are snatching up Marvel titles so fast I'm actually having trouble getting some of my regulars (boss stole an Iron Fist out of a customer folder for me this past week, for instance...)

    the company has nothing left to offer and it has not created anything significant in decades.
    At least they're not strangling under some parent company that won't let them do anything interesting with their characters out of fear of ruining the movie properties based on them (ala Warner Brothers and Batman). Give me a break.
  • Re:No downloading? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Fierythrasher (777913) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:18PM (#21340839) Homepage
    I coudln't get this to work on the Marvel site for anything, though. The comics are in a new window, no little fishie to click on. Tips?
  • You missed my point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:20PM (#21343199) Homepage Journal
    I meant that discussion deserves a thread of its own and shouldn't derail this thread.

    Now in order to get this post marked off-topic, I need to give my opinion.

    Personally, I think "a limited time" in a legal sense is sometime less than the maximum human lifespan. The oldest verified living person was Sarah Knauss who died at 119 years of age just two days before the Y2K scare. From time to time there are claims of people living past 120. If I were a court, I would immediately strike down anything over 120 years as clearly "not limited."

    Below that, there is a lot of wiggle room for the lawyers. A "fair" copyright limit would be the longer of the "average remaining lifetime" of creators, that is, the average time it takes between the time a work is created and the time the person dies, or the life of the individual creator, whichever is longer. For corporate or collaborative works, use the "average remaining lifetime."

    The "average remaining lifetime" is probably something on the order of 40-60 years, more or less.

    A simplistic copyright would be a flat 50 years.

    Of course, there is also the whole problem of orphan works, which is also deserving of a thread of its own.
  • by oncehour (744756) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @07:41PM (#21343487)
    There's no need for apologies. After all, the whole point behind swearing is to indicate when something's really, really, pissed you off. On the content of your post though, I agree with you totally. Media companies are really rather conservative whores when it gets down to it. They're so worried about breaking the medium and changing things.

    Part of the problem is the bean counters. They need real data, real numbers which they can then aggregate and present to shareholders and investors and use to help set milestones. The problem with "free" is that it's a gamble, and it's lacking the real numbers that they need. There's not a huge amount of data on it. I wrote an article on "Increasing Your Market With the Creative Commons" on the subject of books for Writing World, an established writing resource website. The article actually influenced the owner of the website to release a lot of her own content (hundreds of articles) under the Creative Commons.

    One of the biggest questions I get in email though is what data there has been on this. Every few weeks I'll get someone emailing me telling me that they'd like to go the Creative Commons route but their publisher is hesitant, or wants numbers. Writing World has a bit of emphasis on self publishing, so hopefully people take note of the Creative Commons when licensing their work on Lulu.com and the like, but as for old school media outlets I think this is still a ways off. The only exception being Baen Books and the Baen Library, as mentioned in my article.

    For those interested, article link: http://www.writing-world.com/rights/commons.shtml [writing-world.com]

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