It’s not news that comics are increasingly going digital. The rise of tablets and smartphones is making comic reading available even when you don’t have the traditional bound printed matter on hand. Most comic publishers are getting into the game to varying degrees, but Marvel seems to be doing it with a surprising level of enthusiasm. This week saw the release of two new options from the comic publishing giant, both using Marvel’s major crossover event of the year, “Avengers vs. X-Men”, as their launch platform, and both are taking digital comics farther than just a representing of the printed material for digital devices.
Marvel Infinite Comics
Infinite Comics is something the company has been teasing for a while, but finally launched this week. So what is it? Marvel is trying to do things with the Infinite imprint that don’t work in print . This can be something as simple as revealing text boxes one at a time (with the reader swiping the screen to make the frame change) or changing character expressions and coloring on panels to show what’s happening in the story. A surprisingly effective example has the depth of field on an image change, first focused on a fleeing character with a blurry background, then refocusing to make clear what is pursuing him. The Avengers vs. X-Men Infinite comic tells a side story that occurs before and to some extent during the printed issue #1, but it’s different material. Not essential to following the main story, but a nice add-on.
The Infinite Comic is available though both Comixology‘s excellent Comics app (iOS, Android) and the Marvel app (iOS, Android) also done by Comixology. The price is 99 cents, US, for the comic. The apps are free.
The other new digital initiative is Marvel AR, bringing augmented reality to the comic page. Several pages and panels throughout the print version of Avengers vs. X-Men #1 have AR logo markers on them, as shown below.
The reader points a phone or tablet with the free Marvel AR app (iOS, Android) at the page and the panel provides some extended feature, such as a demonstration of the art moving from pencil stage, through inking and finally taking on coloring, or an audio commentary by one of the creators. There’s good and bad here. The ability to build in what could essential become a commentary track for comics is intriguing, but the frequent AR logos throughout the art are distracting and detract from the basic reading experience. It would be nice if Marvel could find a way to make them less obtrusive.
Both digital options have intriguing potential that I hope to see explored beyond these initial offerings. Incidentally, the entire Avengers vs. X-Men mini series (13 issues once entirely published) is also available as free digital comics to purchasers of the print editions, viewable with the same Marvel app that can view Infinite Comics.
What do you think about comics going digital? Are there specific features you’d like to see accessible digitally? Let us know in the comments.