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Marvel To Unveil Subscription-based Online Comics Outlet

Marvel Comics will start to place full issues of its 40-year-plus library of comic books online next week on a subscription-only basis. Interested readers have two options: they can pay $9.99 for a single month or $4.99 per month if they agree to a year-long commitment ($59.88 in total).

The publisher’s Digital Comics initiative opens with the availability of some 2,500 titles, featuring its classic superhero franchises such as Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk. After that, Marvel (NYSE: MVL) plans to add about 20 more issues each week. Release

The subscription format contrasts with a number of other comic book publishers who have offered many titles for free online, including Marvel’s chief rival DC Comics, which operates the community site Zudacomics. DC also has put free content on its dedicated MySpace page. Dark Horse Comics has free issues on its MySpace page as well.

Aside from the subscription format, Marvel has placed other restrictions on its Digital Comics offering. When it comes to its newer issues, Marvel readers will have to wait about six months until after it hits the newsstand to get an online look. And the content can only be viewed within a web browser; downloads of its digital issues will not be allowed.

AP: With comic books now the province of collectors and specialty stores, Marvel views its Digital Comics as a showcase that could reach the general youth audience. Dan Buckley, president of Marvel Publishing, on the purpose the new venture is intended to serve: “You don’t have that spinner rack of comic books sitting in the local five-and-dime any more. We don’t have our product intersecting kids in their lifestyle space as much as we used to.”

MySpace Comics: In an interview conducted by NYT writer Douglas Wolk, Joe Quesada, Marvel’s editor-in-chief, and John Dokes, VP of online operations and Marketing, discuss plans for a mobile version of the Digital Comics site down the road and how they initially explored offering Marvel titles through a third party, iTunes-like service, but decided it was best from a piracy and storage standpoint to keep venture internal.

Dokes: “We’re giving them unlimited access; all they have to do is log in, and they don’t have to worry about storing all these comics on their computer. I know that storage space is becoming a lot cheaper, but when you talk about 2500 or, by next year, 3500 comics online, you’re talking about a lot of comics. In order to get the best bang for your buck, I think this is the best way to go.”

5 Responses to “Marvel To Unveil Subscription-based Online Comics Outlet”

  1. I think $60 annually for an archival subscription would be a good deal … if the site _worked_. As I discuss elsewhere, Marvel's website has been broken for well over a full work day now, with no notification as to when it'll be back up or what's going on. The URL jump that occurs when you try to access Marvel.com suggests a prankster hack, hopefully nothing criminal (and hopefully the subscriber's account database is secure.)

  2. Staci D. Kramer

    Given the increasing cost of comics, $60 a year for the annual subscription doesn't sound like a lot for a fan. Then again, I'm not sure online reading can be a replacement for a serious fan.

  3. I think it's brilliant to have a subscription based concept, but i bet the price is going to be too high – users want stuff CHEAP. we've done some studying into it – people will pay, but not a lot. But, if you can start at least getting them to pay….