Monday, May 31, 2010

Marvel's iApp and Free Comics

There’s a part of me that still doesn’t really believe it. You get some snazzy new device and all of a sudden Marvel are throwing free comics at you. FREE. Comics. Two words that usually only occur once a year are now getting a pseudo-regular update. And I love it. Hit the jump to see what I think of the Marvel iApp and which free comics I’ve downloaded already.

Marvel Via Comixology

The Marvel iPhone and iPad application was launched earlier this year to coincide with the release of the new Apple personal media revolution, the iPad. It was a canny business move as it made the news (or at least the news I read) and it seems to have taken off relatively well with word of mouth spreading (or at least the mouths I hear from).

The Marvel iApp is brought to you by the good people at Comixology, a company that have their own comic app for downloading and reading and who deal with plenty of other comic companies. They have made a Marvel specific application and though this means the casual Marvel wandering customer won’t be shown some of the other cooler stuff comics has out in the wild it also means they’ll feel safe and confined in their Marvel app and hopefully branch into the Comixology one later, which I highly recommend, and might post about later.

The app is easy to download, doesn’t take long, and is pretty easy to use. I only got an iPhone a few weeks after the app went live and I had never used a comics app before. I found the interface of the Marvel app extremely simple  to use. Once you sign in, it’s quick, easy, sends to your email for confirmation, then you can start downloading comics and saving them on your phone to read whenever you want.

You can view the 'Featured' comics, a selection of choice titles that Marvel think any reader would enjoy. You can touch to read a blurb on the issue, see creator details, and then buy if you so desire. There are plenty of ways to browse through the titles but my favourite column quickly showed itself with one word, a ‘Free’ under Mjolnir.

Free Comics For Sale

There are free comics in the Free comics column and you want to know which ones I got? Ha, trick question. I downloaded them all. Wouldn’t you? Let’s roll off the titles quickly, Amazing Spider-Man #546 (first issue of Brand New Day), Astonishing X-Men #1, Captain America #1, Fantastic Four #570, Hulk #1, Invincible Iron Man #1, New Avengers #1, Runaways #1, Super Hero Squad #1, Thor #1, and the first issue of Claremont and Miller’s Wolverine.

I don’t know about you but I think that’s a pretty impressive list of free content. Sure, I already owned plenty of those issues, but I figured if I had them on file then I could show them to my nephews or something. There’s always time to trap new fans. So, that’s 11 comics for free just for turning up, over $30 for free.

Each of those comics is interesting because they’re great jumping on points. Someone who was on the fence about Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four would surely be won over after reading his first issue, for free. We’ve got a gateway to pages written by Joss Whedon, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Michael Bendis, and the always awesome Brian K Vaughan. Those are some great words, and the art to match is just as good.

Jeph Loeb’s Hulk has certainly divided plenty of fans but it was something I was always interested to read, even if I would never pay for it. This time I didn’t have to. And I didn’t even mind it, I can see how it would work as a comic for kids. This app is the perfect gateway and by making the first few hits free they’re surely going to get a few new eyes into the pages.

The actual reader for the comics is interesting. I don’t mind it, though it would never be my preferred delivery system. You have the option to only read the panels, or you can first look at the page to get a better sense of the composition of what you are reading. I prefer that method, then the sliding transition between panels is pretty smooth and effective and the dialogue is easy enough to read, considering it is on a small screen. The art obviously doesn’t show perfectly but you get a very close idea of how good it really is.

Free Comics Updated, and Taken Down

It appears that the previous comics mentioned have now all been taken off the free list. To enjoy them you'd have to pony up some of your own cash, which is kind of fair enough. If you missed out, sure, it sucks a little, but it's nice that Marvel even consider throwing out free content, even if it is just older stuff. But you don't have to despair and turn away from the application. There are new free comics in their place and the section has been updated a few times over the past month or so.

The other week they updated the free catalogue and I’ve just gotten my digital hands on an issue of the Black Widow Saga, and three Iron Man issues from various years, including work from Bob Layton and Joe Casey. At first, I thought Marvel were only going to dangle the lure of those first few issues they had up, and that would have been fair enough, but now that they’re offering more I feel more inclined to come to the party. I feel it is only fair to buy a few issues and complete a few of the runs I’ve started for free, or even a few runs that I locate of interest elsewhere in the app. The price sees them come in well under trade prices, or I could simply sample first issues of runs and then get the trades from my LCS. Marvel are being good to me, I plan on returning the favour.

They have also added the first Garth Ennis issue of Ghost Rider this week, as well as some X-Men and New X-Men, which I have never read, so they seem committed to bringing us new content to lure in readers, and more importantly buyers. I'll be interested to keep an eye on the Free section of this app and see what slowly makes the grade.


If you have an iPhone or iPad then you owe it to yourself to download this app and get amongst the fun. It’s a different way to get your fix, and I’ve had it get me out of a few binds while waiting for the wife while out. It’s smooth and easy to use and who knows how much more free content they’ll come out with in the coming months, Which brings me to a closing question, which comics do you think would be appropriate to offer for free on the Marvel app? I’d go with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or perhaps Garth Ennis’ first Punisher in the Max universe. What would lure you in?

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Anonymous said...


Man those are great news! Like you say, when something as good as those titles are for free how can you say no =)

On the other side I am more of a old-fashioned fan and still loving have in my hands a comic book... the smell of the inks and the feel of each page it is a thing I would not change for anything. I wish DC, Dark Horse, Image could do soething like that.

Reasons like this (caring about their fans) is why Marvel gets most of the market share (and they deserve it)

Anonymous said...

now this site it looks like very marvel as engadget looks like very apple. *yawn*

Matt's Wife said...

Great, now I'll never get my iPod back.

Bobby Weenus said...

#2's comment is completely unfounded. I've always felt that TWC had a bit of a DC bias but I never complained. If you're so offended by a guy reviewing a hot new app (that my non-comic friends have even been buzzing about) then do yourself a favor and stay away from the open areas of the internet. Stick to your email and you will be able to avoid the stinging reality that is "timely reviews".

Pirate said...

I pirate 100% of my comics becuase of where I live. My local comic book store would be across the pacific ocean. If marvel and dc smarten up and have digital comics coming out day and date of the originals I would most difinatly cut down on my piracy and it would allow them to get their product on a global market.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Hey Pirate, where abouts do you live? Obviously not a street address, that might make me sound like a narc, but what country? I live in Australia and with price conversions, LCS drought (except for major cities), and the few days before shipping gets them to our stores I am not completely satisfied with the market but I haven't turned to piracy yet. Not condemning you, just wondering what your situation is, from what I hear there are some great online retailers in America that do discounts, and cheap postage?

Pirate said...

I live in Japan. Basically no western comics here. Supposedly there is a limited selection in Tokyo but that is a far far away from where I am.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Pirate - that's a shame, man. I'm surprised it's that way in Japan, I thought you'd have access, too. Unlucky man, I hope our site keeps you in some good moments of the week! :)

Ivan said...

I live in Brazil. Comics publishing here sucks. Comic books come in anthologies. For example: if you want Superman, you're obligated to take Action Comics and Supergirl as well. And some of the good stuff aren't even published, like Secret Six.

That being said, I still don't pirate my comics because I believe in compensating the professionals that work hard at producing them. I support them the way I can.

And even if you're getting no comics at all, there are still alternatives. You could buy trades from Amazon or the Book Depository (thanks Matt).

If you never want to stay out of the loop, yeah, then the alternatives are slim. Still I couldn't bring myself to pirate comics.

Kirk Warren said...

I've heard people from Japan having extreme difficulty finding North American comics. Things like only one or two shops in Tokyo carrying a very limited selection of backdated books and other parts of the country having nothing. I'm not sure if it's lack of interest or just the fact the manga industry is so much larger than ours or what, but it is rare to find any comics there.

Pirate said... doesn't want to ship to Japan and you are forced to use There are some trades there (only the supe popular like Watchmen) and I already own the ones I want from there.

So I can either pirate comics and be in the loop and find stories I like enough to buy in trade when I come home for a week or so evey 2 years. Or I can just stop reading comics all together.

Matt Duarte said...

Pirate: Book Depository ships to Japan for completely FREE. Now you can buy whatever book you were previously enjoying and have no way of supporting.

Ivan said...

As I mentioned before. Thanks for the reeinforcement, Matt. He seemed to conveniently ignore my previous recommendation. :)

Matt Duarte said...

You know, I must have missed it the first time around, but I didn't see that my wife had commented on this article. Ha!

Also, I checked the app today and they have Immortal Iron Fist #1 up for FREE. If any of you hadn't checked that series out already, now you have no excuse.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

ALSO - they've put up the first Blade issue from 2006, I'm all over that and the Iron Fist issue, even though I have all the Iron Fist issues I know eventually I'll read that #1 again when I'm out somewhere stuck doing something.

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