What’s Up With The New Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited?

There have been a lot of questions lately about what exactly is going with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. Marvel’s recent website redesign has had a relatively drastic impact on the digital subscription service. Let’s take a look at what’s going on:

Is Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Still Available?

On or around February 12, Marvel.com relaunched a new look for the Comics section of their website.

Update – 3/8/13 – Marvel has since updated the site even more in conjunction with the release of their new Marvel Unlimited App. That post will provide the most current information, although this overview is still applicable. 

Update – 10/10/14 – For the latest on Marvel Unlimited, here’s my take on whether Marvel Unlimited is worth it in 2014.

As a whole, I’m a fan of the more modern, sleeker web design. But one thing MDCU subscribers will notice very quickly is that the MDCU catalog is no longer readily available through the site’s navigation bar.

Whereas before the site redesign you could simply mouse over ‘Comics’ and see a clickable ‘MDCU’ option, the new design does not offer any dropdown menu for ‘Comics’ subcategories.

 

Old Navigation
Good ol’ MDCU

 

Not to worry, though, you can now just click ‘Comics’ and find ‘MDCU’ listed as a clickable option from that page.

New-MDCU-Navigation

 

So you go ahead and click that and of course that solves all your… problems… wait, what?

New-MDCU-Section-Subscription-Request

I mean, I’m on record as saying Marvel Digital Unlimited is a steal for the price, but I don’t think I want to pay again just for kicks.

Don’t bother looking around this page for more information thinking there must be a mistake, either. Whether you’re signed in or not, this is all you’ll get for the MDCU section – the opportunity to purchase MDCU as a gift or to resubscribe (if you’re already a subscriber of course).

Originally this page had a message to the effect of “Don’t Worry MDCU subscribers, we’re working on an all new MDCU section.”

That message has disappeared within a week.

It’s around this time that panic might begin to set in. Let’s take a moment for some words of wisdom.

Keep Calm

How To Find Comics Available in MDCU

Fortunately, the solution is very simple. You’re just going to use the ‘Browse’ option within the ‘Comics’ section.

Go ahead and click ‘Series’ (or however you’re used to navigating MDCU comics), and you’ll get a bunch of featured new comics that sure as heck are NOT available in Digital Unlimited.

This is ok, and honestly it makes sense. Marvel wants to promote their newest titles and they’d rather you spend a fresh $3.99 on Superior Spider-Man than read your digital Spider-Man: Blue for a tenth of a cent on the dollar.

Just scroll past all the shiny new comics (but… but… All-New X-Men!) until you hit the ‘Series Index.’ Here you’ll find basically every comic in the history of the Marvel Universe.

New-MDCU-Series-Index

From here it’s mostly business as usual, with one caveat: You know how before all the comics you could click on were a part of MDCU? Well that’s not the case anymore – this series index includes even comics that are not a part of your digital subscription, a la those brand new series mentioned above.

No worries, though; Marvel includes an MDCU filter when you click on a series so you can make sure you’re only accessing readable digital comics.

New-MDCU-Series-Filter

Click that, and you’ll have all your available digital unlimited comics for the series. Except, well, that’s not the end of it. You’ll quickly notice that things are different.

OMG Marvel What Have You Done

Up to this point all the immediate sense of outrage has been unfounded. Marvel DID NOT get rid of MDCU, and you HAVE NOT wasted all your money on the service.

But from here on out there are some seriously troubling mishaps. In a lot of cases, you just won’t be able to believe they’ve done this (language, kiddos!).

If you’ve been a digital subscriber for any period of time, one of the first things you’ll notice is that ALL YOUR SAVED ACCOUNT INFORMATION IS GONE.

No, really. Remember that time you spent checking off comics as read so you’d know where you’d left off? Or maybe the time you spent adding comics to your ‘Must Read’ list?

Yeah. All gone.

Delirious Outrage Marvel
OH MY

But, I mean, surely it’s not REALLY gone. Right? Can’t you go to your account details and see all your MDCU information like old times?

Great point. We’ll just go back to our account details and… ALRIGHT! Technically, still there!

Saved Comic Info Marvel

So even though there is a current disconnect between browsing comics and your MDCU account information, my hope and thinking is that IT’S TEMPORARY.

The fact that Marvel still clearly has this information in a database somewhere is very positive. Theoretically, it’s just a matter of applying that information to the comic page templates and letting logged-in subscribers see their ‘Marked as Read’ saved details right away.

This – hopefully temporary and minor – inconvenience aside, you can just click on the comic of your choice and click ‘Read Now’ if it’s an option in the unlimited catalog.

Marvel’s making a much bigger – and smarter – push for you to actually buy the digital issue, but your subscription still allows free access.

Marvel MDCU

And now, after all that, we can FINALLY sit back and enjoy some comics!

The MDCU Beta Reader Post-Redesign

How has Marvel’s flashless beta reader been affected by all these changes?

The most obvious change is that comics no longer open on the ‘reader.marvel.com’ subdomain. They’re still housed there (checked the source code; trust me, I’m a scientist), but when you click ‘Read Now,’ you’ll get your comic opening in a modal window over the website.

This won’t seem like the ideal way to read your comics on a desktop, so go ahead and click that full-screen icon in the lower right hand corner.

Marvel Beta
Full Screen or Bust

Much better. As I mentioned in the original look at the MDCU beta reader, from here you’ll want to turn on smart-panel reading (still not the default for some inexplicable reason).

When reading on an iPad (and yes, the Beta works quite well on the iPad), you won’t have to worry about full-screen, that’s the default setting.

There are still plenty of Beta reader concerns – Crazy long load times, the ‘Next Panel’ arrow lingering on the page after every click, the fact that Marvel’s smart-panel reading is nowhere near as consistent as something like Comixology – but end of the day the Beta Reader still works.

Is the new Beta Reader better than Marvel’s old flash reader?

The short answer: Not really, at least not yet.

If you’re just sitting on your desktop, I’d still roll with the old reader, unless you’re interested in providing feedback on the Beta edition. If you just want to enjoy a comic, the flash reader provides a little more flexibility with viewing panels and is less likely to crash your internet (as I’ve had readers express concern with… to put it mildly).

That said, the Beta Reader exists to do away with that whole “Viewing MDCU on iOS” problem, and it’s doing that quite well. If Marvel announced tomorrow that it’s no longer in Beta, I’d be shocked, but in the meantime, it’s worth remembering this is a test product that will continue to improve.

As a reminder for anyone who wants to switch between the standard flash reader and the new Beta Reader, here’s where you can find the option in your account settings.

Switch Beta Reader MDCU

So Where Does Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited Stand Currently?

The state of MDCU is not nearly as catastrophic as it might have seemed at first glance. Although the change takes some getting used to, it’s nothing you don’t see online all the time with the likes of Facebook.

So while MDCU is working, the hope here is that Marvel does respond to perceived problems the same way Facebook does every time users freak out over a change.

From what I can tell, the biggest needs for MDCU subscribers are as follows:

  •  Including account information on the comic series page. The ‘I’ve Read It’ and ‘Must-Read’ Features were very useful. Ideally these come back with a revamped MDCU subscriber section.
  •  It should be easier to continue reading comics in a series. In my example above of Avengers Forever #7, I’m given 4 comics as suggested reading. None of them are Avengers Forever #8, and you’re not able to continue straightaway to that comic from the Beta Reader. This is a simple request, but I’m guessing 97% of comic readers like to read issues sequentially. We can’t all be William Burroughs.

Make those two changes and we’re basically back where we started, which should be fine by most MDCU subscribers. Add an interactive social community surrounding MDCU, and you’re light-years ahead of the competition, Marvel.

Why Marvel Has Very Little Reason To Fix MDCU Problems

In reality, any time you’re concerned with MDCU issues, it’s important to remember one small thing:

Marvel has no competition in the digital library subscription field.

Zilch. Nada. Not a one.

We can thank DC for this as they seemingly just Don’t Care about digital. As far as I can tell (and if anyone knows otherwise, YELL AT ME IN THE COMMENTS), DC offers nothing similar to MDCU.

I’ve written elsewhere about DC’s digital failures, but they’re really kind of amazing. Their entire digital strategy seems to be “Let people pay for single issues on Comixology.”

They even treat digital like a bastard step-child on a SEPARATE WEB DOMAIN. This is essentially breaking rule #1 of smart online strategy.

I could go on, but the point is this: Marvel looks PHENOMENAL in the digital space when compared to DC.

The fact that they even offer MDCU is so far beyond what DC has mustered that the overlords at Marvel can basically sit around and count their Avengers money and NEVER DO ANYTHING AGAIN. They’ll still be winning the digital race.

Obviously, I hope this isn’t the route they choose, and they can continue to earn both money, and probably more importantly, big-time fan loyalty with a quality MDCU option.

But every time I get frustrated with compressed word balloons flying off the panel, or smart-panel reading that ruins the sequential story-telling, I basically have to remind myself that the incentive to make these changes – financially – is next to none.

And then Marvel wins again – because now I’m blaming DC’s lameness for all my problems.

What Am I Missing?

Have anything you want to talk about regarding the new MDCU, or problems with your digital subscription? Let me hear about it in the comments and I’ll definitely keep the conversation going.

Additionally, if you know anything about other comics publishers offering a similar library-like option, let’s hear about that – don’t want the big 2 to be hogging all the attention if someone else is doing it better.

25 Replies to “What’s Up With The New Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited?”

  1. I just bought a year of MDCU a couple weeks before the change. I HATE how I can’t keep track of what I’ve read! Nothing else really bothers me, the redesign is more clunky and it’s harder to find available comics to read, but that pales in comparison to trying to remember or having to write down where I am in all the comic series I’m reading!

    I also agree with you that a huge plus would be easier sequential reading, but in the “Comics I’ve Read” area you can see all of a series and exactly where you are so I’ve always just opened the comic I want to read in a new tab from there. WHEN IT WAS WORKING.

    However in terms of events like Chaos War, World War Hulk, Civil War, etc it’s just an absolute mess. It’s impossible without finding an official reading order, which is absolutely something they should try to improve. Not that your reading orders aren’t great 🙂 They’ve come in very handy but it’s just frustrating that all third party reading orders seem to conflict. An official one would be so much easier.

    Thanks for the site, recent subscriber and I like your comic ramblings.

    1. First off, thanks for the nice feedback, much appreciated!

      100% agree that an official reading order is a huge missed opportunity for Marvel. It would put schlubs like me out of business (of course you have to HAVE a business to lose one, but I digress), but I’d be a happier nerd.

      Can’t say the MDCU purchase 2 weeks before this launch played to your favor, but I really am optimistic they’ll fix this. Then again, I just clicked this Avengers Forever #4 and found a cover shot of Uncanny X-men. Soooo… pretty please, Marvel?

      A big part of me worries that until there’s any reasonable competition, Marvel will feel like a bunch of studs just for offering ANY kind of unlimited service. Or until I figure out a way to build a tool that lets people easily keep track of what they’ve read. Whichever comes first 🙂

  2. I bought an MDCU subscription for my grade schooler thinking he would be able to read comics on our iPad and so far it has been a big failure. The Beta reader, just used to quit and die until this latest release, and Now It’s so convoluted to get to something he might want to read, that he is not even motivated to try. I have to load something up and hand it to him and at this point he is barely interested in that unless we read it together. I just spent about an hour trying to find the MDCU catalog after the website redesign until I found your article, so THANK YOU, but Marvel?… you gotta be kidding me. What an awful product if that is the best you can do… Unless the UI is fixed very soon, there is no way I will re-up next year, and I might be asking for a refund…

    1. Glad this helped, and yeah, I think a LOT of MDCU users are having a similar reaction. They call this sequential art for a reason… nobody would use Netflix if episode 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer led into episode 16 of LOST.

      The upside is that adding a “continue to the next comic in the series” button seems like an easy enough add. The downside is it’s been 3 months now.

      That’s a GREAT point about young readers as well. I tend to browse by Series because… well, look at me. I write reading orders like it’s a passable hobby.

      But if you’re a kid who wants to read some Hulk comics? Marvel’s basically saying “Good Luck!” One of the first MDCU comics for the Hulk is New Avengers #18. Because any kid is going to love reading a Dark Reign tie-in w/ no context and possibly barely any Hulk! And forget about knowing what to read from there (without some navigation back to a particular series).

      Seems like the best move for Marvel would be a “Popular Stories” section for each main character. Give us the Stan Lee/Ditko Hulk, the Peter David Hulk, Greg Pak’s Planet Hulk! It only takes probably 5 coherent featured arcs to help a kid fall in love w/ a character for life (and while we’re at it, the grown adult kid like myself).

  3. First off, thank you. Great article for those of us that were struggling.

    I’m with Adam in the first comment. I’ve been reading MDCU for about a year and I love what it offers. One of my issues I’ve found with the new lay out is the absolute inability to read an event or crossover with any ease. With the old browser when you clicked on the event you would get a great list of all the comics associated with the event. The order was a little convoluted but at least they were all there!

    Currently when a crossover is clicked on, all you get is the main title comics, and not much else. It’s very frustrating. I’ve emailed Marvel to no avail, so who knows.

    I don’t suppose you or anyone out there has a remedy to this issue?

    Thanks again for your article and your great reading lists!

    1. Thanks, man, glad this helps.

      I can NOT understand why they ditched those event orders! It was the one area of chronology/continuity I thought they did a great job on… and now it’s gone.

      There IS a link to printable checklists at the bottom of the event, but of course that just redirects to the same page (sweet link, Marvel). The fact that they made room for that link makes me hope they’ll actually provide a printable checklist in the near future, but that’s just conjecture and hope.

      My best remedy right now is the admittedly lame, “pop open the event reading order in one tab and navigate like a maniac.” Looking into this some more, though, and will write if I find something better.

      1. Thanks for your input. I’m with you on the craziness of the “link to nowhere.” I also noticed a Browse Comics link up on the bottom portion of the picture, but alas, right back to the same page!!! I’m in the middle of secret invasion now, along with a bunch more series, so I have started using your list in one tab, and Marvel in the other.

        Thanks for anything else you might find for us!

  4. Thank you for this article. I was near tears trying to find my lists and was close to sobs when I couldn’t find any comics to read. I want my 2 hours back just trying to figure that whole thing out.

    I do hope Marvel does something about this…

  5. I’ve had a marvel digital comics unlimited subscription for 14 months now and love every minute of it and never had any problems with it. I’ve also try to get used to the new settings to MDCU, but every time i click on the “read” button, it brings up the display comic, loads it as usual, but it comes up fuzzing/hard to see and then when i click to full screen or try to turn a page, the display comic disappears!!! And goes back “read now” or “buy digital issue” display. This has been happening for 2 weeks now. If anyone can please help me, i would be very thankful. P.S i am missing read these comics!

    1. Hmmm, that sounds frustrating. I haven’t had this problem personally, but I have a few questions to see if we can get to the bottom of this:

      1) Which reader are you using? Beta, or traditional flash reader?
      2) What computer/device are you reading on? Standard desktop, Mac, iPad, etc.
      3) Does your comp/device have a REALLY full hard drive?

      In the meantime, try loading the comic using a different web browser. If you normally use IE, use Chrome, Firefox, etc. Alternatively, if you have access to switch between the Beta and Standard reader, try that out. You may have done all this, but those are the first two “is your computer plugged in” IT tips that come to mind 🙂

  6. Thanks for replying dave, number 1: using traditional flash reader
    number 2: standard desktop
    number 3: comp/device has full hard drive
    I’ve try loading with a different web browser, i normally use firefox and have try switching between beta and standard reader, but still the same result, like i said before i’ve had no problems at all in the past 14 months with MDCU with reading comics until the new design. So i’ll cancel my subscription and maybe try again in couple months time to see if there’s any improvement. Thanks for trying to help mate anyway. I’ve e-mail and comment to Marvel, but do not get any reply at all.

    1. Yeah, wish I could be of more help. Sounds like Marvel’s support unit is… not very supportive. My only real guess is that it’s a CPU memory problem, but that’s admittedly just a guess. Will post here if I hear anything more.

  7. Responding to

    Adam
    Feb 24th, 2013

    Just found this article last night, I haven’t logged into MDCU for a month or so…and now to find all this confusion. Oh my god…I also miss the events….It’s almost useless now. Even though you can bring up a Series, comics in the series lead to other comics, tie/ins crossovers….god…what a mess. I miss the events section they had before. Wow…how disappointing. I just read X-Men #1 (2010-present)…it begins the curse of the mutants event….ug…..are there any comic series that aren’t tie-ins or crossovers? Bunch of gaps in MDCU…be nice to find an event that had no gaps like before, without searching like crazy…

  8. dear dave, you have done a wonderful job by bringing this mess up with mdcu, thank you. i am also a reader that hates the new format, it just ruined my fun (speaking of fun, i’ ve read an article published at harvard business review, that one of the main cores of disney company’s vision was to make people happy and give them fun, i suppose that marvel has always provided us with lots of fun and now i’ m very dissapointed & frustrated with all this chaos). like the fellow readers i miss the i’ve read it button and the chronlogical order of reading an event or anything else. neverhteless, you gave me here the oppurtunity to express this, reading all these related comments was like a group therapy for me because the were reflecting my thoughts for over an month now. hope marvel fix these and keep up the superb work here at your blog.

  9. I emailed Marvel the link to this site….really great to find this, I was really frustrated and this article and comments really hits problem on the head

  10. The old flash reader seems to be completely broken now, so thanks for telling me how to switch. I frankly only subscribed to this to read Daredevil and Black Panther, as I’m almost 100% a DC comics reader (not counting indies), and I just don’t see myself renewing my subscription to this service when it elapses next month. Problem is the website seems to be having errors when I try to cancel my subscription, so that’s fun. Anyway, great article, good job. Definitely keeping an eye on your stuff in the future.

  11. I hate that it no longer tracks what I have read, but now I use stashmycomics.com to do the same thing! It is more annoying, but it seems to be working pretty well and obvi you can do other publishers too. I can’t stand the new reader though because in smart panels in doesn’t give you that nifty scroll over the page effect when you move to the next panel. This was really important for me because sometimes (usually) the smart panels isn’t perfect and that scrolling allows me to see if anything is barely cut off without constantly going into fullscreen.

  12. I’m writing on January 29 2014 and a hand full of the problems are fixed.

    1. Some days the comics won’t load
    2. I don’t use the beta because I hate it (I stick to the flash)
    3. I read on Chrome
    4. Some series like Classic X-Men or West Coast Avengers are missing 90%of their issues

  13. Sent this to their technical support today.

    Hello. I am considering signing up for the unlimited service MDCU. However, I am seeing an odd technical problem. When clicking “Read Sample”, sometimes the comic will load and sometimes load will freeze. When it freezes, I try to preview it again and get an error “page not found”. Below is an example of the link that your site is generating. Notice all the duplicates of “marvel.com//”.

    http://marvel.com//marvel.com//marvel.com//marvel.com//marvel.com//marvel.com//marvel.com/digitalcomics/view.htm?iid=13541

    The correct link should be:
    http://marvel.com/digitalcomics/view.htm?iid=13541

    This happens on the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox in both Windows 8 64bit and Xubuntu Linux 14.04.

    Clearing cache or reloading the page 10 times may work, but that is not a long term solution.

    Any idea when this will be fixed?

  14. hola que tal. Me llamo es LuisaEncontré espacio web
    por casualidad y me ha gustado demasiado la estructura que tiene, así como los artículos publicados, me la anotaré en favoritos para tenerla a mano y así seguir de cerca todos
    los artículos que publiques dentro de un tiempo.
    Enhorabuena y a seguir adelante, que hace falta textos de calidad que sirva a lectores como yo.

  15. Check out keenspot.com Flipside is good, and I love Hero by Night by D.J.Coffman! Online comics are great for ease of access. I am much more of a Marvel fan than D.C. Batman is awesome though.

  16. ok so first off chill website.

    second. i recently invested in marvel unlimited and for the most part, their interface sucks for such a cool brand. but ive managed to juggle my way through it. the only thing i cant figure out is how to add comics to the “ive read this digital comic” folder thing. Like is there a button i should know about? or am i just blind?

    idk.

    could you help me out?

    thanks in advance!
    keep up the cool blog dude!

    1. Glad you like Comic Book Herald!

      I wish I had a secret way to add comics to that folder, but unfortunately that feature has basically been erased from Marvel Unlimited. You used to be able to just check a box, but now no dice. Not sure why they keep it in your account settings honestly.

      So long story short – your vision is fine 🙂

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