Let’s start with the positive: It’s been fantastic to see Marvel give their Unlimited digital subscription offering so much attention the past couple weeks. And hopefully all the “Spotify/Netflix of comics” press means even more dedication and support of the Unlimited service in the coming months.
One area that would make this even better – How about more Marvel Unlimited integration with the website features?
Here’s the situation right now: In anticipation of Iron Man 3, Marvel’s first major movie release of 2013, the website is running features called “The History of Iron Man.”
First things first, these are great features for new readers. Each part in the series details some portion of Iron Man’s 50+ year history, ranging from the oft-referenced (origin, “Demon in a Bottle”) to the more obscure (Stark’s weird identity crisis as Hogan Potts – this’d be like Spider-Man walking around calling himself Stacy Stacy, but do what feels right to you, Tony).
The features even make a clear point to tell readers that they can access a huge percentage of these 50 years worth of comics just by subscribing to Marvel Unlimited. The fantastic digital library – again, the primary way I have caught up on years and years of comics -is finally getting the attention and promotion it deserves.
Or at least, it’s coming very, very close.
The ONE part of all this that I’d like to see improved is the actual link the specific comic issue referenced in each piece.
Take the latest history lesson for example. In “The History of Iron Man, Pt. 39,” Avengers #41 is referenced. Rather than link to the Marvel.com catalog for the issue, where any Marvel Unlimited subscriber could easily and immediately read the issue, the article links to Marvel’s, now largely duplicitive digital comics store.
While this is admittedly nitpicky, I think it identifies a core sea change that still needs to take place at Marvel.
The thinking here seems to be, one of these webpages might lead to a $1.99 purchase. The other will not.
Ignoring for a moment that a call to subscribe to Marvel Unlimited would actually generate more revenue than that unlikely single issue purchase (unlikely because who is dying to read JUST Avengers #41?), why not just combine the two desires?
Include digital purchasing options on all Marvel Unlimited catalog pages – problem solved.
Of course, my obnoxious “problem solved” probably means hours and hours of development work. Such is the way of big brand websites.
Nonetheless, as much I love the service, I don’t think Marvel will realize the true value of Marvel Unlimited until they merge digital comic sales for their newest or unavailable materials with the digital library.
As a quick example, I’m currently making my way through Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four & FF (they’re different things, if you’re reading this and you’re my Dad). I’m knocking out and really enjoying this series on my iPhone through the new app. LIfe is good, right?
Yes, in short, life is very good. But for some odd reason, Marvel Unlimited does NOT include Fantastic Four #600 in the MU catalog. I get it. Rather than whine and complain about their lack of inclusion, I can see that an episodic issue like Fantastic Four #600 is one they want to make money off.
And if I could have quickly paid $1.99 through Marvel Unlimited, I absolutely would have.
Instead, I kept on reading. I went ahead and I quickly realized I missed a MAJOR revelation, but at that point, I’m not going to exit out of the Marvel Unlimited app, pull up Comixology and download an old issue.
That would be like recording a March Madness game, accidentally fast-forwarding too far ahead, seeing Team A made a miraculous comeback (let’s go Badgers!), and rewatching the whole thing. Once the revelation is made, you’re moving forward towards the conclusion.
So the reason I even bother to point this out, is that’s a blatant missed sale for Marvel.
Why do I care? That’s a good question. On one hand, I just like annoyingly pointing things out as if I know things. But on the other, I want to see the comic book industry do well. I want to see it do GREAT in fact.
I pretty firmly believe that Marvel Unlimited, or some service like it, is one of the best steps towards continued comic publishing success we’ve seen since Comixology. The better this service gets, and the more logically monetized it gets, the better the comic book industry will be.
Whether this is actually a good thing for the quality of comics (see also: the 90’s) is a debate for another time.
In the meantime, my short request: Let us buy comics through Marvel Unlimited when it’s desirable to do so! It’s better for everybody involved.
Except, of course, the product developers and software technicians.