Marvel Comics Go Digital
By James Grahame
Following years of declining sales, Marvel has chosen to leap into the digital world by launching an online archive service that allows unlimited access to around 2,500 back issues for $9.99/month. It's easy to understand why the company chose to go this route. The days of the dime store rack laden with hundreds of exciting Marvel and DC titles are long gone, a victim of skyrocketing prices, the Internet, video games and countless other modern distractions.
I vividly remember the excitement of receiving boxes of 'remaindered' comic books from my local drug store in the late 1970s. The front pages had been removed and returned to the distributor as evidence that they'd been destroyed, but my friends and I didn't care about the damage - we spent days absorbing each and every panel.
Alas, I fear Marvel's new venture is doomed from the start because online browsing can't possibly replace the tactile excitement of flipping through a paper version of your favorite comics (not to mention the classic ads), nor will it entice a new generation of kids to read the "real thing" because the real thing is too bloody expensive these days. The Amazing Spider-Man debuted in March 1963 at a price of 12 cents. Adjusted for inflation, that's 77 cents in 2006 dollars. Unfortunately, the cost of printing and distribution (along with a declining market) has pushed modern cover prices to at least $2.99.
The only people who will be truly excited about the digital archives are likely to be older fans and collectors who get to delve into the back story of their favorite characters at minimal cost and relive moments from their childhood. That said, I'm unlikely to subscribe to Marvel's new service for more than a month or two because a browser-based version of The Incredible Hulk can't compare to the huge stack filled with the heroic deeds of the Fantastic Four, Conan the Barbarian and dozens of others.
Marvel Comics Launches Digital Archive [PC World]