At Comic-Con international in San Diego last Friday, Marvel Digital Comics premiered its “Spider-Woman” and “X-Men” motion comics. The panelists included Marvel Editor-in-chief Joe Quesada, Marvel Global Digital Media Group EVP Ira Rubenstein, Marvel Publisher Dan Buckley, and Marvel Senior Vice President Ruwan Jayatilleke. Marvel.com ‘s Ryan Penagos moderated the panel.
After “San Diego or Bust,” a “Marvel Super Heroes: What The–?!” video spoofing MODOK’s adventures at Comic-Con, the panel gave an overview of the Marvel.com and MarvelKids.com sites. The panel also noted a partnership between Marvel and Hulu.com, where viewers can now watch the first season of “X-Men Evolution” in high definition. They also detailed a future partnership with Microsoft, which will allow viewers to watch episodes on Xbox Live.
The panel then ran through some of the various digital comics on the Marvel.com site, which presently hosts over six thousand comics available for viewing. The panel noted that more complete runs of comics would be uploaded in the near future, and that they are running a Nick Fury action figure promotion for people who sign up. Finally, the panel announced a Spider-Man digital comic written by Bob Gale, a “Marvel Digital First” which will be posted biweekly.
Next up was a rundown of the casual games available on MarvelKids.com and the wares at MarvelShop.com. The most recent addition to the MarvelShop.com is the “MarvelMan” shirt that both Quesada and Buckley were wearing. The panel also mentioned the MarvelPrint store, which allows fans to order prints of their favorite Marvel covers.
The panel then announced Aniboom’s Marvel Motion Comics Initiative, a contest to create Marvel motion comics. The thirteen-week contest has a grand prize of ten thousand dollars.
Joe Quesada then introduced Marvel’s first two motion comics, “Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D” Episode 01 and “Astonishing X-Men: Gifted.”
“Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D” Episode 01, written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Alex Maleev and animated by Motherland, is a gritty noir tale that hasn’t appeared in print yet. In the story, Jessica Drew accepts a job from S.W.O.R.D ‘s Abigail Brand to find a fugitive skrull in Madripoor. The comic’s scratchy, filtered style suited the story well, and featured Spider-Man as a guest star.
“Astonishing X-Men: Gifted” brings the first chapter of Joss Whedon & John Cassaday’s “Astonishing X-Men” arc to life. The story features Kitty Pryde’s return to the X-Men, and the episode was directed by Neal Adams and John Cassaday and animated by Continuity Studios. Quesada then introduced Adams and Cassaday to the audience, and the panel opened for questions.
A fan asked if the subscriptions to Marvel Digital Comics included the motion comics, and Rubenstein replied that the motion comics will be available on iTunes in August, then later on Xbox Live and streaming on Marvel.com. The first episode will be available to download for ninety-nine cents, and all the episodes will eventually be collected on DVD.
Quesada asked John Cassaday how about the transition from static to motion, and Cassaday answered that the hardest thing is planning how they were going to move within the frames. Adams noted that a fair amount of additional drawing had to be added to the animation, and that Cassaday’s cinematic thinking was crucial to the production.
Another fan asked how many issues of motion comics Marvel were committed to produce, and Buckley replied that they were committed to adapting all six chapters of “Gifted.”
In response to a question about whether Marvel would produce any motion comics involving the art of Jack Kirby, Quesada replied that he would like to see “Amazing Fantasy” #15 (the origin of Spider-Man) as a motion comic.
Finally, in answer to a question about how to make design choices fro motion comics, Adams answered that the artist has to make their decisions based on the screen ratio. Quesada noted that trade paperbacks changed how creators paced their stories, and felt that one day artists will both design their art for print and for digital simultaneously.