C2E2: Marvel's House of Ideas Panel Spotlights the Digital Wing

Marvel kicks off its programming at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, better known as C2E2, with an in-depth look at its ever-expanding range of digital titles and services. Marvel's Executive Editorial Director of Digital Ryan Penagos (@AgentM) leads a panel including editor Nick Lowe, "Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I?" writer Joshua Hale Fialkov, "Daredevil" writer and digital evangelist Mark Waid, and others to discuss the Infinite Comic format, the Marvel Unlimited subscription service, and more. CBR will have live updates throughout the hour, so refresh your browser for the latest updates.

The panel kicked off with a short "Marvel Superheroes: What the...?" video of stop-motion animated toys, with the Punisher threatening Deadpool with various, er, puns on his name. Also appearing, Black Widow and Elektra, who have their own concerns.

Lowe described "Infinite Comics" as "our toe in the water of digital comics," saying that he loved bricks-and-mortar stores but digital "was too tempting of an apple -- I love apples!" He then spoke about expanding the program with Fialkov's "Amazing Spider-Man: Who am I?" Fialkov joked that "[Dan] Slott will take all the credit."

Lowe said the delivery for the "ASM" title will be different -- "on May 4, we're going to drop four issues at once," with another four issues coming about a month later. The experiment "is like the 'Oregon Trail,'" Lowe said, "but we don't want people getting tuberculosis or anything."

Penagos asked the crowd who had not yet read digital comics. Only two fans raised their hands, and Lowe called them up to read comics on his iPad.

"That'll teach you to raise your hand," Waid said.

Penagos also spoke about the Marvel Unlimited and Unlimited Plus program, which he said he had to "try hard not to sound shilly" about it because it's something that he really believes in. In addition to advertised exclusive products including the Ultron figure, members receive unexpected bonuses including posters and free passes to events.

The latest experiment, Penagos said, is adding sound, "like a video game soundtrack," which would "change when you enter a room, and then maybe a villain enters and it picks up tempo -- but it's all very seamless." He presented a video example from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" #1, with the submarine scene amplified by tense music and a sonar beep.

"I was a little skeptical going in," Lowe said, but he was sold by the execution. "It's so well done, it's interestingly done." Penagos added that it's included in the Unlimited program.

New video features will also be included, offering behind-the-scenes interviews and other goodies, also included with Unlimited starting with Hickman's "Avengers."

After the two digital-uninitiated fans finished reading, one said, "My mind is blown," adding that he would read more. A younger fan came up next and was quickly absorbed in his reading, before even giving his name.

Regarding his series, Fialkov noted that "Dan [Slott] has spent a lot of time exploring what makes Spider-Man, Spider-Man -- we just wondered how much more we could strip away." His story begins with Spidey "not knowing who he is or why he's robbing a bank."

Penagos reminded fans of Fialkov creating Alpha, "a character who was kind of made to be hated," but was transformed. "Yeah, it was kind of the meanest thing I've ever done to a character."

"Peter is put in a situation where he's doing something he swore he'd never do, but he has to do it," Fialkov said.

"Root for the Yankees!" Waid joked.

Fialkov said "Who am I?" is "really, really funny."

Penagos said there would be a free "Ultimate Spider-Man" Infinite Comic later in the year, based on the cartoon.

In July, Waid's "Daredevil: Road Warrior" Infinite Comic will be presented in print for the first time in "Daredevil 0.1." He said that, during his initial "AVX" digital series, he was proud of showing a new way to tell stories.

"There are two Marvel characters that really lend themselves to that: one is Doctor Strange, the other is Daredevil," Waid said. The format allows readers to switch between a standard view and Matt Murdock's perception.

"We do things a bit differently at Marvel in terms of digital; one of our chief goals in going in to 'AVX' and other digital comics was ... don't worry about the print," Lowe said.

Penagos showed a short video spotlighting Marvel AR, the special features triggered by an icon on print and digital comics. The updated app promises, among other things, "faster load times" and "more amazing content."

Next up, a promo for a new film series called "Marvel's Tales to Astonish," which begins with a "Civil War" documentary. That film will feature interviews exploring the cultural themes of the 2006 event series.

Another "What the...?" video followed, starring Captain America fighting A.I.M. with a black-ops team consisting of Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Deadpool. Their mission is complicated when Deadpool invites the Thunderbolts and X-Force and... maybe a few others.

Penagos also spoke about the Marvel Gaming Universe, which "ties in a whole load of games with some really cool things." The games team attends Marvel's famous editorial retreats to discuss what elements of current and upcoming comics can be worked into games. This plays out in new content for the free to play "Avengers Alliance" and other games.

One of the fans who read Waid's "Daredevil" Infinite Comic at the stage trolled the writer a bit. "You wrote this?" he asked. "The guy who wrote 'Kingdom Come?' You're writing 'Daredevil' now?" Joking aside, he seemed to be impressed by the comic.

Penagos talked a bit about the Marvel Podcast, which he said Nick Lowe "used to bust in on" when his office was next door. Waid was a recent guest for his "Original Sin" #0. "Nobody wants to hear me talk that much," Waid joked. (The fan later asked a question at the mic that might... suggest he really didn't know. "And you were sitting right next to me!" Waid laughed.)

A fan asked about different release schedules, such as "having a six-issue arc come out all at once." "That is the sound of every freelancer's head exploding," Waid joked, but noted that an original graphic novel is "basically a six-issue miniseries." Lowe said that "we've just heard that the Spider-Man original graphic novel ['Family Business'] is #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for graphic novels." That book is co-written by Waid.

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