Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited: Year 1

Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited turns one-year-old next week, and in that year it has grown from a modest collection of Marvel's greatest hits to include more than 5,000 comics available to subscribers online, with new issues added Monday through Friday, six months after they first hit the stands. CBR News spoke with John Cerilli, Director of Content for Marvel Digital Media Group, about the development of MDCU in its first year and the recent addition of original online comics.

One of the advantages of publishing digital comics in addition to print series is the web's ability to attract those who become fans of Marvel's characters through other media. "With our digital publishing efforts, we can reach so many different people who may have never read a comic," Cerilli told CBR. "Folks come to Marvel.com for the first time every day who may have been exposed to our characters via film, animation, or video games. We want those people to know we have great comics they'll enjoy, too."

One of the bigger developments to hit Marvel's online publishing program is the release of "born-digital" comics, stories that premiere at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited before appearing in print. This new content, Cerilli said, allows the publisher to experiment "in genres beyond our typical super hero storytelling." "It's all a part of not only giving subscribers fantastic fun, but exposing new people who might be visiting Marvel.com for the first time to comic books. By doing that, we hope they'll seek out more Marvel comics at retail shops everywhere."

In addition to the "Secret Invasion: Home Invasion" series that debuted on MDCU, Marvel has recently published "Monsters, Myths, and Marvels: Galactus" and a Halloween special straight to the web, with several other titles announced for the near future, including a Spider-Man comic. "I'm personally most thrilled about our Holiday Specials as they've always been a personal favorite of mine," Cerilli said. "The Halloween battle between Frankenstein's Monster and Werewolf By Night was awesome.

"I've got to tell you, everything we've produced so far has me wanting more. This week's 'Marvels Channel: Monsters, Myths and Marvels' #2 is one of the funniest comics I've read in a while. Frank Tieri and Juan Santacruz killed on it." The third and final installment of this story will appear on November 19.

Other upcoming titles include "American Eagle" by Jason Aaron and Richard Isanove, which debuts November 12. "The book's gorgeous," Cerilli said. "We'll be announcing more titles shortly, including an awesome Holiday spectacular, but subscribers should know we're producing at least one new exclusive every Wednesday they can look forward to."

For fans who prefer to read their comics in printed editions, many of the Marvel web series may eventually appear in print, as well. Recent MCDU stories based in the film continuities of "Iron Man" and "Incredible Hulk" will be collected as "Iron Man/Hulk/Fury" #1, arriving in bricks-and-mortar comic stores December 5.

Cerilli suggested the original online comics haven proven popular with subscribers and that there may be room to expand the program for the future. "I'll give you a little scoop here and tell you that each one we've launched quickly becomes the most read comic for that week inside Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited," he said of the exclusive comics. "So it's exciting to know that the subscribers really like them. As far as expanding the amount that we do, if we achieve our primary goal of exposing more and more people to comics and getting them into the stores to buy more and more product from our retail partners, I do believe we'll be publishing more titles. Stay tuned."

In addition to the original content and extensive archive, Marvel also occasionally offers online a free full issue of a new series, such as the first issue of "Age of the Sentry " and Terry Moore's current arc on "Runaways." Cerilli explained that while these appear side-by-side with the latest digitized comics from Marvel's history, the newer issues are somewhat separate from the main MDCU project. "They're done promotionally and are offered for free for everyone to read so we can show off a great new comic to a wider audience," he said. "We hope this will pique people's interest enough to get them reading the titles regularly via their local comic shops. You will definitely see more free promotional issues appearing, though there's no set schedule.

"Also, we still adhere to a healthy lapse of about six months for paper comics being published into the subscription-only Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited library-a simultaneous print and digital format release is not on the horizon right now," Cerilli continued. "The digital space is truly ever-evolving, so if it makes sense somewhere down the line, maybe we'll give it a try. At a year old, Marvel Digital Comics are in their infancy. And much like any infant, there's a lot of room for growth in the coming years."

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