Marvel Comics kicked off its New York Comic Con 2012 presence with its traditional House of Ideas panel, revealing the latest in Marvel's digital and social media endeavors for the upcoming season, including the popular Infinite Comics digital format. Panelists Mark Waid, Matt Kindt, Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel, Director of Product Strategy Kristen Vincent, Executive Editorial Director of Digital Ryan Penagos and Senior Editors Nick Lowe and Steve Wacker took the stage to explain Marvel's digital strategy for the coming months.
Following panel introductions, Director of Communications and panel moderator Arune Singh kicked off the panel by describing on overview of the Marvel ReEvolution, which integrates print and digital media.
"We don't see print and digital as competitors," said Singh. "We've evolved our products a lot since we talked last year."
Singh transitioned into the Marvel Digital Comics app, available on iOS and Android devices, where readers can purchase digital comics and trade paperbacks. Gabriel took the mic to note that with the free digital comic program, Marvel has given over $200,000 back to retailers for codes redeemed from print comics and the kickback will continue through the launch of Marvel NOW!
"They are the lifeblood of this industry," said Singh of the retailers. "We couldn't do this without them."
Vincent also described the Marvel Digital Comics website store, which allows readers to buy all their Marvel digital products in one place on the Marvel website.
Digital codes come with all $3.99 Marvel books, and Singh highlighted the fact that the limited edition "Avengers Vs. X-Men" hardcover will come with a digital code for all the "AvX" digital comics and the Marvel Infinite Comics.
Singh took the opportunity to transition into Marvel Infinite Comics, taking the opportunity -- as in previous conventions -- to call up audience members to experience the newest Infinite Comic, featuring Spider-Man. Infinite comics were previously introduced in "Avengers Vs. X-Men," written by Mark Waid and edited by Nick Lowe.
"I'm very passionate and very vocal about this," said Waid. "I'm a big fan of print comics, I was born with a comic book in my hand." The writer noted that many digital comics were simply scans of pages, and with the Infinite Comics format, he wanted to really take advantage of the presentation medium, which includes going into a landscape format and taking advantages of focused transitions. "It's not animation, it's not cheesy music, it's not bad voice-overs," he said, stating the biggest advantage of Infinite Comics was to replicate the real comic, page-turning experience.
"The only place I can surprise you as a reader is on the upper left-hand corner of the page as you turn it," said Waid of print comics. "The only chance I have to surprise you is on a page turn. On a digital device, I can surprise you at any time."
Lowe added that Balak, a pioneer in the digital comics presentation format used for Infinite Comics, was a big part of the impetus to develop Infinite Comics.
Singh then announced the Spider-Man Infinite Comic will be free through the Marvel Comics App. The comic, which ties in to the "Ultimate Spider-Man" animated series, features Spidey meeting Mayor Bloomberg. The comic will be free through Sunday and was written by Matt Kindt.
"It was fun for me because I'd seen what Mark had done," said Kindt. "The idea of it being still comics is important to me. ... This is what iPads are made for."
Readers called up onstage gave positive reviews of the "Ultimate Spider-Man" Infinite Comic as Singh kept the audience members coming onstage.
Wacker spoke briefly about his experience editing an Infinite Comic, and echoed the sentiments of the other panelists, noting the "Ultimate Spider-Man" comic was the largest Infinite Comic the publisher has released. Wacker also showcased a proclamation from the Mayor's office that proclaimed this Sunday to be Spider-Man day.
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, Marvel's other digital comics service, was next. At NYCC, Marvel currently has a deal that rewards readers who sign up for the service with an exclusive Marvel Universe Dr. Doom Infinity Gauntlet figure.
"As we've been talking about today, in 2012, one of our big initiatives was ... to bring [print and digital media] together," said Vincent. "When we look at 2013, it's really from a digital perspective." Part of the initiative for 2013, will be to bring Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited to iOS devices -- and will allow readers to bring Digital Comics Unlimited to places without wi-fi, like the subway.
During this year's Comic-Con International, Vincent launched a project called Marvel Advisors, a new feedback program that calls on Marvel fans to provide critiques in the digital space to help guide developers as they take Marvel products to the next level.
Next up on the digital slate was Marvel AR -- or Marvel Augmented Reality -- a free app that allows readers to further enhance their reading experience using their smartphone cameras. Covers marked with an "AR" icon will show recaps of the series, whereas the "AR" icons inside will offer bonus, behind the scenes extras akin to DVD bonus features.
"This AR stuff is something we're growing hugely in Marvel NOW!" said Lowe. "We don't want to give something that would make the comic less readable, but we've got some cool features that are coming up in AR that are purely additive. It will really blow your mind, some of this stuff."
Wacker noted one of his favorite AR features was during "Avengers Vs. X-Men," when Marvel put together a video with a doctor who explains what would actually happen if Wolverine jumped from a plane. Singh said in an upcoming issue of "Indestructible Hulk" that will activate a video with wrester Diamond Dallas Page about why he likes the Hulk so much -- something that Singh showed the audience. DDP's reaction must be seen to be believed. Penagos also mentioned there would be some AR sequences featuring Hulk Hogan.
Penagos was up next to discuss the setup of Marvel.com. "We look at it as full service editorial," said Penagos, who noted articles encompass everything at Marvel, highlighting his recent experience on the set of "The Wolverine." "Every aspect of Marvel, we're going to bring to you every day."
Vincent said there were some big plans coming up for Marvel.com, including easier navigation and new social features. "We're making sure the website is mobile optimized. It's getting an entirely new look and feel," said Vincent.
Content available on Marvel.com include The Mighty Marvel Podcast, This Week In Marvel Podcast and various YouTube shows such as "The Watcher" and "Marvel SuperHeroes: What The--?!" Singh cued up an episode of "Marvel SuperHeroes: What The--?!" showcasing the heroes of "Marvel Vs. Capcom" at a cookout for humorous hijinks.
Marvel is also on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, GetGlue and Pinterest.
"This weekend, we're taking photos throughout the show and we're putting exclusive photos on each network," said Penagos. "We really work with the community."
In terms of Facebook, "Avengers Alliance" was up next. The game is currently undergoing an "AvX" event that features Jean Grey replacing Namor as a member of the Phoenix Five. There's also a PVP event that allows players to access Deadpool. Marvel also has a game connected to "Avengers Alliance" called "Avengers Initiative," which is an "Infinity Blade"-type game that features Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor for iOS priced at $6.99. Singh compared the Marvel Gaming Universe to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in terms of world-building.
Singh opened up the floor for questions in the last few minutes of the panel. Vincent fielded the first question from the audience, mentioning there might be a possibility for integrating Marvel AR features more in tandem with digital versions of comics.
A fan asked about the "Dexter" Marvel Comic, which is still on track for publication but has current hit a small snag. "We just ran into a bit of slowdown on that and we're pushing that to February," said Gabriel.
Wacker stated he would like for the letters column to be AR-activated in order to bring in more fan interaction with AR.
Marvel wrapped the panel quickly to head to the next NYCC event. Stay tuned to CBR for more LIVE coverage of NYCC.