SDCC, Day 1 | ComiXology, 'Rage of Ultron' lead Thursday's news

The biggest comics news Thursday out of Comic-Con International was undoubtedly that, after years of debate, comiXology has introduced DRM-free backups of titles purchased from its storefront, with Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, Top Shelf Productions and Zenescope Entertainment signing on to the program.

An email went out last night notifying customers that books they've purchased can be downloaded and stored as PDF or CBZ files, and pointing them to an FAQ on the subject.

"This has been an oft-requested feature," comiXology CEO David Steinberger said during the company's Comic-Con panel. "It's a real backup file -- it's a fairly plain PDF or CBZ. They are high resolution, not a lot of bells and whistles, and my feeling is that people will continue to use the cloud-based reader to do their reading."

The other big announcement was that Marvel will publish Avengers: Age of Ultron, an in-continuity graphic novel by the Uncanny X-Force team of Rick Remender, Jerome Opeña and Dean White scheduled to arrive in April 2015, ahead of the premiere of Avengers: Age of Ultron.

"I wanted to tell an Ultron story that was accessible to new readers while making a huge status quo change like the kind that we saw in The Killing Joke," Remender tells Comic Book Resources. "I think the joy of an original graphic novel is that you're not going to have to wait months and months. You're going to get a big chunk of Jerome and I doing what we do. You're also going to get an easy entry point for new readers to be reintroduced to who Ultron is and his relationship with Hank."

The key phrase there is "easy entry point for new readers," as Marvel's publishing division hasn't been able to capitalize on the success of film adaptations the way that Dark Horse and DC Comics have, with demand for collections of Hellboy, Sin City, 300, Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns rising significantly with movie releases.

Other announcements of note:

• Harlan Ellison's unproduced Two-Face script for the Batman television series is being adapted by Len Wein, by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Joe Prado for DC Digital as Batman '66: The Lost Episode, debuting in November.

In October, Marvel will release All-New Captain America: Fear Him, a six-issue Infinite Comic by Dennis Hopeless and Szymon Kudranski designed to bridge the gap between the events of Captain America #25 and All-New Captain America #1.

Stan Lee had to cancel his Comic-Con plans due to laryngitis.

Due in December, Spawn #250 will see the return of Al Simmons, the debut of a new creative team and the title's first step into digital distribution.

The Hawkeye sign-language story first mentioned in March 2013 will arrive next week with the release of Issue 19, which writer Matt Fraction explains was delayed by the labor-intensive nature of the art.

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