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Marvel and DC Go Pre-Day & Date with Digital Comics, Single Issues Priced at 10 Cents

In a stunning reversal of their recent digital strategies, Marvel and DC Entertainment have both announced a complete revamp of their digital comics services, including releasing digital issues a week before their printed counterparts, a pricing structure that will make most digital single issues available for only 10 cents, and the ability to buy a digital comic on one service and read it anywhere. After the jump, we break down the details of this groundbreaking announcement and share our thoughts on its significance.Starting later this month, both Marvel and DC Comics will be releasing all new issues according to a digital distribution strategy they are calling “Pre-Day and Date.” New books and trade paperbacks will actually hit digital storefront at least a week before they hit comic shops. New release schedules for digital comics will also be posted on the companies’ sites two months in advance, allowing you to both subscribe to a series or pre-order individual issues at will. For the first time ever, readers will be able to accurately predict which digital comics are hitting the various services, and when they will arrive. Once these issues are released, they will be automatically pushed to your device of choice, or may be downloaded manually at your leisure.

Even more remarkably, price points for digital issues have changed from the same price as print editions — or in some cases, more — to the astonishingly affordable price point of $0.10 as a baseline price for the digital equivalent of floppies. Story arcs, such as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s New X-Men: Riot at Xavier’s, will be sold in both single issue form and as the digital equivalent of a collected edition. When asked, a Marvel spokesman said, “I believe that ten cents was good enough for Captain America Comics #1, then it’s good enough for Marvel today.”

Comics distributed through the pre-day and date system will be distributed in an enhanced digital format, known as ECBZ, which you can download to your computer DRM-free. This format supports in-comic hyperlinking, allowing for footnotes that link to comprehensive online encyclopedias or other comics. Many high profile ECBZ titles will include supplemental bonus material like variant covers, sketches, interviews, audio commentary by the creators and editors involved in the project, or even enhanced pages that allow you to peel back the layers of the comic, removing the lettering, colors, and inks, sometimes going all the way back to the thumbnail stage.

A DC spokesman explained the unprecedented move as a natural next step in the evolution of the comic book industry. “It’s obvious, in hindsight, that we were holding back digital comics as a whole. Where Marvel and DC go, the rest of the industry tends to follow. We have the power to lend legitimacy to digital comics and reach out to countless new and lapsed readers simply by truly embracing the format.”

Detail from the cover of ABSOLUTE Digital Flex Mentallo

Surprisingly, retailers have reacted to the announcement with almost universal positivity. Adam Healy of Cosmic Monkey Comics in Portland, Ore. called the initiative “[t]otally reasonable, really. The extras are a nice addition to the comic reading experience, and make digital comics similar to a deluxe special edition, like Blu-ray vs DVD.” He added that “while the prices could be higher, I trust that Marvel and DC will maintain the strong relationships they’ve built up with their retail partners over the past decades while simultaneously working to grow the industry. After all, don’t we all want more people reading comics? The bigger the audience the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

In addition to the new distribution and pricing of monthly comics, both Marvel and DC will debut new content specifically tailored for the digital format, introducing a daily in-continuity serial comic launched by DC later this year. Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns will mastermind the digital-only daily comic, titled “Escape My Sight,” where the heroes of the DC Universe are struck partially blind, save for Green Lantern Hal Jordan. While Hal can see the full spectrum of colors, and feel every emotion involved with the colors (even the ones with obscure colors like taupe or fuschia), the heroes, villains, and citizens of the DC Universe can only view shades of one color and feel one emotion:

How will Highball Jordan deal with a Batman who can see only Burlywood, and can feel only Ecstasy? What about a Wonder Woman who can only see in shades of Celadon and feel schadenfreude? When Barry Allen wakes up and he can only see Charcoal, will he become the Fastest Nihilist Alive? Find out this winter!

Marvel have also rolled out an innovative initiative called And Deadpool! For two extra dollars, you can insert Deadpool into any Marvel comic available on the service, with the full range of motion to be found in Marvel’s motion comics. Want to see Captain America punch Hitler while Deadpool looks on approvingly? Or perhaps you’d like to see some romance comics spiced up, chimichanga-style? Put your money where your mouth is and pick up hits like Power Pack and Deadpool! #7, Magneto and Deadpool!: Testament, Fantastic Four and Deadpool!, and Millie the Model and Deadpool!. Now, your favorite Merc With A Mouth is a real life gun for hire!

(click to enlarge)

While Marvel and DC’s initial baby steps in the direction of digital comics were previously a source of frustration for those of us here at ComicsAlliance, we’re stunned and pleased by the sudden turnaround, and we really can’t argue with the results. Marvel and DC now seem determined to court every possible audience with their digital comics, from the hardcore variant cover hunter to the casual or lapsed reader.

Tthe most remarkable thing about this aggressive push into the digital comics market is the fact that Marvel and DC have decided to move forward together and embrace the same strategy for digital comics for the good of the industry as a whole. The two companies are normally rivals, but both seem to have suddenly realized that the digital comics market is just waiting to be exploited, and by launching new strategies that they say will involve “competitive pricing, extensive outreach, and an all-new awareness campaign,” they have firmly declared that they are no longer content to let the digital market pass them by as casual games, magazines, and other apps take the world by storm.

More details are sure to follow, but with the backing and deep pockets of Disney and Warner Bros., it seems that they’ve finally managed to jump into the digital comics arena with both feet with a forward-looking and cohesive strategy. You can purchase their digital comics on the web (via an HTML5 viewer), iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, and all Android devices.

Bravo, Big Two.

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