Long time readers are aware that I am pretty big proponent of digital comics. Not as a replacement for the physical paper copies, but rather as an additional option for enjoying the medium. Today at C2E2, I had a chance to listen to Marvel Comics’s panel on some of their digital products and found it quite interesting.

Ryan Penagos, Marvel’s Executive Editorial Director of Digital Media, lead and moderated the panel, which consisted of editor Nick Lowe and the writers Mark Waid and Joshua Hale Fialkov. Marvel has been doing a lot of neat things with digital media and the panel was an opportunity to share some of the initiatives that the House of Ideas has been working on.

They opened with a short What The? video (they showed another one later on in the panel). What The? are a series of stop motion animation videos using toys (much like Robot Chicken) and are fun little comedic shorts and can be viewed on Marvel’s youtube channel. As the popularity of these little bits grow I can see them being used as extras for DVD and Bluray releases for Marvel Cinematic Universe titles.

Fialkov talked about his new Marvel Infinite comic series Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I?. Infinite Comics is the original, digital first imprint at Marvel and Who am I is in continuity story that will work with the regular ASM title. It looks at what makes Spider-Man a hero, and if he had no memory of who he was would he make the same heroic choices. The story will be a 13 part series, but Marvel is experimenting with releasing large chunks of the story at one time. The first 4 parts with be released on May 6th, with subsequent releases to follow each month.

The audience was asked if there was anyone who has never read a digital comic. Only 2 hands got raised (this was a very pro-digitial crowd) and those two people were invited up on the dais to experience digital comics for the first time (via Nick Lowe’s iPad). The conversation then shifted to Marvel’s Digital Unlimited service. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, everyone should have a subscription to Unlimited. The Nextflix of Marvel Comics, subscribers have access to view over 15,000 issues. The newest are around 6 months old and the rest of the catalogue stretches back to the beginning of the Marvel U. It costs around $60 per year and is such a bargain I always surprised when I meet a diehard Marvel fan that isn’t partaking in all the comicy-goodness.

Ryan also reiterated previous announcements of new additions to the Unlimited service that include having music and sound effects as you read through the story. It is only available in a handful of comics now, but I’m interested to see where this will lead and how the blending of audio and visual art will create a new product.

I was surprised to hear that many of the video games produced by Marvel occur in the same universe. That is, just like the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its own continuity, so does the Marvel Video Game universe. Not all games mind you (game versions of movies are on their own, as are the Lego series) but I find it a unique way to approach the video game line. A increasingly powerful storytelling medium, video games that share the same universe would allow for a tightness of continuity that has benefitted the cinematic universe (and the early 616 universe as well).

Finally, the panel talked about the documentary program Tales To Astonish and the series of Marvel 75th anniversary videos. In Tales To Astonish each episode with discuss a Marvel event, its origins, and its reflection of real world events. Episode 1 will feature an examination of Civil War and how it resonates in this post 9-11 NSA phone-tapping world. The Marvel 75 anniversary videos will discuss all sorts of Marvel history and provide fans with a behind the scenes look at the company and characters.

The variety of product demonstrates Marvel’s dedication to expanding the enjoyment of the hobby. None of these are meant to be a replacement for that paper comic book that you hold in your hand, but rather an augmentation of those stories. From new ways to view the medium to pulling back the curtain on the creative process, digital content from Marvel is getting bigger and better each year (no doubt due to the passionate efforts of Penagos). If you have been on the fence in trying some of these digital goodies I would strongly encourage you to let go of your fears and dive right in.