Marvel Unlimited and How You Will Read Comic Books Tomorrow

Marvel Unlimited Subscription Service

Marvel recently announced the arrival of its long-rumored 'comic streaming' service: Marvel Unlimited, where for $9.99 a month and $59.98 per year (which Marvel claims is a 50% discount), anyone who signs up at marvel.com/comics/unlimited for online access to over 70 years worth of Marvel Comics, with the ability to download and store up to 6 at a time for offline reading. It works through your web browser if you're on a traditional computer, with apps for iOS and (coming soon!) Android. With every other company offering their products digitally at the same cover price as hard copies in the store, does Marvel's move signal another nail in the coffin of your favorite neighborhood comic store?

Long answer is 'yes', short answer is 'no'. For some readers and collectors, nothing will ever beat a physical copy of your favorite title. The Wednesday visit to the comic store will -- for now -- remain the same religious experience it always has. Some of us still love the feel of physical media, and seeing graphic novels on our bookshelves (or bathroom floor. Who's picky?). There's also the fact that small, independent companies don't always have digital offerings, and more esoteric stuff -- Eclipse Comics, First Comics, whatever weird shit came out of Britain in the 80s -- don't have digital equivalents. Personally, I still love the hardcover reprints of Nexus and Watchmen and having the full collection of Sandman
and Transmetropolitan on my bookshelf right next to Gogle and Bukowski.
Currently Dark Horse, Marvel, IDW, DC, Image, Boom! and others all offer their own reader apps for iOS and Android. Comixology digitally distributes all the major and most of the minors. They also, as of this week, offer a new 'Submit' option for indie comic makers to submit their own titles. Meaning while many older independent imprints don't offer digital reprints, new ones most likely will.

I've still got all my old hard copies and share them with my son. But he can't rip the latest issue of Batman when it's on my iPad. And I can't resell them, but I can read them conveniently wherever I want. But once you get past sentimentality, let's look at unit cost. 3.99 USD is the current entry-level price for a digital or physical copy of the latest books. From there it only goes up. Say that again out loud: One issue of a comic book is about FOUR DOLLARS. I can absolutely see why Marvel made this move: it reduces the entry cost for new readers, gives them access to all the archives that older readers love and cherish, and it reduces their own printing costs. It may seem weird now… but give it time. This is the future of comic books. And at ten bucks a month (or sixty a year), it's getting a Hell of a lot cheaper to buy into it.