The other day I wrote a bit about Marvel’s new Infinite Comics initiative that they announced at SXSW. In that same panel, a second digital initiative was announced, called Marvel AR. While Infinite Comics seems to be aimed at bringing in new readers, Marvel AR looks to have existing print readers as well as comic retailers in mind.
So what is it? Well, Marvel AR is a free iOS and Android app that will be released this April. The app will work in conjunction with print comics. Certain comics will feature a Marvel AR logo on them, and the app can be used to scan these logos. Scanning them will unlock additional content that can be viewed through the app. According to Marvel, the app will allow readers to “Go behind the scenes of your favorite comics, see new footage, hear from creators, catch yourself up on past events and more.” The additional content is free.
What’s interesting to me about Marvel AR is how it stacks up against the Infinite Comics project. I think Marvel was smart to ensure that their upcoming digital initiatives hit both their current and future audiences. With Marvel AR, the company is basically saying “Don’t worry print fans and comic shop owners, we aren’t abandoning you.” The Marvel AR content will only be available to people who buy the print version of a particular book, which gives people another reason to go into the local comic shop. And because all of the additional content is happening on the app side, all Marvel has to do is add the logo/code to the print version, so they’re not changing the format readers know and love.
What remains to be seen is how robust the additional content for Marvel AR books will be, and whether Marvel is invested in this concept long-term, or if it’s just a short-term way of keeping print readers and retailers from panicking over Marvel’s increasing move to digital.
In any case, it’s going to be very interesting to watch Marvel’s digital initiatives unfold over the next several months.