Thee Comic Column #35: The Marvel Unlimited App: Digital Comics

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FIRST: REMINDER – Today is May 4th, 2013 and that means it is FREE COMIC BOOK DAY today. Go out to your local comic shop and buy some comics! I’m kinda being a hypocrite here, because this is just about the only day a year I won’t go to a comic shop, but when your shop is as awesome as my two favorites are, Amazing Fantasy in Chicago and The Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA then they have lines around the block waiting to get in. That’s awesome – I love seeing the increased traffic, wish it would stay year round. I feel justified in avoiding this day however, because I go one or two times a week every other week, so I do my part.

And now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to write about the paradigm that is essentially stealing readers away from the shops. I’m not exactly what you would call hip to digital comics, but I realize it works GREAT for some people, especially those that do not have the location in which to buy paper-and-staple books.

For me going to the comic shop has always been an integral part of reading comics – it’s how I find new stuff and frankly, I just love to talk comics (you may have noticed). This disconnect with the burgeoning new medium is why, while I am aware of the digital paradigm perpetually being tweaked in the comics field, it really does not affect me at all. It’s also why I only heard about this within the last two month or so, despite it being launched in mid-March. This is fairly old news now, nonetheless the goal of this column has always been to talk comics, and as more and more of the population receives its action and adventure, horror and intrigue via digital formats I’d be remiss to exclude anyone that might not have heard about this yet.

First, you should go read about Marvel Unlimited on their website here.

My friend Hicham was the one who told me about Marvel Unlimited, and like fellow Jouper* JoeGrez he is the perfect candidate for this App. Hicham works long hours and has a wife and a two-year old. In other words, he’s busy and has far more expenses than someone like me. My wife and I both work and have zero interest in having children, so I have plenty of money to perpetuate my comic-buying habit. Grez globetrots – he’s our correspondent in the East right now and anyone who has traveled at length knows how hard it is to not only find the time and money to frequent comic shops – not to mention just to locate them in some places – but the last thing a traveler wants is more stuff to carry with them. This is why the digital realm holds so many possibilities. It is, in many respects, fostering freedom for the consumer. The freedom to have one device upon which – in Marvel Unlimited’s case – you can literally read THOUSANDS of titles at any given moment.

Set-up similar to Netflix, Marvel Unlimited is a subscription service – $9.99 a month or approximately $60 a year – that gives you access to

Marvel’s digital archives houses over 13k comics and 70 years of books. Of course this excludes current issues. There’s a great Macworld article here by Jason Snell that discusses what is left out, how long it takes new books to become available and the existence of gaps in the archive, which Marvel reps swear they are fixing. And honestly, based on the lengths they’ve gone to as a whole with this project I believe them. Still, I’d definitely reccommend reading Mr. Snell’s article before subscribing. And once you have read the article I think you’ll agree that despite the above-listed ‘issues’ the service is still well worth the money. IF you’re looking to go the historical route. Anyone who is more interested in keeping up with current continuity will probably find a service such as Comixology – where you can easily get this week’s comics, as well as a pretty damn good selection of ‘recent’ stuff – the better buy. But of course, if you’re in the area of a shop, give them the business first – you’re bound to walk into an environment that will foster your passion for comics just from the layout and staff. So many of the books I love have been recommendations via conversations with comic shop owner/employees, whether it was Barry from the long-gone High Five Comics in Palos throwing Stray Bullets my way, my good friend Mike from Amazing Fantasy literally forcing me to read the first four trades of The Walking Dead back in ’04 (THANK YOU MIKE) or Greg and Mike at The Comic Bug putting Rick Remender and the newly designed Prophet on my radar.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #35: The Marvel Unlimited App: Digital Comics
  1. Joe Grez

    Joe Grez Reply

    Great piece as usual Bakes. Dig the reference and yes not only is this a big thing for someone like me who travels and enjoys comics, but remember the US makes up 4.5% of the world population. And somewhere around 700 million are literate in basic English. There is a huge market for these marvel character in digital print form. Plus comic books are a GREAT way to help people with their literacy (of any language). We open so many doors. Perhaps some of these for your column soon.

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