At Comic-Con International at San Diego 2012, Marvel Comics continues its presence on Thursday with the Marvel House of Ideas panel, highlighting the publisher's existing and upcoming technological initiatives both at home and online, such as Marvel AR, the Marvel Comics App, social media and more. Moderated by Marvel Director of Communications, Publishing & Digital Media Arune Singh, the panel includes Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Executive Editorial Director for Marvel Digital Media Group Ryan Penagos and Senior Vice President of Sales David Gabriel, SCP & GM Digital Media Group Peter Phillips, Senior Editor Nick Lowe and Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso.
After brief introductions of the panelists, Singh kicked off the panel by asking for a show of hands for who reads digital comics. "There is nowhere you can read more digital comics than Marvel," said Singh, who detailed the Marvel Digital Comics programs. "We're also the only company who gives you a free code for a digital comic in all our big books."
"We wanted to make sure the print books had extra added value, which was giving you the full free digital download," said Gabriel. "We made the jump to all our $3.99 or higher books to include that code." He also noted the codes could come to the $2.99 books as well, and mentioned the digital codes in graphic novels, specifically "Season One" and said the "Avengers Vs. X-Men" hardcover will have a digital code for the entire run of issues.
Singh said the hardcover would also contain all the Marvel Infinite Comics, only currently available digitally.
Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited is currently discounted by 30% at CCI and includes a Doctor Doom figure complete with Infinity Gauntlet if fans sign up at the show.
"It doesn't matter if you want print, digital, we just want you to be a comic reader," said Phillips, who said Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited will likely be available on iOS before the end of the year.
Marvel Infinite Comics was up next -- and Penagos called up a costumed fan to read one of the digital-exclusive comics.
"Infinite to me is a format of reading comics digitally that allows the comic to still be a comic," said Quesada, who noted the significant contribution of French artist Yves "Balak" Bigerel. "The reader has the same control that they always have, which is the turn of the page."
"One of the coolest things about it is it's comics made with the medium in mind," said Lowe. "Most of the digital comics you see out there are adaptations of print comics, whereas these are comics made for the digital medium." The Senior Editor also said a new Infinite Comic will be included with "Avengers Vs. X-Men" #10.
Singh introduced Marvel AR next, and briefly introduced the concept of augmented reality to the audience and said the team has created a lot of fun execution for the Augmented Reality, specifically referencing "AVX VS" #3 where the AR app translates Russian to English. The panel also showed an AR video where a doctor commented on the likelihood of Wolverine surviving his fall from the Avengers Quinjet in "Avengers Vs. X-Men."
"All our books in the Marvel NOW! Initiative, every first issue will have activation on their covers where you can hold your phone up to the cover in the store and get a recap," said Singh. "You're going to see a lot of great augmented reality execution as well."
Penagos said the Marvel Booth was handing out "Ultimate Spider-Man" buttons with Marvel AR activation during the show.
Penagos also spoke about the two podcasts from Marvel.com, The Mighty Marvel Podcast and This Week in Marvel Podcast, which are currently available free on iTunes. Marvel's social networking was up next and Quesada talked about how Stan Lee is the world's first and only mutant.
"If you ever read those soapboxes, you would read them and feel like he was talking directly to you," said Quesada of Lee's "Stan's Soapbox," and compared it to social networking. "I remember one in particular where Stan said Jack Kirby had left Marvel to go work for DC Comics. … Stan really tackled it head-on. He didn't have to say anything to the fans, but he addressed it directly. … I remember reading that and thought it was so cool that he addressed it. That's part of what Marvel's really doing well."
"I read a lot of the comments to figure out what we're doing that you like and what you don't like," said Phillips, who mentioned a lot of the digital initiatives Marvel's doing are because of fan input.
Marvel currently has Facebook pages for the company itself and The Avengers, and most of the Marvel staff have Twitter accounts. "The Twitters are us talking to you guys," said Penagos. Singh also called out Social Media Coordinator Janna O'Shea, to audience applause.
The panel also did a brief overview on GetGlue, the social media service that allows users to check into their favorite comic books and mail out sticker awards to its users. "Free 'Avengers' movie stickers? Who doesn't want that?" asked Penagos. If users check onto thinking about Marvel this weekend, there are a number of exclusive stickers in conjunction with CCI 2012.
Penagos moved on to "Marvel Superheroes: What The--?!" the video series that takes Marvel action figures and puts them in crazy situations. The panel then showed a never-before-seen "What The--?!" that showed Spider-Man on a date with Gwen Stacy at MODOK's pizzeria -- and they bump into a very unlikely couple.
The panel also talked about Marvel Avengers Alliance on Facebook, which is a social Role-Playing Game written by Marvel Comics writers. Singh teased there are exciting "Avengers Alliance" tidbits this weekend at CCI during the Marvel Games panel and the "Avengers Vs. X-Men" panel.
Singh showed a look at the limited edition Marvel Phase One Blu-ray set. Marvel is taking pre-orders for the set at CCI 2012, and customers can get a free exclusive poster when they pre-order.
The Marvel Second Screen App has a scavenger hunt planned for Friday, which will end in a new look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Singh wrapped the panel announcements with the Marvel Advisors program, which allows fans to get a first look at new features, give input on digital products before launch with insider access to Marvel Digital. "This is something we've been talking a long time about, so we're really excited to announce it," said Phillips. Fans can apply at the Marvel booth.
The floor opened up for questions, which began with a question about digital-first publishing, rather than print-then-digital.
"RIght now, we're working on that with the Infinite Comics," said Gabriel. "If we get the right project to do with it..."
"We may have found a project that serves that initiative well," said Alonso.
Another fan asked about possible adaptations of older Marvel Comics storylines in Infinite Comics. "We're more interested in telling new stories," said Lowe, "but in the future, who knows?"
"It would be very, very involved and not cost-effective," said Quesada.
Phillips spoke a bit about the possible rollout of Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, saying "I would say that December is a likely target."
Lowe revealed more about "Avengers Vs. X-Men Infinite" #3. Mark Waid will write it with Yves "Balak" Bigerel on design and Riley Brown on pencils and inks. "And it's totally kick-ass," said Lowe. "This third one is more Avengers-focused and focuses on Iron Man, the Scarlet Witch and Beast. The first two are good intro comics for Infinite. This one pushes all the boundaries 100 yards out."
Quesada answered a question about a possible crossover between "The Avengers" and "The Amazing Spider-Man." "I can't speak for studios directly on this, but I didn't hear about the Oscorp thing, so I really doubt it," said Quesada. "Sony's doing a great job with Spider-Man, but he's in their purview."
After a few more questions, the panel wrapped up. Stick around for more at Comic-Con International 2012.