All Marvel Ultimate Titles to Include Free Digital Copy

Starting in 2012, all comics from Marvel’s Ultimate line will be A) polybagged and B) include a code to redeem for a digital copy of that same issue through Marvel’s iOS and Android apps. The program starts with Ultimate Spider-Man #6 in January, followed by Ultimate X-Men #7 and Ultimates #7 in Feburary.

This move has a couple of factors to take into account. It’s a bit of one-upsmanship towards DC and their combo-packs, a concept I haven’t heard mentioned since Justice League #1 came out. If DC is going to charge extra for it, then Marvel is going to do it for free. Or actually, for $4 that a lot of fans felt was too high to begin with. They’re also finding a way to drive their print readers to try out a digital version of the comic. If those fans are converted, and dig the experience, then they might even think about going direct next time, skipping the comic shop altogether. Whether Marvel makes a bigger profit on that, I don’t know, but it’s certainly possible at full retail price, even after iTunes or Android takes their cut. On the surface, it looks like a way to placate retailers and have an incentive to send people to the shops as well as enjoying the benefits of digital comics. I highly doubt they’re doing it just to be nice, but it does seem like a lovely side effect for folks who’d like to take advantage of both.

The Ultimate Universe seems to be Marvel’s testing ground for things like this. Last year, their first title to go digital the same day the comic hit the shelves was Ultimate Thor #1. Now we’re seeing this initiative. Does this signal at least the chance that Marvel will try this on a larger scale? I guess that depends on whether sales get a goose, or if people actually use those download codes in any significant numbers.


Disclaimer: iFanboy is owned by Graphicly, which sells digital versions of Marvel Comics.


  1. I buy digital only so does this mean they might be dropping the digital only price a little? If so i’m all for this but if not then it makes me feel like a $5 hooker and let me tell you that’s not a fun feeling.

    • I’m gonna go with “you wish!”

    • And I’m gonna continue to go with a Marvel Comics Boycott. I love some of their books, but I also love a lot of DC Books. And if DC’s gonna sell issues for a dollar less, then I don’t see any reason not to support that.

      I’m voting with my wallet, even though I will miss Bendis’ books a lot.

    • I’m not boycotting Marvel, but I do find myself buying a ton more DC books on average than Marvel books, and I too, am a digital-only buyer. I just have a very hard time justifying 3.99 for any comic when almost all of DC’s books can easily be gotten at 1.99. IF Marvel were to drop a buck after a month like DC, I’d probably consider buying two or three more each month at 3.99, but as it is, I’ll stick to Wolverine and the X-Men and Uncanny since those are my only two must-buy Marvel books.

    • @thompsonlive is you’re a $5 hooker, I’m a $1.99 crack whore(thank you DC!!)

  2. I have absolutely no use for a comic that I will have already bought.

    Why don’t Marvel give the option to have the comic you have bought in digital format OR a random book released the same month (it can’t be a fixed alternative title as that will take sales from retailers)

    • It’s in the same model as when you buy a Blu-ray and get a free digital download. People seem to like that.

    • but give me access to a random title I may not have read….. I may add that title to my pulls.

    • The Captain America Blu-Ray retails for $49.99 (but you can get it most places for about $24.99). I can get the digital only download off of Amazon or itunes for $14.99. I can rent a copy for $3.99 off of itunes.

    • @bean6344: I’m not sure how that relates.

    • You said its the same model. While I understand that they are different mediums, I was attempting to show that they are not using the same model when it comes to the pricing of the digital only package.

      I think with some tweaking, they could even come up with a rental model. I do not read 90% of my comics more than once. If I could get a digital rental copy that goes away 24 hours after I open (it at 16% to 40% of the cost of the physical ) I would be all over it.

      I can tell you this. With 3 exceptions I have gone to the one month later price for the New DC 52 titles that I buy. I still buy OMAC, Swamp Thing and Batman day and date digital, but I am waiting the extra month to save the $1.00 for the other 10 or so titles I have been reading.

      The good news is we seem to be getting more and more options of where and how to read digital comics legally every day.


    • Marvel is saying it is following the film model, which technically Marvel is, but the product is different and the level of choice is not the same, so the added value doesn’t translate.

      Physical comics are inherently portable but films are not. If I want to watch a film, I need a device to watch it on. Blu-rays are playable on blu-ray players but not on most portable devises. Laptops that play blurays are incredibly expensive and their battery life is limiting, as is their size. The only way to enjoy a film on the go is to watch it on an tablet or phone, neither of which play blu-rays. The digital copy adds value because it provides a portable copy in addition to the non-portable High Definition product. A physical comic book is portable. I can bring a physical copy of a comic anywhere and read it. A may be able to travel with a larger number of digital comics than physical comics b/c of space issues but digital is not a prerequisite to portability as it is for film.

      Additionally, the film industry provides various options at different price points for its customers but Marvel’s price point is the same. I can buy most films on DVD, digitally, as a blu-ray/digital combo, or as a blu-ray/digital/3D combo. Each one of these choices is priced differently. A digital movie doesn’t cost the same as a blu-ray/digital combo pack because that would be crazy, but a digital comic from Marvel costs the same exact price as the print/digital combo pack. There is something seriously wrong with charging the same price for digital and a print/digital combo pack. If a digital copy is truly added value than digital comic buyers are paying the same price for less value. Even without the free digital copy, digital buyers already lose the resale component of a comic, so what justifies the equal price point. Why should I pay $3.99 for less because I live farther away from a comic shop than someone else?

  3. I just can’t imagine why I would send more money (which i think i’m paying to much for as it is) on an issue, just so I can read it again in a different format. This is a purchasing model that can’t work. DC and Marvel needs to look at this as a subscription program, or rewards program.

    • You’re not spending more money. The issues are the same $3.99 cover price they’ve always been.

    • Wait….ALL Ultimate books are 3.99? Every issue?! Good lord…glad i didn’t get hooked on those.

      But I’m sure if a publisher took book purchases (digital, or dead tree format) added a QR code, that would give me points, or rewards to purchase more digital titles, I believe that publisher would see an increase in sales on both formats.

    • A QR code would never work. it would just end up online for everyone to scan and be completely meaningless. QR codes are only useful for advertising, and even then there are better options.

  4. I’m going the trade/HC route with Ultimate titles…curious to see if the code is included with them too.

  5. Avenging Spider-Man #1 had this deal and I must say, it made the $3.99 price point much more palatable. I had to do a double-take when I saw it was only good through November 10. (It turns out it’s Nov. 10, 2012.)

    • I was going to bring this up as well, but I didn’t even catch that it’s a year to download it either. I assumed it was going to be hell on Marvel’s servers every week because of a mad dash to download the free digital copy.

      That said, the only thing I see that makes it more appealing is the “advanced panel” feature. I’ll take ’em because they’re free, but there has to be more to it if I’m going to switch and pay full “print” price for a digital book from Marvel.

  6. I think it’s a great idea. The end goal is not to have everybody have a hard copy and digital copy but to introduce digital copies to their readership. It would be shooting themselves in the foot not to push for more readers to begin buying digital.

  7. I’m totally in love with this. Ever since the digital thing started to gain momentum, I’ve been hoping for this. Too bad I’m only gonna get it with Ultimate Spider-Man. Here’s hoping it pays off for them so I can get free digital copies of X-Force and Daredevil, too.

  8. The Polybagging thing is kind of a giant middle finger to responsible printing initiatives and environmental concerns. If Marvel continues this for the foreseeable future with even these small amount of titles, they’ll contribute thousands of pounds worth of oil based garbage (even if its corn based, its still bad) to landfills and the ocean and wherever else our garbage winds up.

    Publishers who still deal in traditional print have an obligation to the world to be more responsible in their process and packaging. Use less resources and materials, not more. This is a very lazy solution to their problem.

    *steps down from the ol soap box *

    I do think its a cool idea in theory ala the digital DL or standad DVD with blurays. Customer choice is always good, but their execution is irresponsible and short sighted in my view.

    • The only reason they’re poly-bagged, as far as I can tell, is that it’s a security step to keep people from stealing digital copies, since the code is printed on the inside back cover. It also appears to be why they’ve put a blank sheet of colored paper in the back as well.

    • So they are creating two pieces of packing who’s only purpose is to live for a week or two on a shelf and then get thrown away. That is the very definition of irresponsible package design. i fully understand why they are doing it. It still doesn’t change the new problem they’ve created. They could spend a few minutes innovating a new green solution instead of going the lazy route.

      I honestly do wish that the comics community started talking about environmental concerns as related to our hobby. The amount of resources and energy required to deliver our weekly pull lists is very depressing.

    • I agree with you wallythegreenmonster, I mean it’s great that it’s free for those whom collect those titles, but the offer at 4 bucks doesn’t entice me to buy. I mean there are plenty of digital downloads as of this moment for any customer to try, and they are free. It doesn’t seem like a concrete plan of action on thier part. How does this provide a consumer an option whom will not go to a brick and mortor place.
      You know I give it to DC for having a plan atleast.

    • I’m with Wally. Marvel needs to ditch these Earth-killing plastic poly-bag stunts. It is not 1990 anymore. Creating tons of unnecessary plastic garbage is thoroughly uncool.

    • Plastic is recyclable @BionicDave. Are you recycling your polybags?

    • @actualbutt–that kind of statement sounds good on the surface, but do you really think everyone is going to actually do that? Recycling only works so many times, and if you read into it, it often costs more to buy recycled plastics than new, (while also being lower quality) so many facilities have literally tons of stuff they can’t get rid of. It all goes into a landfill eventually.

      I just don’t believe its good practice to excuse irresponsible industrial/ commerce practices with a blanket statements like “well its ok, its recyclable”. we need to do better than that and think of better solutions.

  9. Speaking as a retailer this isn’t “placating” us at all. At least with the DC titles most people don’t want the bundle packs because they cost more. Marvel is literally trying to hemmorage business from retailer who got them, and their Distinguished Competition through the 80s and 90s. I recognize that this is the future of the medium, in theory anyways, we don’t really know for sure right now because we’re not allowed to see numbers, but it more than likely IS. This is just a really backhanded way to handle it. On a side note, the Ultimate Line is pretty much the best place to test the waters, as far as I can tell they books aren’t really selling by the truckload, so it would be easier to see a significant increase in sales, if the free Digital Copies do indeed have this effect.

    • I wrote “on the surface, it looks like a way to placate retailers”.

    • While this move may benefit some customers, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a backhanded attack on comic shops. In essence Marvel is trying to use the old distribution model to move customers to a new distribution model. As a consumer without a LCB and who prefers digital anyway, I don’t’ have a problem with this. But if I were an LCB owner or worker, I’d be really ticked off.

      Personally, I believe that digital is the future of the medium. The old customers and die-hard collectors might stick with hard copies, but the new customers are going to come from the digital marketplace and and non-collectors going to migrate there as well. LCBs are going to have to find ways to provide added value that can’t be replicated digitally if they want to survive.

    • I don’t understand how this would be worse than what DC is doing. What it really does make paying for digital a worse deal. I think most people want either print or digital, but, even for people who prefer to buy digital, I think that they recognize that print has more potential value in terms of collect-ability, resale, and permanence. These may be largely over estimated, especially collect-ability and resale, but they are still points in print’s favor.

      So what’s a digital buyer going to do? Unless they absolutely see no value in print, their best value is to go in to the store and pick up the print. They still get their digital copy, but they lose none of the benefits that come with owning print.

      I would not go into a store for the combo pack of a DC comic because I don’t want to pay extra for the print that I don’t need. But my nephew likes Spider-Man, and there’s no way for me to share my digital copy with him, so now I have an incentive to go in to the store, pick up the print, keep the digital, and pass the print on.

  10. Marvel seems to be quietly moving to day and date digital. The new X-Men books, top-selling and important books, are all day and date. Amazing and Avenging Spider-man are as well.

    I haven’t run the numbers, but it seems like a high percentage of the new titles from Marvel have been day and date digital since DC made the switch.

  11. If more folks read digital the digital price points will HAVE to go down, the high cost of printing and distribution is why comics are so expensive in the first place, digital distribution is much more economical for comic publishers (and ought to be for readers as well)
    I think as more readers vote with their wallet, publisher (marvel, most notably) will drop their digital price points. But more readers buying digital will have to happen first. And that’s why this is really very good news. Heck, digital copies of your favorite books is a great way to get a beautiful backlit version of your favorite art, if nothing else.

    • I’m no expert and I’m sure the knowledgeable folks can back this up, but digital comics aren’t that cheap to produce. The cost of staff, server usage and a cut to Apple and/or the Application that provides the comic all add up. It is unrealistic to think that the price for digital comics will ever get lower than the $1.99 one month later on titles pricing. And comparing it to, say music downloads is really an apples to oranges situation.

    • As long as they have 5-8 people with creative credits on any given comic, prices will go up. Plus publishers and any business really always finds a way to steadily increase prices…its what they do.

    • The only way that prices will go down is if the publishers decided that lower prices would increase demand enough to push profits higher than they are at the existing price point. If digital distribution cost less than hard copy (which I’m sure it does), the publishers are just going to count the money saved as extra profit.

  12. Some people seriously FIND new reasons to complain, NO you arent getting ripped off and YES this is a good idea.

    If you are like ME who likes to lend comics to people, or give them away so others can read having a digital copy IS GREAT.

    Or when you do put them away in whatever box you have or grouping, its really nice to have another copy somewhere easily accessed so I dont have to go digging through tons of my issues.

    This is a BIG win for us. So why dont you all smile, its not like YOU HAVE TO pay more money for the issues am I right? Everyone is winning here.

    • Amen

    • I agree! What’s the fuzz? It’s free stuff coming from their end! We’ve no reason to complain. So what if it’s no use? Don’t download it. Give the digital copy to someone else and share the love. It’s basically two for the price of one.

      This seems to be a foreshadowing on digital comics, though. Are they conditioning people on how digital comics compare to physical copies?

      If I’m Rorschach, I’d say Marvel’s Ultimate Line maybe shifting into digital, but I’m not.

  13. From a fan’s p.o.v., this is an okay deal. Many readers already feel entitled to download illegal copies of comics they already down. That’s a common mindset that’s out there.

    What this really speaks to, however, is the lack of demand for digital comics. Many people here will find that statement fallacious, but the evidence seems to be piling up. Things that are in-demands are not given away for free.

    Also, neither major company is releasing their digital sales figures. Even when Marvel releases a statement bragging about Ultimate Spidey’s “record-breaking” digital sales, they don’t even give the actual number.

    So, really, I think Marvel is hoping to get some more readers hooked on digital by giving away these free copies.

    Why would they want that?

    Well, because Marvel will get more profit from digital sales rather than print sales.

    Why would they get more from a digital sale?

    Well, because they will insist on a $4 or $3 (or, at best, if you’re very very very lucky $2) price-point.

    Why would they insist on a price-point that seems a bit too high for a small chunk of data?

    Well, because they’ve already gotten us used to paying $4 for a 22-page comic. I know a lot of people feel that is “too high” a price, but most of those people still buy many $4 comics a week. No one who buys $4 comics has much of a leg to stand on in the debate. I myself buy some $4 comics, every single week. Do I wish they were $3? Yes, but I’m still buying them at $4, and from Marvel’s perspective that’s all that matters.

    “But won’t such high price-points for digital comics keep new readers away?”

    What new readers? There are hardly any, even with all of the $1 jump-on-point comics and free digital comics that have been given out over the past few years. Most of the people hopping on the DC New 52 are just lapsed readers or Marvel fans looking to try something new.

    So I would enjoy the “free” digital comics while you can. Once/If Marvel finds that they actually can attract a sizable digital audience (they’re not there yet, despite the echo chamber of the internet), then you won’t get such deals anymore. You’ll be paying the same price as you’ve been paying, only you’ll be paying for 10MB of nothing rather than 22 actual pages that don’t require electricity and an expensive device to view, 22 pages that can actually be resold to someone else or given away as a gift to a kid.

    And a consequence of all of this still may be the loss of the direct market, which many digital utopians seem to be anticipating in a way that’s very short-sighted.

    • I’d be really surprised if any company lowers its digital prices on day and dates. Maybe a little, but nothing like some people are dreaming about. Look at any other digital magazine/newspaper out there. The same subscription rates apply. Maybe a special discount from time to time, but that’s it. When have you seen any said-mag or newspaper in digital or print lower their rates due to going digital? I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and say give it up.

      Let’s face it. Breakfast cereals have a 500% mark up. They don’t have to be $5 a box, but they are. Courts have tried to get them to lower the prices, but they haven’t. They do it because they know they can. Same with every other consumer product out there. Which brings up another point: Why would Marvel knock their digital prices down if people are still buying physical copies at 3.99 a pop? They wouldn’t do it. Well, they could, but I honestly doubt there will be a stampede at Best Buy for iPads just because a few hundred thousand people want to save a dollar or two on a few books a month by going digital. If I don’t need an iPad for anything else, why buy one for comics? (No, wouldn’t buy it for books either. That’s just me.)

      In that respect, I feel now that local comic shops will be doing just fine for a while despite the digital onslaught. Some people like digital. Others don’t. You’re paying $2.99 or $3.99 regardless. Again, same thing applies with many other publications out there. 30 years ago people said newspapers would die due to the computer age. Newspapers are still going strong and have managed to carve a wonderful niche on the Internet.

      Print will survive. So if we look at the digital side, it will remain a storm for a while.

    • @froggulper: Amen.

    • Regarding your first point about things in demand not being given away for free, take a look at the way many mobile apps scale their pricing. When they first come out, they’re free or extremely cheap for a couple weeks so that lots of people download it and talk about it, and it achieves top ten download status, and then they jack the price up to five or six bucks. Giving it away free or cheap creates the demand.

  14. Cool, download codes for me to sell so my comics are free.


    • *lightbulb*

      Is there an online marketplace for such transactions? Like when people were trading blowjobs and cat pics for gmail invitations, there was a website or two for that. Just add PayPal to that model and there’s a black market site for us to unload our digital codes.

  15. I’m fully prepared to wait 2-3 more years for the commercial digital comics industry to figure itself out. What we are seeing now is merely 50% experimental and 50% posturing. This is an avenue of commerce in its infancy; so I know not to get too excited about / irritated by any of these price points or “download” schedules. It’s all gonna change.

  16. Offering a “free” digital copy available to print buyers makes perfect business sense for Marvel. Though it may bite the comic shops in the a$$.

    What’s not clear to me is, are these titles going to only be available through the Marvel app, or will the also be available for purchase in digital form through Graphicly or comiXology? Making it a Marvel app makes me nervous as a consumer about why they want a walled garden.

  17. I wonder if Marvel is going to count the included digital copy as a separate issue for promotional purposes, effectively allowing them to claim twice as many issues “sold”.

  18. The only thing putting me off digital was the fact it cost the same. I think this is a genius move by Marvel. I would love if they introduced a digital subscription to titles, which also included a hard copy of the trade when it came out. I would be all over that.