The Astonishing X-Men debuts as digital motion comic
Updated 2h 27m ago | Comment | Recommend 2 E-mail | Save | Print | Reprints & Permissions |

Enlarge Marvel Entertainment

The Astonishing X-Men will be available for download starting this week on iTunes.

By John Geddes, USA TODAY
The uncanny X-Men are descending on New York this Wednesday. Marvel Entertainment will take to the streets of the Big Apple literally to debut the latest in the company's portfolio of comics-based creations.
MarvelFest, an outdoor event being held this Wednesday October 28th in Union Square, will culminate with the world premiere of the digital motion comic The Astonishing X-Men against a three-story movie screen.

The Astonishing X-Men was originally released in 2004 as a comic-book series written by Joss Whedon and illustrated by John Cassaday. This new digital take on the series uses the original art and writing, but adds subtle animation and sound to give the story a unique look and feel. One 10-minute chapter will be released every two weeks and made available as downloads on iTunes.

VIDEO: See The Astonishing X-Men as a digital motion comic.
Dan Buckley, CEO and Publisher of Print, Animation & Digital Media at Marvel Entertainment, took a few minutes to discuss the state of comics-related technology and provide some hints as to what 2010 might hold for Marvel fans.

Q. Digital motion comics they're not online comic books, they're not animated cartoons they're a hybrid. This seems like a foreign concept to many. Please try to explain in layman's terms what a digital motion comic is.

A. The best way for me to describe it is that it's the artistic vision of Marvel comic-book artists and writers come to life. This is a purity of vision for Marvel comics creative being realized in a form that's exciting and, I think, more visually compelling.

Q. The purpose of digital motion comics seems to be to provide a unique visual interpretation of the comic-book reading experience. Since it's not animation and its not a comic book, do you think this new medium faces more of a challenge to gain acceptance or do you think it benefits from having potential audience acceptance on both sides of that hybrid line?

A. Both sides, definitely. For people who haven't read a comic book since the early '90s or even before then, they'll see this and be thoroughly amazed. The art and writing in the industry has gotten so sophisticated and cool over the past 20 years. The production quality has just absolutely reached new levels. For existing comic book fans, they're going to be able to experience the books in a whole new way. You'll be taken through the panels and given different perspectives with sound. The whole experience will give new life to a comic book that a fan might already have read.

Q. Do you think digital motion comics are intended for a younger (i.e. less print-friendly) demographic?

A. You have to think of this as a new medium like a DVD or MP3. The content that you put in the format can be geared to any age group. Motion comics aren't necessarily intended for just a kid's demographic. For the younger demo, Marvel's doing a lot of morning cartoons. This kind of stuff, though the motion comics like X-Men is probably geared more toward the teenager, young adult and video-game crowd. Also, fans of DVDs and movies will be drawn to this.

Q. How much of the success of digital motion comics will be based on the continued advancements of mobile technology? With larger screens on mobile devices and advancements in e-readers, do you think the success of digital motion comics will be linked to mobile?

A. I think a great deal. Six years ago, we sat around saying "wouldn't this be cool?" We could create this kind of stuff back then but we had no way to distribute it. I think handheld devices will have a huge impact on this market. The length of each motion comic is roughly about 10 minutes, so it's form-fit for a mobile experience. It gives us a way to sell content in a really tangible and mobile form.

Q. With their availability on iTunes, are digital motion comics a game-changer in the comics industry?

A. Well, in terms of comics and iTunes. We're not talking about music. Comics and music are two very different products these are two very different consumer experiences. The way the consumer digests music is exactly the same through a CD as it is through a music download. So, when downloads became available, it canceled the need for pre-recorded CDs. But if you read a print comic, it's very different than viewing a digital motion comic. I think motion comics will actually help enhance sales of print comics in much the same way that trade paperbacks have helped spur comic-book sales. More exposure for characters and titles that have digital motion versions available will lead to more interest in stories involving those same characters that might not be available as downloads. Viewers who want a deeper experience will seek these characters in a print format. I really think the two formats will complement one another.

Q. Do you find that writers and artists are embracing the new medium?

A. The few who have been involved so far are fatigued from the amount of work they put in, but they're very intrigued with the experience and the new presentation possibilities.

Q. Why did you select The Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon as your latest venture into digital comics?

A. Joss wrote 25 issues of The Astonishing X-Men several years ago. We felt that the recognizability of the X-Men and having Wolverine involved as a key character was obviously a good call for this big event. Joss brings his own fan base, too. John Cassaday's artwork was also a crucial part in the decision to choose The Astonishing X-Men for this roll-out. His art complements Joss' story really well and it's also done in such a style that it transfers to motion comics quite easily.

Q. How many chapters are involved in this story? What's the cost on iTunes?

A. There are six 10-minute chapters so far. Chapters cost $1.99 each, with Chapter One being released Oct. 28. We'll have a new chapter available every two weeks through the six-chapter run. You can buy the Season Pass which gets you all of the chapters as their released for a total of $8.99.

Q. What's the purpose of MarvelFest NYC 2009?

A. Well, when it comes right down to it, Marvel is about storytelling. That's who we are we're storytellers. We just said, "Hey, there are other ways to encounter our stories." That's how we came to create MarvelFest. It's a way for us to engage with our readers via a three-story tall projection of The Astonishing X-Men in Union Square.

Q. After The Astonishing X-Men, what's the next big digital motion comic title on the horizon for Marvel?

A. We're excited to finish Whedon and Cassaday's 25-chapter story arc with the Astonishing X-Men. We've also explored the idea of doing something with Iron Man.

Q. As we approach 2010, what are you most excited about at Marvel Entertainment?

A. From a publishing perspective, we'll be tying up a lot of loose ends with a new book called Siege later this year from Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Lark. That'll be setting up the next place where we'll be going. We've done a really good job of setting up events, developing characters and completing story arcs. You'll see a lot of loose ends being tied up next year.

We're obviously excited about Iron Man 2, as well. From everything I've read and seen it looks like those guys have just hit it out of the park again.

2010's going to be a very good year for us.