Over at Fast Company, tech writer Rob Salkowitz looks at Marvel’s ReEvolution and unpicks the messaging from the actual tech on offer:
The new strategy provides an elegant solution to a number of Marvel’s immediate business problems. It retakes the initiative in the critical digital space and changes the conversation from “What is everyone going to do about DC?” to “What is everyone going to do about Marvel?” It serves the brand interests and the audience self-image of the self-styled “House of Ideas” by coming to market with a big, bold, announcement that changes everything and RAWKS YOUR WORLD! By lobbing this grenade from SXSW, it made a bid for attention in hipster and high-tech circles, the traditional market segments that border the comics niche and represent its most natural sources of new readers.
Beyond the branding benefits – and he’s right that ReEvolution works as an attempt to retake the digital frontier from DC and Archie, something that hadn’t even occurred to me – there’s the problem of the technology, however:
But is anyone really clamoring for a reinvention of the sequential art medium? The potential has been out there for more than a decade. Scott McCloud published Reinventing Comics in 2000, and it’s much easier to do this kind of thing on the web. So far, not many have. A few developers have made hay by building bonus features into content-rich titles like Age of Bronze, Eric Shanower’s epic (and historically accurate) retelling of the Trojan War, but are creator-commentary tracks really going to sell more copies of X-Men?Augmented reality might be the most overblown trend on the digital radar right now, and that’s saying a lot. Do we really need to wave our smartphones and tablets over every object in the physical world to find some gimmicky Easter egg or unlock some cheesy video clip? Does it add anything to the story to strip a page down to its pencils or see Iron Man come flying off the page onto the screen of your iPad? How soon till that gets old, even for a teenage male? Five times? Ten?
That last part jibes with something that I’ve been thinking – Namely that the real value of ReEvolution isn’t Marvel AR, but Infinite Comics. Marvel AR as we’ve had it described to us seems both overly gimmicky and overly familiar (Hasn’t the internet and collection extras been bringing us this kind of bonus material for some time? Only the delivery system seems new here, ultimately, and I’m not sure that’s enough just yet, and if the bonus material being offered up through the AR app isn’t good enough, that will soon kill off any interest in its use for anyone but the most hardcore), but Infinite Comics has the potential to actually bring something new to the table, if it lives up to the hype. The more I see Mark Waid on Twitter and interviews explain that, no, Infinite Comics isn’t anything like Motion Comics, the more hope I have that it will live up to that hype… or, at least, be a valiant effort.
Anyway, Salkowitz’ whole article is well worth reading. Go see.