At the SXSW festival over the weekend, Marvel made a big announcement about the future of digital comics, saying they'd be able to interact with iPads and iPhones, which some sites seemed to think was just a bit of a fancier spin on motion comics. You know, like you take a picture of your comic with your phone, and then little animations happen on your device. Neat, but not exciting. Mark Waid, however, insisted on Twitter that we had it all wrong.
"I know what Motion Comics are, yes, thanks, and I share your disdain for them. Everyone who sees what we're cooking up can tell the diff," the writer said. So what exactly is going on with this Marvel: Augmented Reality notion and Marvel Infinite Comics? Well, here's what we can parse from the press releases, which are filled with a lot of informationless blurbs about how "this is new and different and cutting edge and different and new!"
They're billing it as Marvel ReEvolution. Marvel AR is the name of the app, and Marvel Inifinite Comics is the name of the comic format, and they're both debuting with the release of Avengers vs. X-Men #1 on April 4. They have partnered with Aurasma, are all using ComiXology's "Guided View" technology, tablets and smartphones (yes, Androids, too) as "a new canvas for storytelling." You open the app, then scan products with the Marvel AR logo (seen below), and digital content will be unlocked – behind the scenes stuff, creator commentary, new footage, timelines or 'previously on…' recaps, things of that nature. The logo may also be on promotional posters and the like, which probably means you'll be able to snap pictures of ads and get even more teasery stuff for whatever they are promoting.
“We call these Marvel Infinite Comics because the storytelling possibilities are, frankly, infinite. Writers and artists now have a whole host of new tools at their disposal to redefine the comic book medium,” said EIC Axel Alonso. “Current tablets and smartphones, along with comiXology’s Guided View technology, allow us to develop new, full length stories for a different medium that are very much truly comics – but experienced by readers in a way no other major company has ever executed.”
It's still all very vague. What exactly defines "augmented reality?" Well, going by Wikipedia, it looks like those commercials where some guy is walking around and pointing his phone at empty spaces and getting images of fighting statues or whatever. But it also seems as though AR also includes sports scores, tickers and robot football players and stuff jumping around the corners of the screen while you're watching a game, those transparent logos in the corner of every TV show ever now as well as those annoying things where you're watching Community (returning this Thursday at 8pm! Be sure to tune in!) and then the cast of The Voice comes barging into the bottom of the screen to distract you from your choice of brilliant comedy to plug their karaoke contest, or all that crap running over the screen on every news show whittling away your attention span. At least as far as AR in comic books goes, you'll have to proactively seek out the content, and thus it's likely to be a lot more interesting than all that TV clutter that everyone hates.