This chapter concerns the history of one major formation in Marvel’s digital repertoire: the motion comic. Over the last two decades, Marvel has rolled out a new iteration of the motion comic on a surprising number of occasions, making claims each time for its innovative status, only to scrap it entirely and begin again within the space of a few years, claiming once more that what they have produced is unprecedented. What is it about the form of motion comics that produces this constant churn, and how do we begin to trace it? What sort of audience does Marvel imagine for motion comics? Does it resemble the traditional comics audience, or even support the things that readers have always valued about print comics? And what contributions, if any, has the motion comic form made to the celebrated content of the Marvel Universe?
The larger point that emerges from a study of Marvel’s various adventures in digital publishing is that in a networked digital culture, circulation outstrips continuity and preservation. In the name of increasing circulation, Marvel has produced a discontinuous series of mutually incompatible forms of digital comics. Digital technologies have also altered the physical form of print comics and, as a result of the new business models that accompany digital content, they have transformed the histories and continuities of the characters on which their brands are based. Digital media excels at cheaply and shamelessly promulgating information across the globe. When it is used for storage, archiving and preservation, it works against its grain, and often produces uneven results.
This project was presented at the Make Ours Marvel: Media Convergence and a Comics Universe. Ed. Matt Yockey. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2017.