Marvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics

MarvelMarvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics Comics & Digital Comics unveiled their long awaited adaptive audio feature yesterday at SxSW, and it has proven much more interesting than I had expected.

Adaptive audio, which was initially announced at SxSW last year under the codename Project Gamma, adds an audio element to Marvel's digital comics. Described last year as a way to add an "adaptive, non-repetitive score" to digital comics, Project Gamma was intended to a background soundtrack which changed as a reader read the comic. The sound track was keyed to certain panels, and it was also supposed to respond to the speed at which the reader turned the page.

Or at least that's what Project Gamma was supposed to do when it was announced last year; how well does it perform now?

If you like, you can find out for yourself. The new feature is available in the Marvel Unlimited app. This is a free download, and all of the titles that have the new audio are available as free samples. You'll only get a part of each volume, but it's enough to at least give you an idea of how the soundtrack adds to the reading experience.

Marvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics Comics & Digital Comics  I tried the new feature on my iPad, and I think the soundtrack improves upon the original comic. The sounds ranged from music clips that set the mood to sounds that were tied to specific events in the story, and in general they improved upon the story.

Should I encounter new titles from Marvel that include audio I might buy them. But I won't be buying any of the several titles released so far.

Marvel debuted the adaptive audio by adding it to comics originally published 10 years ago. Captain America: Winter Soldier is the inspiration for the movie that is coming out in April, so this move makes sense, but unfortunately the original comics are so old that they do not translate well to Marvel's digital format.

The latest trick in comics is to avoid showing an entire page at once, and instead show each panel in sequence. This introduces time as a story telling element, which can add a lot to the reading experience.

The CA:WS comics I read are so old that they were not created as high definition digital files, and that is blindingly obvious when I tried to read them. Have you ever zoomed in on an image to the point that it was started getting fuzzy? That is what I frequently saw with the CA:WS comics.

This is regrettable because it detracts from the new audio feature. It also tells us that Marvel is only making a half-hearted effort to convert and sell their backlist, but that's a tale for another post.

But in spite of Marvel's early stumbles, they could have a real winner here - if it is used correctly. But if Marvel treats it like another gimmick and adds it to old titles simply to try to get you to buy them again, then they'll ruin it. Let's hope that doesn't happen.


About Nate Hoffelder (10082 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

8 Comments on Marvel Adds Soundtracks to Digital Comics

  1. Maybe next they’ll animate then! Replace the speech bubbles with actors voices!

  2. Yeah, I was. Little did I know.

  3. “The latest trick in comics is to avoid showing an entire page at once, and instead show each panel in sequence”
    While I do understand how it is the only way to read a comic on the average 7″ tablet, I totally hate this mode. Why? Because the layout of the page should be a source of story telling, not a succession of panels shown on a tiny screen. Furthermore, you miss the pleasure of having a gorgeous big and colorful page of interwined drawings.


    Two years ago I published my 3D Graphic Novel — “2084” — as an iPad App. There are some animations, but most of those are part of the App navigation. It uses “adaptive” sound and also presents each panel as an entire screen. The music serves as mood-appropriate background and does not usually have a melody. Sometimes there is a single, musical chord that plays when a panel is served so that it keeps pace with and spurs each reader’s progression. There are also music/sound beds that play across a set of panels with a piece that is deliberately long enough to accommodate even the slowest pace and which fades out at the advance past a specified panel. Some panels play panel-specific sounds along with multi-panel beds.

    When I first released the Graphic novel, the feedback we received was along the lines of “I view this on a multimedia device, I expect multimedia.” This may be one reason the adaptation of multi panel, static print comics to digital hasn’t caught on as rapidly as one would expect. I have to admit, the sound takes “2084” to a whole new level.

    I understand and even agree with the notion that a layout of multiple panels can be a powerful aspect of telling the story itself and I deploy something similar in later Episodes. But with digital, I can also make graphic changes and/or dialog (all written, none audible) based on either an automated change set by the amount of time that the panel has been visible, or upon the reader’s advance gesture. Digital also enables a reader to access ancillary content from a the panel itself.

    Probably the primary reason — beyond ease of viewing/navigating — for presenting full screen, single panels is that, as an independent writer/artist/designer/publisher/publicist/janitor/cook, churning out and programming hundreds of panels per issue/episode is just not doable, particularly when people simply will not pay more than $3 for an entire, print-to-digital standard comic produced by the mega-publishers. I gotta eat, folks.

    “2084” won the 2012 Best Graphic Novel Award at Digital Book World (then called the Publishing Innovation Awards) as well as Best Graphic Novel for 2013 Indie Reader Discovery Awards. A review from The Comics Journal is here:

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