ComiXology Announces 65M Downloads, Inks Exclusive Multi-year Deal With Marvel To Distribute Digital Comics

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Comics on the iPad. A match made in nerd heaven, right?

Well, today it gets even better with the announcement that ComiXology and Marvel Entertainment have entered into a multi-year deal that sees the former exclusively distributing the latter’s digital catalog of English language single issues. Though the deal was actually signed on May 1, the announcement was delayed to make way for a particular movie premiere that some of you may have participated in over the weekend, Peter Phillips SVP and General Manager of Marvel Digital Media, told TechCrunch. Neither company would elaborate on the length of the deal but both agreed that the partnership would allow them to advance the art of digital storytelling.

“This partnership will allow us to innovate and advance the digital storytelling and reading experience,” said ComiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger.

Phillips added that ComiXology’s “technology is by far the best.”

Though the ComiXology-powered Marvel app has been in the App Store since 2010, Marvel appears to be making a real push into the digital arena this year. This past March at SXSW, the Disney owned subsidiary announced its digital-only line of comic books called Infinite Comics, a mix of both a traditional reading experience with bits of digital magic like moving graphics, and even demoed an augmented reality companion experience. Marvel also says that by June of this year every $3.99 issue will be made available day-and-date in digital form.

But just how big is the digital comics space? To date, Steinberger says over 65 million issues have been downloaded across all ComiXology’s platforms, including mobile and desktop. Up from the 50 million mark announced by the company just this past January. To put that number into context, the digital comics distributor says it has experienced a 450% growth year over year in Q1. With Marvel seeing a boost in print sales of about 16 percent in the same period. And no surprise here, Apple’s iPad has the largest penetration of mobile devices but Android is coming on strong, says Steinberger.

While Marvel would not disclose the number of downloads (“many, many millions” was the answer given to me) for its branded iPad app, Phillips did say that the success of its latest universe shattering story arc, Avengers vs. X-Men, has kickstarted a download frenzy with close to 10 percent of print buyers redeeming digital download codes. Which is apparently “pretty high.”

With Marvel seemingly posting fantastic numbers, is the other big pub, DC Comics, scared? Not likely. ComiXology has been the sole digital distributor for DC Comics. But Steinberger did have this to say: “We’ll be working closely with Marvel to ensure their branded experience is a unique experience. It will be different than the DC Comics branded experience.” Take that, Batman!

Sadly, Phillips nor Steinberger would divulge any details about the possibility of a subscription model, both stating that the business model is still unclear. Interestingly enough, Phillips did say that his biggest concern was actually addressing the influx of traffic to Marvel’s website from mobile devices. Digital comics on Marvel.com are currently being served through a Flash player, which we all know aren’t viewable on iOS devices.

Marvel Comics [iTunes]