Disney+ is compelling, but the Marvel Comics vault could make it unstoppable

Disney will bundle its upcoming streaming service with ESPN+ and Hulu, but even before that offer, Disney+ made a strong case for being the most intriguing new option in the subscription-based streaming video market. The ability to offer subscribers the combined movie and television libraries of Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Disney on-demand is a big deal, after all — and that’s before the company adds its newly acquired 21st Century Fox properties to the mix.

And yet, there’s one particular element the streaming service is missing that could put it over the top and differentiate it from nearly every other service out there: Comics.

Disney+ has plenty of superheroes to offer subscribers in its live-action and animated projects, as well as the cornucopia of popular sci-fi and fantasy characters that comes with owning Star Wars, Pixar, and the company’s various other assets. What it doesn’t provide, however, is the massive library of spinoff, tie-in, and original stories set in those same universes published by Marvel Comics (at least, not yet, anyway).

Avengers Infinity War

It might seem like an unlikely pairing to bundle digital comics with on-demand movie and TV, but Disney wouldn’t be the first to go that route. In fact, Marvel’s primary competitor in the superhero market, DC Entertainment, has been doing exactly that for a while now with its subscription-based DC Universe service.

First launched in August 2018, DC Universe offers subscribers a decent (but not too large) collection of new and classic TV and film projects based on Superman, Batman, and the rest of the DC Comics pantheon. (Highlights include Tim Burton’s Batman films, the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, and the entirety of the Emmy-winning Batman: The Animated Series, among other projects.) Along with the classic content and some popular original projects — including the quirky, live-action Doom Patrol series — the service also gives subscribers access to a much more massive (relative to the movie and TV offerings) library of DC’s comics.

10 must read comics from dcs massive reboot dc 52

Although the interface for reading the digital comics can be a bit wonky, the sheer volume of stories that DC Universe has made available is impressive.

Along with offering nearly every major story arc from DC’s comics over the years, the service provides curated categories inspired by the DCEU films and popular DC-related TV series (like those on The CW, for example) that let subscribers take a deeper dive into the characters and stories they’ve seen on the screen. For example, if you watch Aquaman and want to read more about the film’s villain, Black Manta, there’s a set of comics already curated for you that you can read within the DC Universe app. The same goes for Shazam, Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, and the rest of DC’s heroes, villains, and story arcs.

The digital comics and the movie and TV content complement each other so well within DC Universe, in fact, that it’s a little surprising Disney isn’t planning to do the same with the Marvel Comics library and Disney+.

kevin feige discusses guardians galaxy sequels ant man avenger possibility studio crossovers marvel

The absence of Marvel’s comics from Disney+ is even more conspicuous when you consider the synergy between comics and the movies and TV shows based on them.

Comics readership has been on the rise in recent years, growing from $805 million in North American comics sales in 2012 to $1.095 billion in 2018. Industry pundits point to the growth of digital comics and expansion of comics sales into Walmart and other mainstream locations as the biggest factors in that growth — with all of that growth driven by the popularity of superhero movies and TV shows.

That’s not a one-way relationship, either.

As much as superhero movies and TV shows push people to comics, the frequency with which studios are turning to comics for source material has made comics a proving ground of sorts for concepts and characters that eventually make their way to the screen.

Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury? That casting originated in the pages of Marvel’s The Ultimates series long before the actor took the role. The Umbrella Academy (see below) and The Boys? Hit shows based on lesser-known comics like these found a loyal audience in print before they ever found their way to streaming TV.

Even after a film or TV series is a hit, comics have expanded or extended the franchise’s viability with spinoff stories and print “sequels” that keep the characters in circulation.

Marvel famously published a series of Star Wars comics early in the sci-fi saga’s history that established some of the characters that eventually made their way to the screen and offered deeper backstories to popular heroes, villains, and supporting characters. These comics kept the saga active during the lean years when Star Wars films weren’t in production, and introduced some of the characters and concepts that would inform recent installments of the movie franchise. Similarly, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series continued for five additional seasons after its TV run had ended, thanks to an ongoing comic produced by show creator Joss Whedon and published by Dark Horse Comics.

It’s that relationship between comics, movies, and TV shows that makes a Marvel Comics component to Disney+ make so much sense.

disney plus marvel comics unstoppable star wars comic

Disney+ already has the makings for an industry leader in direct-to-consumer video content, but it has the opportunity to go beyond video with a comprehensive experience that blends Marvel’s comics with the projects that inspired or were inspired by them.

Imagine a service that not only gave you Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian TV series, but also gave you several volumes of comics that took a deeper dive into the supporting characters and concepts introduced in the show. On the superhero side, Disney could stoke anticipation for its Loki and WandaVision shows by curating a collection of comics featuring the Asgardian trickster’s solo adventures, as well as a collection of stories showcasing the relationship between Scarlet Witch and Vision over the years.

Given that Marvel Comics already has its own subscription-based digital comics service, Marvel Unlimited, the fundamental architecture is already there to bring Marvel’s comics into the Disney+ environment.

If Disney truly wants to immerse fans in the fantastic universes it’s nurturing, giving Disney+ subscribers a way to explore the entirety of those worlds — from the screen to the page — doesn’t just make creative sense, but also seems like a smart way to ensure those worlds live on long after the credits roll.

Movies & TV

5 epic Marvel Comics arcs that could be the MCU’s next Infinity Saga

Marvel Comics' history offers plenty of potential source material when it comes to the next big-screen event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here are five memorable stories that could inspire Marvel Studios' next major crossover event.
Movies & TV

Disney+: Here’s what we know so far about the upcoming streaming service

Disney is bringing the full weight of its massive content library to its own streaming service in 2019. How will Disney+ compare to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime? Here's what we know so far.
Movies & TV

Obi-Wan Kenobi series is the latest Star Wars project headed to Disney+

Disney's direct-to-consumer streaming video service Disney+ will launch with an impressive catalog of classic content, new projects, and original shows and movies. Here is everything confirmed and rumored to be coming to the platform.
Movies & TV

Forget Batman: Whatever happened to the DCEU’s Flash movie?

The Flash was supposed to hit the big screen in 2018, but obstacles brought DC's fastest hero to a standstill. Now, the DCEU is on the rocks. Will the Scarlet Speedster ever get his own movie? Maybe. Maybe not.
Deals

Grab the Sennheiser PXC 550 and get $105 in savings on Amazon

Now is as good a time as ever to get the Sennheiser PXC 550 along with $105 in savings. Usually listing for $350, Amazon lets you off at $246 with the chance to knock off another $50 with your Amazon Rewards Visa card.
Movies & TV

Five awesome storylines the new Obi-Wan Disney+ series needs

Disney is reportedly planning to bring Star Wars prequel star Ewan McGregor back as Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi for a solo series on Disney+. Here are five storylines we want to see in a show that puts "Old Ben" front and center.
Movies & TV

Easy Rider star and ’60s icon Peter Fonda dies at age 79

Peter Fonda, the son of classic Hollywood actor Henry Fonda who became famous for embracing '60s counterculture both on and off the big screen, has died due to complications from lung cancer.
Home Theater

OnePlus is working on a range of 4K TVs ⁠— here’s everything we know so far

It's no secret that OnePlus is working on a range of 4K TVs. Heck, we've known that since CEO Pete Lau announced the endeavor in 2018. But more details have emerged since then. Here's everything we know about the OnePlus TV.
Home Theater

Don’t cash in that 401(k)! These are the best 4K TVs you can get for under $500

These days, you can land a pretty epic 4K TV for under $500. Still, sorting through the litany of options online can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Check out our list of the best 4K TVs under $500.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Here are the best shows on Netflix right now (August 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Deals

Snag Audio-Technica wireless headphones at a sweet 20% discount on Amazon

With the increasing demand for wireless headphones, the Audio-Technica finally cut the cord and gave us the ATH-M50xBT. Normally ringing in at $199, snag the pair of studio-grade headphones at a sweet 20% discount on Amazon.
Home Theater

What is YouTube TV? Here’s everything you need to know

YouTube TV is becoming an increasingly major competitor to other streaming services. Not sure if the service might be right for you? Don’t worry, we have a guide detailing everything you could want to know about the service.
Movies & TV

The best movies streaming on Hulu right now (August 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.