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SXSW Film + Interactive

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Photo by John Anderson

Marvel: House of Ideas

Sunday, March 11, Palmer Events Center

The heaving floor of the ScreenBurn Arcade may not have seemed ideal for a major product rollout, but Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso may have made the right choice: You know that you're with hardcore comic fans when they yell out that their favorite characters are the Sentry and Squirrel Girl, not Captain America or Thor. Sunday's big announcement from the house of ideas was a new deal with Aurasma, the same smartphone app that has been bringing the Chronicle's South by Southwest covers to animated life. The bonus content will start appearing in this summer's Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, and the Aurasma developers got to show off what the software can do. A poster of Iron Man launched a video of Tony Stark's high-tech alter ego; a page of art was stripped down through the color layers, down to the inks; and the cover of the first AvX issue activated a full flash trailer for the series. Alonso explained, "This is our way to build out DVD and Blu-ray extras into comics." Aurasma is just one part of the Marvel revolution, where it starts deliberately designing comics for tablets instead of print. Yet Marvel Digital Media Senior Vice President/General Manager Peter Phillips argued that this is not a case of Marvel falling prey to the "shiny penny syndrome." The firm already has a proven track record with digital subscriptions with and starting in June, all its top-selling comics will come with a free download code. As for Aurasma, Marvel looked at other interactive technology, including QR codes, "but we want something that actually enhances the experience of reading a comic," said Phillips. But isn't this just free content? "If this comic line sells the way that we hope it will, and augmented reality will be a big part of that, then it's going to pay for itself." – Richard Whittaker

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

SXSW, Marvel Comics, Aurasma, augmented reality, Axel Alonso, Peter Phillips, Avengers VS X-Men

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