Marvel Unlimited


I’ve been using the Marvel Unlimited service for a few months, and now that I’ve cooled down from the initial excitement (“OMG there are so many comics to read here!”) I feel like I can talk about it with a degree of impartiality. (So you can subscribe too! Get it, it’s great!)

The Basics
Marvel Unlimited is a service that gives subscribers unlimited access to a catalog of digital Marvel comics both old and new. By “new” here I mean issues as recent as six months ago, so if you want to read titles the day (or week, or month) they come out, Unlimited will not help you with that. (Do you want them to put comic shops out of business? Don’t be a monster!)

Current pricing is $9.99 per month or $69.00 per year (US). (There’s also a $99/year tier that includes special incentives for more hard-core fans, such as invitations to Marvel events, a Rocket Raccoon figure, and extra discounts on purchases.) The subscription has worked to my financial benefit, because until now I was buying more than that amount in graphic novels. I still buy some, but not as many as I had been.

I’m using the service on an iPad Air, but it’s also available using a web browser or mobile app. In my opinion, a tablet like the iPad is the best way to read digital comics. When reading on an app, you can download up to 12 total issues and keep them available when you’re offline. That’s super handy, and has been a workable number for me.

The App
The Marvel Unlimited app for iPad works pretty well, though not as smoothly as the comiXology apps. (I’m using version 2.1 as of this writing.) You can browse for comics by series, character, creator, date, or event (such as World War Hulk). The search function is a good one, and it will find your search term wherever it appears in a title—so that searching for “spider” will result in hits including “Amazing Spider-Man,” “Giant Size Spider-Woman” (she sounds like trouble), and “Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham.”


After reading an issue, the app presents links to buy the issue, read the next issue, or jump to a related series. I’ve found most of these options to be handy. (Bet you can guess which one I haven’t used. Hey, I’m already paying for the subscription!)


One feature I haven’t used is the Reading Club, though I probably will when I’m looking for something new to read. This is a collection of titles recommended on the most recent “This Week in Marvel” podcast.

Marvel recently added a “Discover” section that looks promising. It’s a collection of featured curated groupings of titles, such as recent event collections, key issues for a popular character (in the screen shot below Ultron is one, due to his appearance in the upcoming Avengers sequel), and artist and writer spotlights.


I’ve encountered a lot of glitches in the app, some of which have tested my zen-like demeanor. It crashes at times. Sometimes only the first few pages of an issue will download, until I restart the app and try again. For about a week the app would try to exit out of reading an issue if the tablet was rotated to change orientation (though this bug was fixed). A small number of issues are missing text from their speech bubbles, and some have invalid publication dates (showing up as year “0002”). Once or twice both my Library and my downloaded issues completely vanished, only to be restored a few days later. Every Sunday the app’s “new this week” section will go blank, until the new issues appear the next day. Finally, I can only download 11 issues for offline reading, instead of the promised 12. Marvel Unlimited tech support confirmed that this is a known bug that they’re working on (when they answered my complaint, a few months after I sent it).

Let me clarify now, though, that these bugs are just occasional annoyances that don’t hurt my overall enjoyment of the app. I feel like I’m getting plenty of value out of my subscription.

The Comics
My absolute favorite thing about Marvel Unlimited is how well it facilitates reading an entire Marvel event storyline. Unlike reading graphic novel collections, you can be sure that you’re reading all the tie-in issues in the correct order, because they are ordered by publication date. (And you’re not saddled with buying those few issues of Heroes For Hire just so you can follow the storyline of Civil War.)


Hey, here’s an example of a great update to the app, and an indication of ongoing support: while taking screen shots for this post, I noticed that some events are now displaying the issues in a “suggested reading order”, as below. Nice.


Marvel says there are over 13,000 comics in Unlimited now, and they add more every week. My understanding is that in addition to adding “recent” issues (the ones turning 6 months old), they also add more titles to the back catalog.

Personally, my reading has been about ¾ classic titles and ¼ recent ones. I think this is mainly because I have so much old Marvel to catch up on. (“What If” is in here! And “1602,” and “Secret Wars,” and “Tomb of Dracula,” and “Marvel Zombies”!)

This stuff is just about all I read in my first two months as a subscriber. I’ve since emerged from my cave and started reading other things again, but I still read enough Unlimited titles to make it well worth the price.

My Suggestions
I have a few ideas for features I wish Marvel would implement for Unlimited. (Don’t worry, I already submitted these to the proper authorities.)

  • The app provides an easy way to read the next issue of a title after finishing an issue, but it would be nice to also have a quick link to the previous issue. (Such as when you go to read an issue and realize you picked the wrong number, or didn’t finish all of the last one, or maybe it’s just me that does this, leave me alone!)
  • I’d like to be able to lock the screen orientation, so it doesn’t switch from portrait to landscape whenever I accidentally tilt the device.
  • I’d like to be able to add a group of issues at once to my Library. So, for instance, when viewing an event that contained 20 issues, I could easily put them all in my Library.
  • The ability to subscribe to titles would be great. So, for instance, any time a new issue of “Fantastic Four” is added to Unlimited, it could go to my Library automatically.

Now will someone please talk DC into doing something similar for their digital catalog? I was primarily a DC fan until I found Marvel Unlimited!

GenCon 2014 Recap


I survived my third GenCon! I hadn’t been since the Boy started kindergarten a few years back (when the con coincided with his first week of school). It was great being back at GenCon, and I never want to be separated from it again.

My friend (and superb Paranoia GM) Kerry was there too, as well as some of his friends. Kerry and I don’t live in the same town, and in fact only see each other at conventions. We met at his Paranoia game at MidSouthCon a few years ago.

At a con as big as GenCon, it’s hard to split your time between games, the dealer room (or Exhibit Hall, as they call it at GenCon), and panels. And sleep. (That last part is hard to skimp on for this aging gamer, or else the other choices suffer.) This year I did moderate gaming, heavy Exhibit Hall exploring (though not enough–it’s never enough), and no panels. (And sleeping through most of my morning plans.) I wanted to check out some writer’s panels, but the games I most wanted to play conflicted with them.

The games I played were Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and SpaceMarvel Heroic RoleplayingFading SunsCthulhuTech, and World War Cthulhu. It was my first time playing any of those, and almost all of them were fun. My favorite bits were playing as the 4th Doctor, playing as the Thing, and being taken over by an energy parasite (in WWC).

Adventures in the Exhibit Hall

Mongoose Publishing and Cheapass Games were the only companies on my wish list that did not have booths. Paizo had four Cheapass games for sale, including a card game version of Kill Dr. Lucky called Get Lucky. As a gift for a friend, I bought Veritas, in which you play as the Truth. Awesome.


Monte Cook Games had their new game The Strange on display. I’d been planning to buy Numenera at the con, but after lots of deliberation picked The Strange instead. It looks amazing. The book is pricy, but players only need the $20 player’s guide. A couple of cute kids (around 8 to 10 years old) ran my transaction; I wonder who they were.


I tried out the Bravest Warriors card game, and liked it. I’d have bought it for the Boy, but it was sold out. They were showing two decks, each supporting 4 players, and combining the decks allows 8 players. Each deck is $13. Yes, please.

At the Eden Studios booth I got to talk to Alex Jurkat, who was my editor when I worked on a few City of Heroes adventures. It was the first time I’d seen him since the previous GenCon for each of us (in 2006, I believe). Like back then, we mostly talked about getting our kids interested in RPGs. He’s been more successful than me at that goal. The Boy has video game fever.

A man at the Pinnacle booth talked to me about the Savage Worlds edition of Space: 1889. It looks excellent, and I’d have probably bought it if I had the latest version of Savage Worlds. (I don’t know for a fact the game wouldn’t work with an older edition of the rules, but with limited Exhibit Hall time I got in the habit of making quick decisions.)


I spent a lot of time at the Steve Jackson Games area. It’s hard not to, with so many Munchkin variants on display. I bought Munchkin Adventure Time for the Boy, and now I’m really eager to try it out, but have to wait until his birthday, because that’s what I’m saving it for. I’m also excited about the pocket edition of Ogre (selling for $2.95, just as it did when first released in 1977), but I missed out on Car Wars, which sold out before I arrived.

The biggest hit to my wallet (and my RPG shelf space) was from the 20th anniversary edition of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, by Onyx Path. It’s stunning. I like the larger-than-normal print in the book (and my aging gamer eyes appreciate it), though I wonder how much that added to the page count. I got to talk to the game’s art director, and compliment his work. He says their next Werewolf book will be a revised edition of Way of the Wyrm. I took a look at the anniversary edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, but my wallet said no, not this time, you’ve hurt me too much already.


During my Fading Suns game I learned that the game (which I thought was no longer in production) had been revived by FASA. Yay! The setting is like a science-fantasy dark ages in space, with lords and aliens and psychics. I invested in the new edition.


At Chaosium, the big news was the impending release of Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, due out in November. For the first time the core rules will be in two separate books, the Investigator’s book and the Keeper’s book. The final manuscripts were on display, and the books’ interiors are gorgeous. I can’t wait.

I’m not a big D&D fan, but I still bought the new 5th edition of the Player’s Handbook at the Wizards of the Coast shop. One reason I bought it was because, as a student of RPG design, I’m curious about the changes to the game. But the more personal reason is that it was at my first GenCon that I bought my first version of D&D, the 3rd edition (which was released at that GenCon in 2000). So I guess I wanted to carry on that tradition. And, spoiler warning, I’m loving the 5th edition.

I was glad to see fewer PC or console games on display at this year’s con than there were the last time I went. I love those games, of course, but they’re easy to find everywhere else. The electronic games that did make it to the show were more closely related to tabletop games, being either electronic versions of tabletop games (such as an iPad edition of Ticket to Ride), or digital assistants to traditional games (like an app that facilitates gaming groups that are separated geographically).

There’s so much more I could ramble about concerning this year’s GenCon (the costumes! The shirts and hoodies and robes for sale! The dice, man, the dice!), but I better stop ‘cause I’m getting antsy for next year already. Only 48 weeks to go!

Stan Lee Cameo Ideas for Upcoming Marvel Movies


Stan Lee’s cameo appearances in Marvel Movies are always fan-pleasing events. From his first appearance as a bystander in X-Men, to his latest in Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which I won’t spoil since it’s still in theaters), Smilin’ Stan has shown a lot of range.

So what’s next? There are still countless parts, small and large, that Stan could play. Here are a few suggestions of how Marvel might work Stan into the upcoming Marvel masterpieces.

Fantastic Four (March 2015)

Stan could appear as the Impossible Man, long-time quirky foil of the team, who shows up at the beginning of the movie to explain that the first two Fantastic Four movies were merely a bit of whimsical prankery on his part.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron (May 2015)

Picture Stan borrowing Jack Colvin’s role as reporter Jack McGee from the Incredible Hulk TV series. McGee is trying to spy on the Avengers in order to get the scoop on Banner and produce an exposé on the Hulk. Hawkeye puts a stop to it in no time, with a little thing called an arrow to the camera lens.

Ant-Man (July 2015)

The tiny hero’s first big challenge is Stan the Exterminator (working for Excelsior Extermination, of course). Stan is just trying to do his job and cleanse the place of pests, but all he gets for his trouble is a big-time “one that got away” story.

Captain America 3 (May 2016)

Cap could meet Stan in the role of Colonel Canada, a retired superhero being honored at some big military shendig. Unless Stan wants to try an accent, and play Major Mexico. (Do you realize Stan was Cap’s age during World War II? If Cap were real, they would have been contemporaries, and Stan didn’t have the luxury of sleeping through most of the years between then and now!)

X-Men: Apocalypse (May 2016)

Stan might appear as one of Mystique’s disguise forms. Or Professor X’s father (Professor W?). Or a wheelchair repairman.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3 (June 2016)

We don’t know the villain(s) of the next Spider-Man movie yet, but we do know this: Stan’s librarian character should return ASAP. Instead of showing the school library get destroyed again, maybe this time Stan can give Peter a book that helps him save the day. (Perhaps a book about illusions or hypnosis to help him beat Mysterio? Please? I miss Mysterio!)

Batman vs. Superman (May 2016)

Yeah, I know this isn’t a Marvel movie, but that hasn’t stopped Stan the Man himself from dreaming about a cameo in Batman vs. Superman. How about Stan as Alfred the butler? Hey, go big or go home!