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Comic book sales may be down with the recession, but publishers have a new weapon in their arsenal to combat the digital drift — the motion comic.

Essentially an animated panel by panel video, the new format is equipped with voiceover narration, and will bring the Spider-Woman story into the digital age.

Will this new format replace the traditional paper comic? No. But it is a great marketing tool.

Marvel is not the first publisher to try out the new format. Last year Warner Bros. and DC Comics released motion comics for Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, as well as the Batman and Superman titles.

The first episode of Spider-Woman will be available in iTunes for $.99 for first two weeks starting today, and then $1.99 after that.

John Dokes, Marvel’s vice president of sales and marketing. Tells Wired:

“We’re using the motion comics medium to tell brand new stories that can appeal to so many different people. Additionally, we’re turning classic paper comic series into Marvel motion comics and exposing this next generation to some of the greatest creators and top moments in Marvel history.”

It's an interesting approach, since the videos are compiled of comic images that move and slide, but are not entirely animated. It utilizes the technological advances that comic creators have been making and helps the genre straddle the digital divide without entirely giving up on the traditional comic panel.

The new format is both cheaper and more easily distributed than paper comics. And while a digital file will not replace paper comics on the shelves of collectors, it is a great marketing tactic. Comic book sales were down for most of 2008, and the business cannot rely on blockbuster films based on comics alone to stoke interest in the genre.

"It's a necessary road—not to replace printed comics, but create another gateway situation for people to discover the comics and mosey over to their comic book store," Marvel writer Brian Bendis tells MTV News .

Combining animation with traditional the motion comic is more of a side shuffle than the next iteration of the comic book. Essentially, it's a big commercial for paper comics. Let's see if it works.

Image: Marvel

Meghan Keane

Published 20 August, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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