We are excited to bring Transform 2022 back in-person July 19 and virtually July 20 - 28. Join AI and data leaders for insightful talks and exciting networking opportunities. Register today!


It’s probably not fair to take one man’s off-the-cuff remarks as representative of his company, but boy, talk about clueless old media.

Publishers Weekly’s comics blog just posted this telling excerpt from the comics on the web panel at last week’s ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference in New York. The speakers are Ira Rubenstein, executive VP of Global Digital Media at Marvel Comics and Dave Roman, a cartoonist and associate editor at Nickelodeon Magazine.

Rubenstein: Those are our characters. How could someone else write another Spider-Man story?

Roman: Because fan fiction is becoming so powerful. I’ve seen the power of fan fiction. Working at Nickelodeon, there are people out there doing ‘Avatar’ comics that are soooooo much better…

Rubenstein: But that’s like saying YouTube is a real entertainment channel. It’s not.

Apparently, everyone else jumped on Rubenstein’s remark, so it’s not like the rest of the industry is that confused. Still, the head of Marvel’s digital media division doesn’t think YouTube is a “real entertainment channel.” That seems part-and-parcel of a mentality that thinks a lame animated version of comics that were published years ago is a smart response to online comics sharing and to the growing popularity of webcomics. (Didn’t people already try that idea during the last bubble?) Good luck with that, Mr. Rubenstein.

Disclosure: I’m a recovering DC Comics/Vertigo fanboy, which may be coloring my response.

Update: Ira Rubenstein responds in the comments below and says his remarks were taken out of context, robbing them of their nuance:

My point is that fans are willing to pay for professional content and they are not willing to pay for content otherwise created. Therefore I do not believe that the Comic Book industry has to put all of it’s content up for free on the internet or there is no pay model as Dave was insisting. That we can create compelling digital experiences at Marvel for all users, across many devices.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Learn more about membership.