iPad's secret weapon: Marvel Comics?

February 1, 2010: 4:18 PM ET

It's easy to imagine why Apple would want to bring comics to the iPad – and thanks to Steve Jobs, it has an inside track to make that happen. Photo illustration: Jon Fortt. Photo: iPad, Apple. Comic book cover, Marvel.

Now that we've all seen the iPad and debated its design merits, let's cut to the chase: This thing will rise or fall on content. If Steve Jobs can get a bunch of cool books and apps on the thing, we'll want one. If not, we won't.

Where will His Steveness get some of those books? I say the same place he's gotten so many movies and TV shows for iTunes in the past: Disney (DIS).

When Jobs needed movies for iTunes, Apple (AAPL) got them from Disney. When he needed TV shows? Disney (which owns ABC) was among the first to sign up. Why all the Disney love? Remember, Steve Jobs was the CEO of Pixar, which had a very lucrative movie distribution deal with Disney. Things only got cozier in 2006, when Disney bought Pixar for $7.4 billion, turning Jobs into the Mouse House's largest individual shareholder.

But wait, you say. Disney isn't exactly a major book publisher.

Oh, yes it is. Disney just bought Marvel, remember?

With Marvel comes Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, and all manner of other classic superheroes. Lately, much of the value from those characters has come through movies and TV. It's easy to forget that these characters first came to life through full-color artwork on the printed page – a format that never translated very well to the digital realm.

Until the iPad, that is. The iPad will be the first mainstream computing device with the interface, the power, the battery, and the gorgeous color screen to truly bring comic books to life. And Apple already knows how to do it – they did a test run with Tyrese Gibson's Mayhem book, a project that I guessed back in September was a precursor to Apple's e-book format. It wouldn't be too hard to bring new comics – and all sorts of old classic titles – into the digital realm in brilliant color. The iPad's screen was practically made for it.

By bringing comics and graphic novels to the iPad, Apple will not only attract a loyal geek fan base that loves the medium. It will also offer an experience that Amazon (AMZN), Sony (SNE) and others in the e-ink e-book crowd can't even approximate: Immersive graphics, in full color. Excelsior!

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