Among the many “thought leaders”, “social media influencers” and hopeful startup owners attending this year’s South by Southwest Interactive Festival, one very established brand stood out: Marvel Comics.

Marvel owns some of the hottest movie properties around, but Hollywood blockbusters aren’t enough to preserve the brand in an era of diminishing returns for all corners of the publishing world. So what does Marvel plan to do to expand? Quite a bit, actually.

First, the company offered free digital versions of the first issues of top titles like X-Men, The Avengers and The Fantastic Four for a limited period ending today (hint hint). The purpose of this move was to familiarize more people with the beginnings of these timeless stories, but as an added bonus they may help everyone forget the terrible casting of Jessica Alba as Mrs. Fantastic. The rest of Marvel’s brand reinforcement (don’t say “rebranding”) strategy also focuses heavily on the digital sphere: The biggest single step forward may be the launch of the Marvel Unlimited app, a tool to help mobile fans read their favorites without having to worry about the stupid Flash player screwing everything up. Calls to action? Check. User friendly? Check.

Marvel also has some unique digital-only projects in the works.

Read more