Note: Only for Marvel comics that were included in the Marvel #1s giveaway in March and April 2013.
Via digital distribution channel comiXology, Marvel offered registered users over 700 free digital #1 issues during March and April 2013. Free issues included everything from one-shots, limited series, and movie tie-ins, to old and new ongoing series and crossover events, right up to the recently-launched Marvel NOW! titles. The level of demand quickly exceeded all expectations, and overwhelmed the comiXology servers for 24 hours. The promotion was suspended, and it was a month before the offer was re-launched by invitation.
Marvel started to tease the announcement at the end of February 2013, with a short press releases. On Februay 25th, the giant '1' was accompanied by this message:
Begin with the best super heroes in comics--Marvel does it FIRST!! HUGE story coming soon to fans, worldwide.
The 'Marvel FIRST' strapline seemed to imply first issues, but a reboot seemed very unlikely after the recent launch of the Marvel NOW! titles.
On March 4th, a new teaser poster made it clear that the announcement was to be made during Marvel's press conference on the third day of the South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas.
The promotion was officially launched at the SXSW Interactive festival on Sunday March 10th by SVP of publishing David Gabriel. Following the launch, users brought the comiXology servers to their knees.
Originally planned to run for two days, demand for the offer quickly slowed the site to a crawl. Marvel Digital editorial director Ryan Penagos hinted at an extension via Twitter on the Sunday evening. But with publishers unable to sell their own books and users unable to access their libraries for over 24 hours, the promotion was suspended on the Monday afternoon.
CEO of comiXology David Steinberger posted a blog promising that the offer would return. Users were asked to sign up to a mailing list to receive updates. Almost a month later, on April 8th, the announcement came - users had until the end of the following day to sign up for a personalised invitation to the relaunched Marvel #1s promotion. Invitations were sent out in batches from April 11th.
On receiving their invitation, users had 48 hours to browse the Marvel #1s page on the comiXology site and select their free comics. Unlike other comiXology sale pages, there was no 'add all' option, meaning that users had to individually select their issues. The comiXology 'checkout' page was replaced with a selection summary. Users received an email confirmation after ordering that their free issues would be added to their accounts within 12 hours.