From Captain America and Spider-Man to Wolverine and Iron Man, Marvel Entertainment, a Disney subsidiary, has built an empire by bringing more than 8,000 characters to life through a diverse array of mediums, including comic books, movies and other entertainment properties. Now, it's giving those characters a new medium to inhabit: the world of the API.
Using Marvel's newly launched API, developers can build applications that obtain and display information about its content that would probably take even the most passionate fans a lifetime to compile. For example, developers can retrieve information about the comics, stories and events that have been associated with an individual Marvel character or creator. There are thousands, and in some cases, tens of thousands of these entities—not surprising, given Marvel's 70-year-plus history.
The API, which is in public beta, gives developers a significant amount of power and the flexibility to craft unique experiences based on the information they have. Want to know the characters associated with an event? There's an API resource for that. Know of a story but can't remember the comic it was a part of? There's an API resource for that, too.
The multidimensional nature of the Marvel API exists by design. As Marvel VP of Digital Products Kristin Vincent explained to Fast Company, "It's the relationships between [entities] that are fascinating. Everything is connected and continues to expand as more comics are released each week."
Marvel's API is RESTful, it returns data in JSON format and it supports JSONP callbacks and optional GZIP compression. Marvel's Developer Portal contains written documentation for the API, as well as interactive documentation that allows developers with an API key to issue requests through their web browser.
Not just for fans
Developers using Marvel's API to build their own apps are limited, by default, to 1,000 API requests each day. Attribution and a link to Marvel is required when information obtained through the API is displayed, and developers are not permitted to create paid or advertising-supported applications without Marvel's approval.
The company is naturally eager to see what fans produce, but the API isn't just a nifty platform for enthusiasts.
According to Marvel's Vincent, the API will help Marvel engage partners, such as retailers which sell the company's comic books, and enable Marvel to get partners up and running with greater efficiency. In addition, the API can help the company develop and bring new homegrown products to market more quickly and already, developers at Marvel and Disney are using the API to explore its various applications.