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updated 3/13/2013 1:19:54 PM ET 2013-03-13T17:19:54

Even the power of the Avengers wasn't enough to save Marvel Comics from a server meltdown Sunday evening (March 10).

On Sunday afternoon, the comics giant announced at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, that it was providing a gift to its millions of fans.

Until 11 p.m. ET Tuesday (March 12), Marvel said, anyone could download up to 700 of its first issues of Marvel titles, including issues featuring Wolverine, Spider-Man and the popular assemblage The Avengers.

The promotion, called "Marvel #1," was to be accessible through the Marvel website, Marvel's iOS and Android apps and the third-party digital-comics store ComiXology.

ComiXology would be handling the technical back end for all access points.

Fans immediately headed to the sites and apps to download to their hearts' content — but it looks like they all went at once.

[ Will Digital Comics Replace Print Comic Books? ]

ComiXology quickly ran into server problems to the point of overload. The massive consumer demand was too much for the site to bear, resulting in a halt of the free comic program through all distribution points.

ComiXology co-founder and CEO David Steinberger was quick to apologize in a blog post.

"We don't like letting you down," he said. "We're pausing the Marvel Comics #1 promotion for the time being. For those of you that want to take advantage of the offer — you will get your comics!"

In a later update to his posting, Steinberger removed any guarantees that the promotion would restart, merely promising that his team would "right the ship."

"A number of technical issues have arisen with our technology partner in getting the more than 700 free issues to each of you," read a posting on Marvel's own website that was reproduced on its mobile apps. "When we have further updates from our partner, we will share them."

ComiXology temporarily put up a page where interested parties could sign up to receive notifications about when the promotion would live again, but that was taken down today (March 13).

No word yet on the promotion will return, but sooner rather than later would be good. Wolverine doesn't like waiting, bub.

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