Disney Buys Marvel – Thoughts From A Comic Book Academic
(Editors Note: In our last bit of coverage of the Disney and Marvel Merger, Resident Comic Book Reviewer and Marvel Comics Enthusiast Nicholas Yanes gives his take on what has developed over the last few days.)
It was recently announced that Disney will buy Marvel Comics. As the comic book guy amongst my friends and colleagues, I was bombarded with questions on what I thought about this event. So before you all is a quickly written reaction to the news that Disney would now own Marvel.
The most immediate impact from this announcement is that my stock portfolio went up some. Oddly enough, Marvel’s stock went up, while Disney’s went down a little – why anyone’s stock value after an announcement like this would dip is beyond my imagination. It should be noted that Disney’s dip did not cancel out Marvel’s gain. Moreover, from what I’ve read, every Marvel stock that I own will go up by $20 bucks.
Beyond this financial influence on my portfolio, I, like so many of you, had serious questions about this decision. However, before I go into those questions I want to point out that this is not Disney’s first foray into comic book publishing.
Disney has been publishing comic books since the 40s. Well…to be more accurate Disney has been licensing their characters to comic book publishers since the 40s. In the 70s Disney launched a massive a lawsuit against the Air Pirates, a group of underground comics cartoonist that used Disney characters in both sexually suggestive/offensive positions and politically subversive manners. The Air Pirates lost the lawsuit and Disney made it clear to the world that their characters were not available for parody.
Years past and in 2004, Disney acquired CrossGen Comics. If you don’t remember CrossGen, it’s okay. It’s only a sign that you have a social life. Why this is mentioned here is that Disney has done nothing with the CrossGen Universe.
In 2008 Disney signed an exclusive licensing deal with Boom! Studios. In news articles dealing with this agreement, it appears that Boom! only has access to publish titles based on the Muppets and Pixar. So while there is very little chance of Boom! being able to take Spider-Man away from Marvel, it is extremely odd that Disney would continue to license its properties to a company directly in competition with Marvel (i.e., itself). Making it a safe bet to say that as soon as the licensing agreement with Boom! expires, Disney will most likely use Marvel to create books about Disney/Pixar/Muppet characters.
Now it is time to explain why Disney would be interested in purchasing Marvel and why Marvel would be interested in being bought by Disney.
I can fully understand why Disney would want to buy Marvel. Disney may own ESPN and ABC, but the vast majority of their properties and merchandise appeals to women. To make up for this gender imbalance Disney created Disney XD – a cable network designed to appeal to young boys and adolescent males. Having access to Marvel’s characters means that Disney doesn’t have to produce entirely new concepts. Instead they can use one of Marvel’s 5000 characters to create a show or other movies.
In short, more money.
Why Marvel would want to be bought by Disney is a different story. Well…not really. According to Ike Perlmutter, Marvel’s Chief Executive Officer, “Disney is the perfect home for Marvel’s fantastic library of characters given its proven ability to expand content creation and licensing businesses.” But that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Marvel has done a fantastic job of expanding its product line and merchandising its material on its own. Additionally, Marvel Studios’ movies continue to make loads of money for the company and its shareholders.
Perlmutter goes on to say that this deal “is an unparalleled opportunity for Marvel to build upon its vibrant brand and character properties by accessing Disney’s tremendous global organization and infrastructure around the world.” Which again, is something that Marvel has done on its own.
The only reason why I can think that Marvel thought it would be a good idea to be bought by Disney is something that I will touch upon later, but it is still a key reason. This reason is that they are tired of reinventing the wheel. Marvel had to create its own movie studio and get people to handle all of the licensing agreements. Disney will be able to take care of this in the future.
In short, they’ll make more money.
“WHAT ABOUT THE FANS?” you ask. Well, that is a great question.
Already fans are claiming that Disney is going to water down Marvel storylines and keep them from making drastic creative decisions. But this seems to be a concern based on no real evidence. DC Comics has been a subsidery of Warner Bros. Entertainment since 1969 and they were able to kill off Superman and break Bruce Wayne’s back. Additionally, despite the profit gained from the recent Batman movies featuring Bruce Wayne, DC “killed” Bruce Wayne. Further, the DC Universe is currently dealing with Zombie superbeings who gain power by ripping out the hearts of living beings. If the WB has no problem with this, I doubt Disney will really interfere in the production of Marvel’s comic books.
What I am interested to see is how Marvel presents itself to the fan base. For years Marvel Comics has portrayed itself as the underdog against the corporate giant that is DC/WB. This is no longer a realistic option. Disney-ABC Television Group is just as powerful as Time Warner, meaning that Marvel can longer play the indie card.
Then again, Fox Focus does bill itself as a small indie movie distributor, even though it is owned by the same people that own Fox News.
Also fans should be pleased that Disney has purchased Marvel. For years, fans have been craving a live action television series based on a comic book title. Marvel has done a great job producing cartoons (Wolverine and the X-Men is a fantastic cartoon) and movies (I want to be Iron Man). However, neither DC or Marvel have produced a successful live action television show in recent memory. Wonder Woman and Hulk television shows may have been good in their time, they are now dated and would not last in this television market.
Disney buying Marvel also allows Marvel to invest in creating live action shows without having to reinvent the wheel. Marvel now has the chance to create shows with the help of people that created Lost.
While the idea of the Lost’s creative team creating a TV show based on a Marvel property sounds appealing, this is just an idea. But when one thinks about these things, it is odd that Disney has yet to release information about what Disney will due with its new properties.
With that said, there are other issues important to fans, business professionals, and academics that need to be addressed.
For instance, Marvel has struck gold making games with Activision Blizzard. Activision is the company that makes Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Spider-Man, and practically every X-Men video game since 2000: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Activision_games ). Disney has no consistent relationship with any video game producer; something you will quickly realize if you look at the list of video games based on Disney properties on Wikipedia. So I’m curious to see how this merger will affect Marvel’s deal with Activision. Will Activision be able to gain access to all of Disney’s characters? Will things remain the same? Will Disney approach other companies about making video games based on Marvel properties? Or will Disney following Lucas Arts’ footprints and develop their own in house video game production studio? Any decision they make could have an impact on those who love playing Marvel video games and those that make them.
Another issue that no one has yet to mention is how this buyout affects Diamond Comics Distributor. Marvel and Disney have exclusive contracts with Diamond, but Steve Geppi – Diamond’s owner – is in major debt and rumor has it that he may have to file for bankruptcy. If this were to occur, would Disney/Marvel buy out Diamond? There’s some information that suggest that DC is a silent minority owner of Diamond and they have an option to buy out Geppi if he ever goes broke. If this were to happen, how would Marvel and Disney’s new relationship affect the distribution of comic books in North America? Also, now that Marvel is owned by Disney, will Disney renegotiate their contract with Diamond?
Something else that no one has yet addressed is how this buyout will affect Universal Studios Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about I’ve included a link to its website: http://www.universalorlando.com/amusement-parks/islands-of-adventure/attractions/adventures-of-spiderman-ride.html
Overall, “Islands of Adventure” is a theme park owned by Disney’s main competitor. More importantly though, “Islands of Adventure” has an entire section dedicated to Marvel Comics Superheroes and sells related merchandise, some of which, can only be purchased at the park. In short, Disney’s main theme park competition has an entire section that functions as a piece of advertisement for Marvel Comics – now a Disney subsidiary. I can’t imagine Universal Studios allowing this to go on for long. So if you want to experience this amazing park, I suggest you fly to Orlando before it gets shut down. Or at least that’s what I think will happen. While I’ve never heard of an entire section of a park being redesigned, I imagine Universal Studios has the resources to do so.
The final issue I want to address ties into why I think Disney bought Marvel in the first place – they are desperate to appeal to the young male demographic. The problem I have with this is that Marvel and Disney suck at appealing to anyone outside of their core demographic. Marvel has never been successful at developing a female fan base and Disney, in recent years, has developed a larger female following at the expense of gaining young male fans. My concern is that Disney and Marvel are going to forget appealing to the other gender: Disney will continue to roll out with Pop Princess stuff and Marvel will give up on creating powerful and popular female characters. Meaning that I’ll be stuck feeling like a creep every time I buy a comic with a woman on the cover.
On the upside to this, we may get to see Captain America fight Mr. Incredible. Or better yet, Namor fight the Little Mermaid. If you ask me, she’s had it coming for some time.