The news is out: Disney bought Marvel Monday morning
, lock, stock and web-fluid, for about four billion American dollars.(1)
The news has been greeted with positive energy from employees high (Joe Quesada, here
) to those further down in the ranks (Paul Cornell's optimistic take
on the new bosses) and mixed commentary
from industry notables (where was Jeff Katz in that piece?).
I don't have a dog in this fight in that I've almost never submitted any material to Marvel Comics(2)
and given how largely loathed my column The Buy Pile
is at both of the major two comics companies, it doesn't matter how many novels I kick out in the less-than-stratospheric range, I'm unlikely to get "called up to the majors."(3)
Likewise, I've worked for Disney, as did my mother before me (Channel and Theme Parks respectively) and have known and dealt with people in almost every branch of the corporate octopod. Standing in such a place gives me a unique perspective, which I share, uninvited, with you.
There are good things about this deal for both companies. Marvel used to have a real hard-scrabble, almost Israeli "lose now and lose everything" mentality. There's less of a need for that given Disney's deep pockets. Disney has had a hole in its programming for post-teens and boys. Done -- butt kicking characters aplenty, from Weinstein-esque extremes with The Punisher to wisecracking Static Shock
-styled wholesomeness with Ultimate Spider-Man.
That's just Jim Dandy for the newly unified Mouse House of Ideas.(4)
However, I see room for things to go awry. Easily, truth be told. Marvel is a sensationalistic house, known for claiming mere announcements from them will "crack the internet in half," a hucksterist tradition that dates back to their still-name-checked sorcerer source, Stan Lee.(5)
That kind of sometimes splashy publicity clashes heavily with Disney's largely conservative moral image. Likewise, Disney is known for broad and sometimes Draconian measures(6)
that could make even the hardiest company man cringe amidst his 401k paperwork. Then there's the fact that extracting Marvel properties from their existing, sometimes intense deals
is surely no easy feat.
Monday morning, I had six realizations about the deal, some of which were bad news for Marvel, some of which were bad news for the competitors, some of which were bad news for no one. I'll let you think your way through 'em.@Marvel/Disney realization #1: Say hello to shelf space. Marvel merchandise at Disney retail. Disney's own comics aren't there, though.
This means that Disney retail chains will probably have Hulk Hands next to mouse ears. Captain America T-shirts right next to Scooge McDuck ones. One of the world's most lethal branding machines now has a whole new catalog worth of pre-awareness characters to monetize, one that has built-in TV channels and product placement in movies, shows and what have you. You should prepare yourself for a marketing onslaught the likes of which spirit itself has never seen, which adds up really nicely for your well placed executives (I'm looking at my CBR co-columnist, Joe Quesada) and not too shabbily from artists delivering the goods on what will be seen on these new lunchboxes and baseball caps and what have you (yet another place Joe Quesada can clean up, especially with a new Iron Man
movie in post production right now).
What this might not
mean is issues of "Dark Avengers" on those same shelves, and it surely won't do any distribution favors for Punisher Max
In that Disney doesn't stock its own family-friendly comics on its retail shelves, properties its owned and has successfully pimped for the better part of the last century, do you really think you'll find a Christopher Priest Black Panther
trade there? Not so much.@Marvel/Disney realization #2: Con sketches? Good luck. Richard J. Marcej noted Disney's strict smackdown policy on stuff that way.
The Mouse House (pre-Ideas) was always super twitchy about their iconography (which is part of how
they became such a lethal branding machine). They sue first and ask questions later in terms of their characters or imagery or ideas drifting about the zeitgeist. It must always
be under their control. The aforenamed CBR poster made this point and it made me wonder about the artist trade at cons. That could be a shift for people, and introduce a new and Draconian influence to conventions. Won't that be fun?@Marvel/Disney realization #3: "Let's all go to the movies!" Paramount and Fox better enjoy now. The Mouse House of Ideas is coming.
According to the aforementioned article
, Spidey is forever the cinematic property of Sony and Daredevil, the FF and the X-Men are locked at Fox "in perpetuity." That could even mean that the Kingpin is stuck as an Affleck-affected memory. The only way those characters could ever be freed from these very odd deals is from a buy out, and that'd cost quite a pretty penny indeed. The Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, plus War Machine, Justin Hammer, Whiplash, Loki and more) are locked in at Paramount until at least 2014.
The response to all that is "so?" Nobody saw Blade
coming. Hell, nobody saw Wanted
coming, and that's almost new. There are thousands of other characters to work with, and Disney has a lot of cameras and a lot of airtime. Television's not out of the question: how would weekly Iron Man series benefit from Robert Downey Jr.'s on screen work? Animation's surely a Mouse House favorite. Combine with Disney's legendary branding bloodlust and you will see Marvel characters, probably inside of a year, a lot more on screens small if not large. Between ABC and a lot more cable channels than you think, they can get the word out and do it fast.@Marvel/Disney realization #4: Hey @DC_Nation! You'd better get your cineplex game together fast. The Mouse House of Ideas? Ill.
Stalled Justice League
movie? No rush to get Brandon Routh back in the sky? Christopher Nolan in no hurry to get back to Gotham City? Don't rest on your laurels, Warner Brothers. Disney will nickel-and-dime you to death, with a deluge of commercials and direct-to-DVD specials and what not. They've got the machinery to jam the channels with Marvel's wares, alongside The Incredibles and their existing brands. Fast tracking Super Max
may not get the job done, but I'd recommend something, and more DCU guests on Smallville
ain't it. Justin Hartley -- suit up!@Marvel/Disney realization #5: If Marvel content (publishing) does get more shelf space, this could force the industry to finally think.
Let's be wild-eyed optimists and suppose Disney suddenly puts Marvel Comics almost everywhere. Retail. Bigger push to newsstands. Opens up their book channels. Puts weight on orders from big retailers like Borders. That's competition
and that'd be good for everybody. Diamond would have to quit being so sluggish and weird (they are not shipping books the last week of the year, the hell with what you've got ready). DC would have to look at some options. Indies could see some charity orders. Rising tides could benefit all ships.
Sure, I'm not overly prone to optimism, but it could
happen.@Marvel/Disney realization #6: Mory Buckman reminded me: theme parks. Change is coming, pal. Embrace it.
CBR has good blog and message board posters, as the aforementioned Mssr. Buckman reminded me of this one.
The Shocker's Shaker. Namor's Aquatic Adventure. Morbius' Hall of Horrors. These could be amusements at Disney parks. Soon.
Theme Parks is one of the most gangsta and relentless of Disney's business units, and they could get the Sub-Mariner into California Adventure within six months. That sort of branding is even more insidious -- it haunts you years later in family photos and nostaglic memories. Get one Super Bowl hero to jam some Marvel into his post-victory announcement and it's on. Seriously. Brace yourselves.
Then I was reminded that Disney bought all of CrossGen
as well, so Mystic/Doctor Voodoo
isn't so impossible.(7)
There's a lotta characters on the table for the House that Walt (and now Stan) built,(8)
and it'd be some kind of cruel justice for Mark Alessi's toys to end up in Joe Quesada's hands ... and not too bad a counterpoint for DC incorporating Milestone.(9)
Sure, that "hands off" stuff works for Pixar, but it didn't work so well for the Weinsteins. Which will this end up as? Tell you in a few years -- the ink's not dry in the new happiest place on earth ... 387 Park Avenue South in lovely New York City.Playing (Music): "Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone" by Glass Tiger
FootnotesIN WHOLLY UNRELATED NEWS ...
(1) = Whoa.
(2) = During the ill-fated Bill Jemas regime I went back and forth with Epic Comics and Teresa Focarile about a property that was seen as very marketable but one that I have yet to do anything with. I developed something commercial and just don't have any real emotional investment in it, so I trot it out at pitch meetings and I'd sell it in a heartbeat, but it's not where my interests lie.
(3) = My reviews show no favorites and often say very, very mean things. I probably peeved current Boom! Studios editor in chief off when I said his Spider-Man: House of M was an atrocity, that purchases of it supported terrorism, and that buying it meant that somewhere in the world, a kitten would be fisted to death. That stuff's just messed up. I know it. However, that remains my opinion, I state it as such and never as any kind of objective fact, and I don't back down from it. I always make it about the work and never about the actual person -- yes, even my nepotism insults are essentially about work product, not personal character. Add to all that the fact that I'm a surly Black guy and that I don't drink, nor will I buy people lots of drinks. I have maybe $30 worth of vodka in Bob Shreck and never got any work out of it, let alone an acknowledgement of the stuff I sent him. Major label comics and me are un-freakin-likely unless I go out and Reggie Hudlin myself, at which point I'll of course have the "fat girl who got hot and came back to the high school reunion" thing going on and totally abuse people. You know, like you do.
(4) = I said it first. You saw that so don't go denying it.
(5) = I'm always shocked how many people are surprised to find out that a) he's not related to Jim Lee nor Pat Lee and b) he's not Asian. True story!
(6) = Let me tell you a story about when I worked at Disney. November 2001 I start, assigned to get a stalled redesign of SoapNet.com online. The redesign lay fallow for more than a year, resulting in only a 475+ page binder of documentation. I tossed the binder, put all the documents on Yahoo! Groups, pushed through with will power and diplomacy and was almost ready to put the whole thing online in March 2001. At that point, I was told I had to find a way to include the newly purchased content management system, which eventually became known as GoPublish. When? Before my three-weeks-hence deadline. I got some consultants from the company formerly known as Arthur Andersen (now "Accenture," whatever that means) and got down with the get down. Early April 2001, I launched a redesigned SoapNet.com. Second week of the month, the executive VP of all Channel calls my name in front of an all-business-unit conference call and applauds me for my accomplishment. That was Tuesday. Thursday, her boss Michael Eisner sent out an email: "Worldwide, 6,000 of you have to go." On Friday, they told me I was number eight. Three days later, they told my boss she was number ten. My mother, who first taught me the term "Mauschwitz," somehow managed to refrain from an "I told you so."
(7) = Crux/Guardians of the Galaxy?
(8) = Do you think they'll offer to freeze Stan next to Walt? That'd be weird.
(9) = You'd think Icon would show up to do more, given all that's going on. Or maybe that SYSTEM and Intergang would work together. Oh well.
My non-comics-fan co-workers started asking "who'd win" style questions, like I haven't broken those down in my head since I was eight. Here's what I'd pick as the "beat everybody on the table" team from both DC and Marvel, just for kicks ...TEAM SCORCHED EARTH (DC)
- Jim Corrigan Spectre (not that pansy Crispus version of the whiny Hal Jordan one either)
- Black Adam (in "country killing" power levels)
- Current Speed Force Barry Allen Flash (as of the latest issue)
- Superboy Prime
- Val Armorr (pre crisis LSH Karate Kid)
- The General (Wade Eiling in the body of the Shaggy Man)
(Bench: Darkseid, Doomsday, pre-crisis Mon-El)TEAM REVELATIONS (MARVEL)
- Living Tribunal
- Dark Phoenix
- Molecule Man
- Odin (at the height of his powers)
- Thanos (he'll ramp up from wherever he is)
- T'Challa (as written by Christopher Priest)
(Bench: Amadeus Cho, Apocalypse, Proteus, Emperor Vulcan, Reed Richards, Mikhail Rasputin, Legion)
I also believe, without a doubt, that my DC team could take on anybody, anywhere, anyhow. As with all things, your mileage may vary.