Monday, August 31, 2009

Disney Buys Marvel - Initial Thoughts

Just when you think that the comic world's biggest news already happened this year, when Marvel acquired the rights to the legendary Marvelman character, today we have learned that mega-corporation Disney has bought Marvel. This is a shocking piece of news that very little few saw coming and that has set the internet ablaze with talk. As of right now, there's not a whole lot of information going around outside of the press release that deals with mostly the business side of the deal.

But most comic fans care about something else entirely: will the comics change? I personally hope and think not, as with Time-Warner's purchase of DC, it left day to day operations mostly the same. But there are sure to be some changes, just as there are in any transaction this big. Hit the jump to see some first thoughts and speculation in possible upcoming changes regarding Disney's purchase of Marvel.

1 - Worldwide Recognition and Distribution

Disney is a worldwide brand, with many outlets around the whole world. This will do wonders for Marvel's products and character, especially in a worldwide stage where they may not be as popular. Spider-Man is a pretty known character, but he is nowhere near as popular as Mickey Mouse.

2 - BOOM!'s line of Disney Adaptations

Not very long ago, BOOM! started line of adaptations of Disney comics, such as The Incredibles, Cars, and The Muppets among others. What will happen to these comics now that Disney has it's own publishing company to release these comics. Marvel/Disney could theoretically purchase BOOM! and keep it as an imprint of Marvel comics, specially considering that Mark Waid, BOOM!'s editor in chief, already works heavily with Marvel.

3 - Marvel Movies

The companies have already stated that movie franchises that are already established with other companies, such as the X-Men with 20th Century Fox and Spider-Man with Sony/Columbia, will stay where they are now, but it leaves it open for all upcoming movies. Disney's international handling of movies, like it did with Pixar, could work greatly in Marvel's favor.

4 - Animated Shows

Marvel was just bought by the biggest animation studio in the world, so the possibilities are literally endless for current and upcoming animated projects from Marvel. Marvel shows could be shown in Disney Channel, one of the biggest and most popular cable channels for children. Considering all the push that Marvel has been doing with their recent Marvel Super Hero Squad, this is pretty important.

5 - Marvel Super Hero Island

People that have visited Islands of Adventure, which is part of Universal Studios, know that there is a section (or Island) dedicated completely to Marvel characters and is home to popular rides such as the Incredible Hulk roller coaster and The Amazing Spider-Man ride. Universal Studios is Disney's main competition in the theme park business, so I don't know what is going to happen there. Both have theme parks located in Orlando, Florida.

6 - Creative Control?

This is the dark underside of this purchase. Everyone hopes that comics will stay the same, but Disney is very "anal" (for lack of a better word) about their product's respectable standing. If a product is deemed too questionable, Disney could put a stop to it. It's something that no party involved will want to do, but at the end of the day, with a company this big purchasing Marvel (which up to this point was it's own company), the possibility of outside censorship becomes more likely.


Those are my first and initial thoughts on this new purchase, we will have another post later today with a more fleshed out analysis of the impact. How are you feeling, dear readers? Excited, scared, confused? Let us know in the comments section!

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Max said...

"This is a shocking piece of news that very little people saw coming"

Those seven dwarves sure are business savvy!

Matt Ampersand said...

Haha, that's what happens when I rush an article.

Christine said...

I choose to be cautiously optimistic. International exposure could really affect wider recognition of many lesser-known characters outside of the US (Where I live, in Sweden, people hardly know about superheroes that haven't been featured in movies, and there are many more untapped markets).

There is also, as Paul Cornell pointed out on his blog, the possibility that more of an economic buffer would mean giving struggling titles a little longer to prove themselves before being canceled.

Creatively, I'm a little nervous, but I don't think Disney would want to meddle too much with what Marvel does creatively. They know they are not the comic book experts here, and won't try to micro-manage the creative side, most likely. If they do something as outrageous as censoring gay characters, they can expect hell from the liberal-leaning reader base. The key to making money here is to keep Marvel fans happy while gaining more of them. There are also plenty of examples of other Disney franchises that lie far away from the cuter side of Disney, so the company obviously knows to offer a wide range of products.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this is a good thing and that Daredevil won't be reborn as Dare-Angel and Punisher won't turn into the Encourager. However, I'm all for trying Donald Duck's no pants philosophy on some of Marvel's characters. ;-)

Klep said...

Unless and until we see some kind of commitment from Disney that Marvel is going to retain creative control, I'm going to consider this bad news.

Ryan Schrodt said...

Hey Klep--the Marvel folks have made it fairly clear that this deal shouldn't have an immediate impact on Marvel editorial. It is to be seen in the same light as Disney's acquisition of Pixar in 2006. Disney doesn't see themselves as experts on comics and as the old saying goes "If it ain't broke..." Disney is a money-making machine, so I doubt they'll do much to muck up Marvel considering the stranglehold that Marvel has on the comics marketshare.

Kirk Warren said...

@Klep - Disney owns Pixar adn lets them do what they want. They own ABC and let Lost and other shows do what they want. They ahve their fingers in a lot of different pies and rarely force acquisitions to tow the company line. At best, they will take properties for animation and do as they please with them. They wont be forcing Spider-Man to do song and dance every issue or anything retarded.

Kelson said...

Disney is a lot stricter with properties that are actually branded Disney than with their other brands. I wouldn't worry about the comics themselves until they slap a Disney logo on top of the M.

Zdenko said...

I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm worryed if they'll censorship the comics, but I believe they'll let comics be. As for the movies/cartoons this could prove very good.

Klep said...

The deal with Pixar specifically laid out a number of conditions which ensured that Pixar would remain a separate entity. Until I know more about the terms of this deal, I'm not inclined to trust it.

0xanathos0 said...

I doubt marvel will get much influence from disney, seeing as it is already a very established brand on it's own. Indeed, marketing and expanding horizons are the benefits for both, but if marvel changes much they will lose their core audience, which disney bought in the same transaction in a certain way. A relatively small takeover, like they did with pixar, will lead to change, but disney isn't going to be stupid and change the career of marvel for the sake of being disney. I personally think only thing we can expect is that it will be a little more child friendly on certain series...

Bill said...

I'm sure the 616 titles will remain unchanged, I don't think Disney cares. I wonder about Icon stuff, though. When some parent sees a copy of Powers or Criminal and finds out they're owned by Disney, and flips out, will Disney be ok riding out a news cycle of bad PR?

Radlum said...

As long as there's no influence in the content of the comics (like censorship or forced plots) I don't care. I mean, yeah, better cartoons and a Theme Park would be interesting, but if the child friendly stuff is limited to Marvel Adventures like it already is, then I won't mind.

Ryan_the_Iowan said...

@Bill - I think this is where the Miramax analogy comes in again. Miramax has released a number of extremely controversial films, including the majority of both Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith's films. If those movies can make it past being owned by Disney, I think stuff like Criminal, Power, and Kick-Ass won't be a problem.

Disney has a stranglehold on its own major properties, but for the companies it owns, it has a history of leaving it to the experts.

It would be different if Disney already owned its own comic book company, but right now I think they will leave Marvel to continue to dominate the industry financially and until that starts to slip, will remain mostly out of the picture.

Mikey Donuts said...

We're not going to notice anything at first. In fact we're never going to notice anything because the story lines that Disney is being all 'hands-off' about simply won't be green lit. Marvel is slowly going to turn into a g-rated series of wolverine and spidey comics.

Sam Morgan said...

As far as content is concerned I'm not too worried about anything outside of maybe, maybe we might not be getting many more MAX titles in the future, though that wouldn't be the end of the world by any means. Though I'm not too sure that would even happen.

I'm pretty sure that the ICON imprint will still be okay because getting high end creators to sign exclusive contracts will be easier financially now but they still need a place for them to dick around with out losing the rights to the characters they create.

The thing that I think may cause some problems is Disney's famous death grip on licensing, as far as the content that Marvel owns outright is concerned. If Marvel has yet to get a hold of the rights for the back log of Marvelman comics, I'm pretty sure they never will. Too many people stand to make too much money on rights reverting back to them after whatever amount of time Marvel was willing to license them for. This goes for pretty much any new acquisition that Marvel would consider, not that this is something that the company is really known for though.

This is all conjecture on my part though, I'm not a businessman and I'm not going to profess to know how things like this work but this is the stuff that popped into my head when I heard about the buyout this morning.

Bill said...

@Ryan: I get the Miramax analogy, but there's still a mainstream perception of comics as being for kids. Everyone knows what an R-rated movie is, not everyone knows what "mature readers" or whatever means (not to mention people who'd just assume a comic book was harmless and not bother to glance at the cover). Before, we'd see the occasional freak out over comics content, but I feel like having Disney as a target will make a difference. Time Warner's a huge company too, but they don't brand themselves as "family friendly" like Disney does. Bad press means lower stock prices which means people get fired. Who knows.

Although actually I might end up loving it if they ditched Icon, and those guys moved their creator projects to a third party and bounced between Marvel and DC when they feel like it. (I'd love to see a Jason Aaron Batman, or Bendis do something with Babs Gordon, or... I feel like the Huntress is begging for a Brubaker reinvention, Catwoman-style)

David Miller said...

I think it's fair that Disney will want to maintain a slightly tighter control on the comics of those characters with a wide media recognition. The Ultimate Hulk talking about raping a city of people might not fly if they're debuting a Hulk cartoon. Honestly, from a corporate standpoint, they'd be kind of foolish if it did.

I think that Joe Q has had a "any news is good news" view towards controversy, I'd be amazed if the new owners feel the same. Spider-Man making a deal with the Devil? Might be a problem.

Something like Icon, if Disney views it viable, shouldn't be a problem in terms of content, it's more the mainstream stuff that I suspect will gradually mutate into softer forms.

And yeah, the Pixar analogy isn't really apt. I'm guessing Disney bought Marvel for it's overall media appeal and not for the comics. I don't see Marvel Comics (i.e. the comics division) having much pull in the way the deal is written.

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