2 Sep 2009

Thought Balloon: The Marvel Takeover

By Matt T
As most of you would have heard by now, the House of Mouse and the House of Ideas are about to become one and the same (the House of Mouse Ideas? They’ll have to work on that!) as Marvel is being taken over by Disney. With many of our favourite properties now under the jurisdiction of a company more used to producing family-friendly fare like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, as well as the superb Pixar movies, there’s been a feeling of dread descending on comicdom that the darker tales will be discarded for a youth-orientated output.


This calls into question the future of the MAX titles, as well as those which skirt the edges of standard levels of decency. Granted Marvel isn’t exactly putting out The Boys style offensive material, but the likes of Punisher and, more importantly, Kick-Ass may be a thing of the past. Why Kick-Ass? It’s an independent comic published by a massive company, giving what would probably have disappeared into the back pages of a Previews a big step into the limelight. If Mickey and co are going to be running side by side with the likes of Deadpool and Foolkiller, who do you think will be the first to fall? I’m guessing Pluto’s got a hell of a bite…

Big Joe Q has answered a few of these concerns on his Twitter account; “If you're familiar with the Disney/Pixar relationship, then you'll understand why this is a new dawn for Marvel and the comics industry.” I’d hate to say it, but that’s a very business-like response for a personal Twitter account. Almost a "We’ll all make a bit of cash, and still make comics! Whoop!" rather than "The Mouse won’t get anywhere near Kitty Pryde, and if he does I’ll set Logan on him". The parallels with Pixar make me far happier, as they seem to receive plenty of editorial control over content, but it's not exactly like they’re putting out hardcore porn. The Incredibles could have easily been a 2D animation from Disney themselves without any major content changes, whereas you can’t really imagine seeing an 11 year-old girl hacking up a room full of thugs with a samurai sword without an arm being raised from one of the suits.

We also have the movie output to consider. Contracts have been signed for the likes of Avengers and Iron Man 2 with respective studios, but what about the next generation? It seems we’re back on an upswing after the festering turd that was X-Men: The Last Stand, so I’d begrudge any extra chefs spoiling the stew. Having all of the properties under one roof does make good sense for the crossover potential though, and the animation quality of Marvel's straight-to-DVD movies is in desperate need of some Pixar love. Imagine the Dark Phoenix saga in CGI? Or a Fantastic Four movie akin to The Incredibles?

We have one obvious example to call upon: DC is owned by Time Warner. As one of the biggest multimedia companies in the world they have their fingers in enough pies to make DC an incredibly strong force in almost any medium they chose, be it Hollywood or video games. And there are still a fair few bloody, risqué comics coming out of their quarter. As well as the creative implications, we’ve got the cash side of things. Granted Marvel are one of the biggest comics publishers in the world, but in comparison to Time Warner they’re small fry. With a leg up from Disney the content could not only get better quality in terms of paper and distribution, but big name writers and artists tied up to lucrative contracts. They’re not doing too bad on that front at the moment, but imagine how much more attractive a job at Marvel would be with a few more zeroes on the pay check.

In summary I’ve got plenty of concerns from a creative point of view, as suddenly stamping Disney on our much loved funnybooks will doubtless have an impact in the long run. But if Mickey keeps his distance, with only the occasional reassuring word and lending of cash, then I can see this being the start of a beautiful partnership.

13 comments:

Matt C said...

I imagine that Marvel will continue to operate as separate entity but with Disney's might in the background. The wouldn't gain anything from wading in heavy-handed and calling the shots. They would have gone after Marvel for - amongst other reasons - it's success over the last decade, and any sensible business heads would know that there's no need to fix anything if it's not broken.

I don't think we've seen the end of the likes of Kick-Ass either. Miramax are part of Disney, and if you look at some of the movies they've put out you'll see they don't exactly cater to family audiences only (Kevin Smith's profanity-drenched comedies, for example). I like to think we haven't seen the end of the Icon and MAX imprints, or Marvel tackling edgy subject matter.

Stewart R said...

Yep, Matt C's got a good point. The House of Mouse has been investing money in darker and edgier corners of the entertainment industry over the past decade and I really don't think a huge company like Disney wants to white-wash over the more interesting material and get everyone reading Jonas Brothers comics as this will more likely be an attempt to cash in on other tastes and audiences.

The DC/Warner relationship is another good point to note as that's been going from strength to strength over the past couple of years with DC providing the ideas and Warner the muscle to see them come to fruition.

The one worry for me is the possible move away from the 2D animation Marvel has been producing as full 3D CGI animation, while all well and good, maybe crosses into the realms where we'd be better of with Live Action version first rather than spoiling our appetite.

Matt T said...

the more I think about it the more I'm thinking the merger may be a good one. There are definite concerns in a number of areas, but I trust Joe Q to keep Marvel as an independent entity that just happens to have an f'ing great Mouse behind it :)

Anonymous said...

My only area of interest is in the comics themselves. I don't generally care whether we get Marvel films, games, lunch boxes, t-shirts, theme park rides etc. I'm only interested in the comics being good. While a Disney deal is no doubt good for people who want lots of spin off merchandise and franchise films, I will wait to see if Disney intend to flex their corporate muscles in an editorial capacity on the comics themselves. I've seen a number of corporate takeovers in my time and generally speaking things do change. It's just a case of to what degree. With recent Marvel successes in the publishing field, the common sense approach would be to leave well alone, but that assumes the Disney execs have a degree of common sense in the first place. I'm fairly ambivalent about this anyway because my non Marvel purchases together constitute > 75% of my standing order. I'm more concerned about the inevitable day that comics begin to go digital download only. That's when I really will start dropping titles. - Rob N

Ian said...

Surely, both Marvel and Disney should have gone into this deal with their eyes, if not open, then at least half open. The situation with DC/Time Warner and The Boys is significantly different - that title was published while DC was already owned by the parent company who, allegedly, objected. That particular title and the material it contained had not been published, or seen in public at all previously and as such came as a bit of a shock to the company execs. As far as Marvel and Disney are concerened however, there is a demonstrable history of publishing "edgy" material- such as Kick Ass, Punisher, Rawhide Kid etc. Surely neither side would want to enter into a new deal if one company was going to censor the other's output in any way?

Matt C said...

I doubt Disney will be as concerned with the publishing division as they are with movies, merchandising, games etc. That's where the big money's at. Material like Kick-Ass would barely register. Besides, if something's making money, why pull the plug?

Andy H said...

On the whole this all looks great and everything should carry on as normal. There are just a few things I would like to find out about and put my mind at ease. Disney tend to licence their properties and if you are a fan of the Boom! Studios Disney comics you will know they aren't readily available in the UK (you can get them but they are not officially distributed here). Imagine if they were to do that with the entire Marvel output! Ouch that would hurt. Also Disney have their own distribution network. Would they change the current arrangement with Diamond? Marvel did this once before and it was a real pain. The US may continue as normal but this side of the pond it could be all change.

This is of course all speculation. None of us will know what is happening until any announcements are made. I will say this though, just because a business has been running well you can't always trust a new owner will leave it alone. How often do new bosses come in and think they know better and make changes just because they can? Call me cynical but I'll be watching this one closely.

Matt C said...

Andy - you're cynical! (Let's hope you're not right!)

Anonymous said...

Sadly, it doesn't matter how successful a business is before it is bought. The new owners will always assume they can improve it further. Part of this is down to the fact that Disney will send in a team of highly paid business professionals/consultants to audit Marvel and integrate it under the Disney umbrella. These people will arrive in smart suits with lap tops and weasel smiles and will set about examining every aspect of the Marvel operation. Surprise, surprise, they will find a number of 'weak areas' because if they don't, they're effectively out of a job. If after six weeks they turned around and said, “yep, everything's good – let's leave well alone,” they wouldn't enjoy a comfortable job overseeing a three year 'change and implementation' programme. They will need to find areas to 'improve' in order to justify their six figure salaries and continued employment. And so they will find things to 'improve'. Suddenly there will be many areas of the Marvel business that will be crying out for new systems, new reporting structures and of course efficiency programmes – i.e redundancies. Because, to justify their jobs and salaries they will need to demonstrate how they can make Marvel leaner and fitter and cheaper to run. Middle Management will be for the chop, because you can always get rid of Middle Management without affecting output (there is a theory that states that Middle Management only exists so that you can get rid of them when times get hard for your company). At a stroke that will demonstrate to their Lords and Masters at Mouse Central that the consultants know what they're doing and should therefore continue to save Disney even more money! After that of course it's harder to get any quick cost efficiencies, and so they'll have to chop and change things that may affect quality at Marvel, but of course if they don't, then they're out of jobs themselves. They have to do something that looks like they're making a difference in the company, otherwise they may as well just be paid to surf the internet. - Rob N

Matt C said...

I think what we've learnt from this article and the comments it's inspired is that anyone can speculate on what might happen, but what will happen is another matter entirely!

Matt T said...

and that no-one has bothered commenting on my awesome Photoshop work for the banner! You're all rubbish....

Anonymous said...

I just assumed you'd grabbed it from another web site... ;) - Rob N

Danny said...

I like the photoshop picture :)