Disney to Buy Marvel for $4 billion

Robert A. Iger, Mouse House prexy and CEO, said in a statement: “This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories.”

In a sense, it’s really quite amazing that Marvel has remained independent for as long as it has. If this goes through, it will bridge one of the major differences between Marvel and (my preferred) DC Comics, which is megacorporate sponsorship. DC has been owned by Warner Bros for forever and a day and it has had effects both positive and negative. On the negative side, it’s made DC Comics more broadly tame with WB keeping an eagle-eye on its properties’ profit potential. Further, DC Comics has always been worse than Marvel about using comics and comics properties as a vehicle for selling toys and franchise tie-ins and focusing less on overall story development. On the other hand, Warner Bros is likely one of the forces that has held DC Comics back from making some of the more questionable editorial decisions that Marvel has made in reference to using its properties to make controversial political statements. Warner Bros would be far less likely to allow Superman to become a leftist apologeer for American foreign policy (nor would they allow him to be jingoist), which is constricting in one manner but also keeps the brand more universal. Nor are they as likely to have their heroes go to war against one another in a thinly-veiled critique of the Bush Administration.

On the other hand, Warner Bros has been too lax with allowing DC to do what it wanted. Someone should have stepped in to prevent the death of Bruce Wayne, for instance. I’ve no attachment to Wayne himself, but it was a poor marketing decision. So in that sense, maybe WB is not as responsible for DC’s restraint as previously suspected. And as such, maybe Disney will keep a similar hands-off policy.

I’m torn between hoping they do and hoping they don’t. If they take more of an interest in Marvel than WB does in DC, they may prevent Marvel from making some of the mistakes that they (and DC) have made. On the other hand, Marvel has avoided some of the biggest mistakes that DC has made. The disconnect between DC Comics and WB’s usage of DC properties is a constant bug up my crawl while Marvel has broadly done a better job of trying to use the success of the movies to move comic books. Since comic books are their main trade rather than a mere side-venture, they have all the incentive to. WB can let DC have its sandbox and poach the characters for movies whenever the mood strikes them. If Disney takes that attitude, it could put the comic business in even greater peril.

And that’s why I think that I am, on the whole, skeptical of the deal. Business-wise, of course, it makes a whole lot of sense. But while I prefer DC Comics, I do not want Marvel to become more like DC (nor vice-versa, except in very specific ways). I like the fact that they are distinct with different priorities. While I wish that DC sold more comics than Marvel, I don’t want Marvel sales to diminish to the point of DC’s. I want a strong industry, if only so that DC has the chance to rebound and take advantage of the onslaught of superhero popularity.


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7 Responses to Minnie & Logan, Sittin’ in a Tree…

  1. web says:

    Warner Bros would be far less likely to allow Superman to become a leftist apologeer for American foreign policy (nor would they allow him to be jingoist), which is constricting in one manner but also keeps the brand more universal.

    Oddly enough, Superman was quite jingoist (and nobody is shy about it) back in the WWII era. The latter half of the Fleischer rotoscoped Superman cartoons, for example, were quite so.

    And of course it gets a little weirder. I believe one friend, a few years back, explained his disgust with Marvel as follows: “While DC had Batman off fighting honest-to-god terrorists, Marvel had Captain America wandering around Afghanistan whining and crying about how ‘evil’ America is.”

    Overall, I sort of count my blessings to have gotten out of reading comics a few years back. Yes, I miss the fun of reading them, but both Marvel and DC seem to have gone so far downhill that when I have tried to get back in, I have found myself entirely disinterested. The DC spinoff properties (such as the saturday-morning animated “Legion of Superheroes” and the current animated “Batman: The Brave And The Bold” series) are much more to my taste, very much because they draw from more-classic hero tales rather than the current “well, we just hit the cosmic reset button for the third time this year” DC nonsense.

  2. trumwill says:

    Captain America himself was very patriotic and arguably jingoistic back in the post-WW2 era. So much so that Marvel retconned him into not being Steve Rogers but rather an evil imposter. DC has never done that with Superman, though in recent continuity Superman did not exist in that era.

    Ugh, don’t get me started on the cosmic reset button. DC really needs to create a separate line for those that are not obsessed fanboys and continuity-freaks. Having continuity is a very good thing, but repeatedly having to write complex storylines to define it is beyond counterproductive.

  3. ecco says:

    You’ve mentioned it before but I really have to reiterate the need for more stand alone works. At this point the Marvel and DC Universes are too vast for me to jump in. I’ve enjoyed stand alone graphic novels, and I think if there were similar options from Marvel or DC I would probably partake as well.

  4. web says:

    Ecco,

    There’s a reason the most fun I ever had reading DC stuff was their “Elseworlds” series; they were all either standalone or small-miniseries, they all existed entirely in their own “bubble” (taking existing characters and reimagining them), and they all offered a unique take on the heroes.

    Marvel’s been getting into the “reset button” business more and more lately, and it’s annoying me. Their biggest mistake was making so many “hero identities” public during the Civil War storyline… and the second was offering piecemeal “reset buttons” for those heroes they decided worked better with a secret identity.

  5. trumwill says:

    The Batman titles for a while had a thing where each month one of the Batman titles would have a stand-alone story. Better yet, they’d put a logo on the comic so that people would know. It was a really neat idea. Then they got rid of it when they ramped up for a year-long crossover involving the federal government abandoning Gotham and turning it into a No Man’s Land.

    Also in the Batverse, there used to be a title called Legends of the Dark Knight which always involved standalone storylines. Not that each issue was a story in itself, but you none of the stories required that you read any of the previous stories to fully enjoy it. I think that they should seriously re-evaluate that concept so that they have something to peddle to part-time readers.

  6. trumwill says:

    I hate the trend of doing away with secret identities. In DC it’s been going on for a long time. The notion of a superhero holding down a secret identity independent enough to actually hold down part-time jobs is almost a relic. On the DC side, the trend started in the late eighties. A lot of heroes created sense have nominally secret identities, but they’re not really identities.

    Though I’m not a Marvel person, I was still saddened to hear that they revealed Matt Murdock’s and Steve Rogers’s names (and Tony Stark’s in the Ultimate line, and the movie, and maybe the regular line, too).

    I actually have a series of novels in mind involving a former superhero. One of the things he would talk about is the gradual segregation of the superhero community from the general population. How they used to have secret identities and girlfriends that weren’t superheroes and as time went on they started socially interacting primarily with other superheroes and with few other people and how this was arguably a negative development.

    On the other hand, DC recently went the other route and stuffed Wally West (who hasn’t had a secret identity since his Kid Flash days) with a secret identity. And they gave him Barry Allen’s old job. Seriously, if they wanted to write a Barry Allen series, they should have just released a Legends of Flash series or something of the like.

  7. trumwill says:

    I just noticed that The Brave & The Bold has a Huntress episode… and she’s not wearing the Jim Lee costume! Sweet! I also have to give props to the show for being the only animated production to feature Ted Kord (for only one episode, but still…).

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