Monday, August 31, 2009

Comic Observations: The Avengers vs. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers

In what I'm calling the "Holy Shit!" move of the day, The Walt Disney Company has announced that it has sealed a deal to buy Marvel Entertainment, Inc for $4 billion.

Although Marvel shareholders will have to approve the deal, I'm going to hazard that with them getting paid $30 a share for their stock and getting .745 Disney shares for every Marvel share they own, it's going to go through. It also has to pass an investigation to see if it violates anti-trust laws, but that seems to be a formality more than anything else.

This means that Disney now owns the rights to Marvel's library of over 5,000 characters, including Spider-Man, the X-Men, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. Currently, Marvel has three divisions; an licensing arm, a publishing arm and a film production unit. It's unknown what, if any, changes Disney plans to make.

While it may seem as if Disney is gobbling up a smaller company, the Mouse may need Spidey more than you'd think. According to a NY Times article, Disney has been struggling of late, with its profits dropping 26% in the third quarter. Disney's net income in the last year fell from $1.28 billion to $954 million, and revenue dropped 7%.

Marvel, on the other hand, has been in its strongest position in decades, especially considering the company had been mired in bankruptcy, lawsuits and hostile takeovers in the beginning of this decade.

For comics fans, the real concern is what impact this merger will have on the books themselves and any future content. and on that front, opinion is divided. Comic book site Newsarama has run an article with a wide range of opinions from Comic industry insiders, all of who seem to be optimistic, if cautiously so:

"Hard to say how this will shake out, but it could be good for Marvel," said Tony Bedard, who has worked as both an editor and writer in the industry. "Hopefully, Disney recognizes that the current editorial team at Marvel knows what they're doing. With Time/Warner's deep pockets to back it up, DC can develop and nurture lower-selling titles like R.E.B.E.L.S. or Jonah Hex, whereas Marvel has had to watch their bottom line and cut titles a bit more ruthlessly. Perhaps Marvel will now be able to give more projects a fighting chance to find and grow their audience. I'm cautiously optimistic about this.

Comic book writer and teacher Andy Schmidt had this to say:

My first question as a story editor and writer is how will this affect content. And honestly, I doubt it will affect the comics very much at all, which is good. Marvel already has a strict work-for-higher [sic] contract so Disney's treatment of freelancers and their rights can only get better for creators--meaning we may see even better creators working for Marvel in the future. Disney is also well known for letting creative people do their work in a good working environment. Now that I think about it, I really don't see a downside--not that there isn't one, but if Disney's reputation holds true, we're probably gearing up to see some fresh ideas, new creative teams and wider exposure for Marvel's characters in the near future. I hold that change is good and exciting. It forces more creativity in the industry and I hope this will only encourage and challenge all creators and publishers to get out there with fresher and better content.

So, will Mickey Mouse pop up in the X-Men? Will Goofy team up with Spider-Man? Probably not, but I'm estimating we'll see a lot more Marvel rides at Disneyland, and a whole bunch more cartoons. If Disney is smart (and let's face it, they are) they'll largely leave Marvel alone and let them continue to do what they're doing.

But, please give Pixar Fantatic Four. How cool would that be?

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