It's too early in the game to start analyzing this thoughtfully and in detail. Right now, I'd guess that Disney bought Marvel for its licenses, and it'll be business as usual for Marvel Editorial, i.e. "Research and Development." Yes, Disney is to Marvel as Warner Bros. is to DC. More on that in a moment. . .
Since this deal won't be finalized until the end of the year, and since nothing changes overnight, we're all blathering right now to vent our spleens.
That said, it's my turn for nearly random and scattershot thoughts about the whole thing:
- The comics world hasn't had a story this big in it for a while, has it? When was the last time the comics internet truly cracked the 'net in half this hard? Rob Liefeld leaving Image? Marvel's bankruptcy? "Marvelcution" was pretty big, but that was in the USENET days, wasn't it?
- I'm afraid to look at the message boards. I really am. It has to be a free-for-all. How many people have now vowed to never buy another Marvel Comic again? And how silly are their reasons? ("Dude, they killed Bambi's mom! Aunt May's gonna be next!")
- It only took two hours before I read someone on a blog calling on Disney to lower the prices on Marvel's comics. I don't think he was making a serious case for it, mind you, but it's one of the things I expected to see people whining about. Also, how long before ten people start writing letters to Disney demanding to see Andi Watson's tennis comic? Or more "Deathlok?" Or Brian Bendis' head on a platter? Will the clueless fan contingent now take to mailing small items to Disney to protest Marvel cancelling their favorite comic? ("You cancelled 'Captain Britain,' so we're sending you miniature Union Jacks to show you our support!")
- Someday, Disney will take a Marvel character and produce a movie for the Disney Channel based on that character. It will star whatever hot star of the moment Dan Schneider has groomed for future glories and will set cable TV rating records, make the character a household name, and maybe even driving girls into comic shops. And the "core" comics community will hold placards at the following Comic-Con complaining that "Disney Ruined Comic-Con" with its success.
- What does this say about the comics industry that the #1 and #2 publishers of comics can't make it on their own without a huge corporation backing them up? Comics publishing doesn't make enough money to justify a large infrastructure. Comic publishers rely on the larger entertainment industry, which is too large for a mere comics publisher to replicate on its own. So they sell up to a bigger company.
- Steve Jobs (Chairman of the Boards for both Disney and Apple) now owns Marvel. Who wants to speculate more about Marvel Comics on iTunes now? And how about a MacTablet coming with a complete Marvel Comics Library? Let's triangulate on that for a while, rumor-mongers!
- Joe Quesada hasn't referred to DC Comics as "AOL Comics" for a while, but now he's really not going to. I expect a press release from Dan DiDio congratulating Joe on being the editor in chief of Disney Comics. (The first person to say it's a "Mickey Mouse job" gets slapped on the wrist.)
- Disney owns Marvel now. But Disney licensed their comics out elsewhere earlier this year. (Marvel once distributed Disney's comics in the early 90s, though.) Boom! looks to be doing a good job with the franchises, and I hope is given the chance to continue on that path. I don't doubt that there are contracts in place for those books for at least a year, so don't look for anything crazy to happen in the next few months on that front. Boom! is doing good by Disney on that license, so I don't think they're in any danger.
I wonder about the timing on the whole thing, though. Was the Marvel/Disney deal under discussion when the Boom!/Disney deal was being negotiated? Is this another case of a big corporation's left hand not knowing what the right is doing? And, seriously, does it matter to Disney's bottom line all that much, anyway?
More thoughts on Disney Comics coming up a little further down. . .
- Will Joe Quesada stick around for a year, cash out his stock, and leave behind the insanity of being Marvel's Editor-In-Chief? Or did his job just become so much more fun that he'll never want to leave? Honestly, I think it has to do with Disney's level of involvement in Marvel's business. As the cliche goes: Only time will tell.
- I hope Bill Jemas still had a stash of Marvel stock in his closet. And I'm ticked off that I have no juice in this industry and that nobody tipped me off on Friday that this was going to happen. Sure, it would have been insider trading, but sometimes you have to take your chances. . .
- Kudos to both Marvel and Disney for not leaking news on this one. It was in the works for months, but not a single rumor leaked about it. Multi-billion dollar companies take that kind of thing seriously, if only to keep the SEC off their backs. It winds up being the kind of story that's a big surprise, but not a shock. A Marvel/Disney union has been talked about before.
- I think Disney is a better owner for Marvel than Sony, another oft-rumored suitor.
- I wonder if this will drive sales up on Dan Raviv's "Comic Wars: Marvel's Battle for Survival," that book about Marvel's bankruptcy -- you know, the one Marvel did a second printing of in 2004?
- Disney's influence on Marvel will be up to them. I wouldn't be surprised to see a Disney Advisor on the board, explaining how best to capitalize on various publishing directives or something, but I don't anticipate The Iron Fist of Disney slamming on Tom Brevoort's desk to kiddify The Avengers next week. ("'Light Avengers' Coming Atcha!")
I think it would be a brilliant idea for an outside to come into the world of comics and poke at the sleeping dragon a little bit, you know? There are times it feels like comics have a great potential, but are never exploited like other industries. Can comics break out of its publication world niche? At the very least, can't it grow a little better than it have been lately? Maybe there are tactics in the "outside" business world that haven't been considered before inside the comics world.
Sure, we'd all like to see Disney invest money in additional comics for kids, more outreach to that demographic, greater distribution, etc. But none of that is going to happen overnight, if at all. And to protest or make vows against anyone at either Disney or Marvel in the vacuum of information we have right now is putting the cart before the horse.
- Coming soon: "Spider-Girl" returns to print. As a princess!
- Disney now not only own Howard the Duck and Marvelman, but also the Ultraverse. There's the crossover we've all been waiting for, as written by Warren Ellis.
- As a fanboy geek, I'd have paid to be in that meeting room with John Lasseter and people from Marvel.
- No, I don't think Disney is going to move Marvel's offices to Florida. If they did, however, they should see if they could lease the old CrossGen Compound. They own the intellectual properties, so why not the physical grounds? Half of Marvel's coloring staff came out of CrossGen, it seems, so why not go back "home?"
- I see some people are starting to remember the CrossGen link now, but I get the feeling there's a very bitter taste in the mouths of all the former CrossGen employees. I'm not sure how many of them would want to go back to that world, even without Mark Alessi's presence.
- Disney does two highly questionable things in the worlds of comics and feature animation that will need to be addressed by Marvel. I'm not saying this is going to change overnight or that it'll happen at all, but it's the two things I'd legitimately be worried about if I were a Marvel exclusive creator right now.
First, the features department owns all your ideas as a Disney animator, even if they're done at home on a cocktail napkin. The Disney "experience" is so imprinted on your brain from working there during the day that it informs everything you do. Seriously, that's their legal argument. If you want to do a creator-owned comic at night while working on the next Princess movie, you're out of luck. Disney owns it. You can't start on it -- or admit to thinking about it -- until after you leave Disney.
Second -- and this one might not actually be all that different from how Marvel operates today, come to think of it -- there are no royalties for overseas reprints of Disney Comics. Don Rosa and William Van Horn get paid once for creating a Duck story. After that, all the other Disney licensees around the world are welcome to reprint those stories without paying for them. They need only pay for translations and relettering and they're done. It's how Gladstone/Gemstone was able to afford to print comics -- low production costs. In recent years, I don't think they financed a single story from start to finish. The artists and writers were already paid for on those translations, which come from Egmont, et. al., with rough English translations already in place.
Last I remember it being talked about, Marvel creators don't see any money from foreign reprints. Maybe that's changed, but otherwise it seems pretty much in-line with how Disney operates.
That first part might be a bugaboo, though. Lots of exclusive creators do creator-owned projects on the side, whether for later use post-exclusive, or as an exception on their exclusivity contract. That wouldn't be allowed by Disney. Those properties would be Disney/Marvel properties now. Maybe Icon could publish it, but that imprint would become meaningless without true creator ownership.
Again, I'm not saying either is a fait accompli. But they are things to think about and look out for. Right now, none of those things are happening and they can't happen ex post facto. It's a discussion for another time, if it should come up.
In the 24 hours that it takes from the time of the announcement to the time this column is published, all of the above bullet points will have already been talked about and beaten to death, won't they? Gotta love the internet!
I had a whole column written about Dale Keown's "Pitt" series before this Disney thing came up. You'll see it next week. Prepare for blown deadlines, a myriad of inkers, a repetitious story, and some beautiful art of monsters beating the crap out of each other.
My photoblog, AugieShoots.com is wrapping up its Myrtle Beach pictures and moving on to -- something else. I need to get out of the house and take some pictures soon.
The Various and Sundry blog has had some music updates in the last week, as well as some points of general interest. Check it out.
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