Disney’s move to acquire Marvel Entertainment is a major development in the worlds of intellectual property, merchandising and entertainment. It promises to alter the landscape of pop culture, both in terms of business and its impact on Western society. I was busy at work all day Monday, so I knew nothing of the development until I finally shrugged off my 9-to-5 identity and relaxed in front of the computer for some web time at the end of the day. the news was surprising and intriguing to me, but ultimately, I really didn’t feel like it had much of an impact on me personally, given the fact that I don’t believe I’m a stockholder in either entertainment company (though I suppose I should examine my RRSP statements more closely to ensure that’s actually the case).
I would imagine, though, that a number of comics readers — and voracious Marvel Comics fans specifically — are wondering what this high-finance maneuvering will mean for the printed exploits of beloved super-hero characters. If emotionally driven and blinded Superman fans can attack the Siegel family for its effort to fight for its rights, it stands to reason that there are going to be hundreds of Marvel zombies out there fretting what the House of Mouse might do to change the House of Ideas.
I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to Marvel’s big-screen efforts, Disney isn’t likely to fix something that doesn’t appear to be broken. The timing of this deal would seem to indicate that the success of the Iron Man movie last year might have been a catalyst for negotiations that ultimately led to the acquisition agreement.
Some might worry that a company with an image as kid-friendly and squeaky clean as Disney’s might seek to soften the tone of the movies made by a newly acquired division. Marvel’s recent approach with its movies has clearly been to market to adults. Iron Man had a little bit of cursing. Given the inclusion of the F-bomb in the Iron Man 2 (uttered by Garry Shandling’s politician character, as seen in one of those pirated clips on YouTube), it’s safe to say the sequel is going to be a little edgier than the first, geared even more toward an adult audience. So the question is: what will Disney execs think of that adult tone?
The answer is that they’ll not have a problem with it. The only thing Disney’s concerned with is cash; that’s its business, not kids’ smiles. Disney is a huge corporation with divisions dedicated to entertainment for all ages, all walks of life. Disney owns ABC, and that network runs a lot more than Winnie the Pooh cartoons.
But what about the comics? I suppose it could be argued that it’s a different matter. People have preconceptions when it comes to comics; many still think of them as kids’ fare, even though for years, adults have been driving the market. Still, it’s conceivable that if the Disney exec eventually given the responsibility for overseeing Marvel’s publishing division has it in his or her head that comics are meant to be for kids, it could lead to a shift in approach for Marvel’s super-hero comics.
But again, while that’s conceivable, it’s highly unlikely. While comics publishing isn’t as lucrative as most (if not all) of Disney’s other ventures, its representatives are definitely aware that Marvel has a major share of the comics market. Again, we return to three key words: the bottom line. Marvel’s being acquired in part for what it’s doing right.
So fear not, Marvel zombies. The Punisher will go on blowing the bad guys away. Tigra will continue to be used and abused by male characters. And members of the Avengers will keep getting laid out of wedlock. Just don’t expect Hannah Montana and Christopher Robin to join your ranks anytime soon.
Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.