Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

The Sanctum Sanctorum Meets the Magic Kingdom

Posted by Don MacPherson on August 31st, 2009

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 Magic Kingdom and the Baxter BuildingThe 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.

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14 Responses to “The Sanctum Sanctorum Meets the Magic Kingdom”

  1. ThatNickGuy Says:

    I, for one, can’t wait for Buzz Lightyear to join the Guardians of the Galaxy.

    Or Hannah Magneto.

    Or World War Stitch.

    Or, most importantly…


  2. Ismael Garcia Says:

    You are the first person I’ve read with an analysis of this transaction and I wonder what will happen with the Marvel Island of Adventure in Orlando? I know there’s got to be a lengthy contract somewhere, but don’t you think it would be awkward to have a presence in your enemy territory?

    Heck, maybe this IS material for a comic book series!!!

  3. acespot Says:

    The Buzz Lightyear idea actually sounds very cool.

    And a limited series featuring MODUCK would be the most awesome thing. Ever.

  4. Adam Says:

    I realize there are more reasons that comics aren’t read by American readers in general, but I’m really crossing my fingers that the acquisition does result in two barriers to mainstream success for Marvel being lifted: a scaling back of the adult entertainment in Marvel comics and the return of real financial power to give them the push they need.

    Imagine Disney Adventures starting to run Spider-Man and the like as one of its comics features (alongside Goofy, etc. – in fact, Disney Adventures was my intro to Bone). Now THAT’S a gateway read.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    Adam wrote:
    Imagine Disney Adventures starting to run Spider-Man and the like as one of its comics features (alongside Goofy, etc. – in fact, Disney Adventures was my intro to Bone). Now THAT’S a gateway read.

    Perhaps you’re aware of this, but for the sake of others who aren’t, Disney Adventures was cancelled some time ago.

  6. Vaughan Johnson Says:

    It’s unfortunate that so many people feel the need to litter message boards with uninformed knee jerk reactions and declarative statements. This is such a fascinating development and one that I don’t think anyone saw coming. I think it’s going to be great for Marvel and hope they use their new found financial security to foster and develop some of their lower selling books.

    And to all the people who think Disney is going to try to sanitize the Marvel Universe, remember that in the ’90s, Disney released Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks and Trainspotting.

  7. HipHopHead Says:

    I think this a big win for both companies. Marvel finally has some financial backing after getting the ship upright. This transaction has more to do with Marvel Studios than Marvel Publications. The success of Iron Man and the buzz of future movies has shown Disney, there is more to Marvel Comics than Spider-Man and the X-Men. In addition, though Disney will not be producing any movies with the X-men or Spider-Man, the alleged 5% of revenue in the current movie license contract is free money. I look forward to seeing so real advertisement of Marvel Comics on Disney Channels, which include ABC and ESPN. It could be argued than Warner Brothers is advertising DC in this manner, but this does not mean it will not work.

    Disney purchased ESPN and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by the 57 Freeway, and allowed those entities to continue there successful management plans.

    It was not that long ago, Marvel was not worth $4 let only $4 Billion. This points to the success of not just the publication, but the successful merchandising and licensing of Marvel characters and properties.

  8. Howie Says:

    Hmmmm…. didn’t Disney purchase the rights to the CrossGen library a few years back? Could this mean we might finally see some closure or continuation on some of those titles? After all, quite a few CrossGen creators are now working for/with Marvell…

  9. Martin Says:

    Hey, that CrossGen thing is news to me. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the company but I sure would love the possibility of seeing endings for the few books I was really into.

  10. Jeff Vice Says:

    What slays me is that sooo many people seem to be overlooking the fact the DC is owned by Time-Warner.

    And … I, for one, am excited at the prospect of even the possibility of Pixar working with Marvel! 🙂

  11. Propello Says:

    I would actually be really bummed out if Pixar did Marvel movies. Anything distracting them from making original films is bad news.

  12. Don MacPherson Says:

    Jeff wrote:
    I, for one, am excited at the prospect of even the possibility of Pixar working with Marvel!

    I can’t imagine why Pixar would produce a Marvel movie. It’s shown it focuses on original creations. Maybe we might see a Marvel action figure or two in a Toy Story flick or short.

  13. Markus Says:

    I definitely want to see some match up to put in realization by Disney

    Fantastic Four vs The Incredibles

    Mister Fantastic vs. Mrs. Incredible
    Invisible Woman vs. Violet
    The Thing vs. Mr. Incredible
    …now the best part…
    Human Torch vs. Jack Jack!


  14. Tyler Langlois Says:

    Not really related but just wanted to rant about this…

    I wonder if Disny will allow such “kid-friendly” and “intelligent” marketing….

    ASM# 605 (and 606, 607, )
    Look out, Spidey! Hot on the heels of his old girlfriend’s trip home, The Black Cat’s back (and front!), sexier and more dangerous than ever! The deck is STACKED as the one woman that loves Spider-Man more than Peter Parker is up to some devilish shenanigans…and nothing bugs Spidey more than shenanigans! BRAce yourself for danger, Spidey! It’s gonna be …umm…sexy? Rated A …$2.99

    Get it, “STACKED”? “BRAce”? Truly genius marketing for a Spidey title. I wonder if Mephisto let his idiot kid write the solicits???