Tuesday, September 01, 2009

My legal obligation as a comics blogger: A post about Disney buying Marvel

(Note: I have very little to say about this, as I'm no expert in any aspects of the entertainment business beyond being able to recognize what I like and dislike and, hopefully, explaining why I like or dislike certain products to third parties. But I feel to not do at least one post on the subject would be to risk having my comics blogger's license revoked. This is that post)

A friend called me last night. "I have some news from you," she said. "Did you know that Disney is buying Marvel?" Yes, of course I did I snapped, dick-ishly; it was about all I had heard about all day.

"How does that make you feel?" she asked. "Are you happy? Sad? Are you all like, 'Aaa, don't touch my comics!'"

I said that I didn't much care as I didn't think it would impact me directly at all; I didn't think it would even really impact the comics at all, as Disney was probably more interested in access to the characters for films, cartoons and other licensing opportunities.

I still don't think it's going to impact me directly very much, which is actually kind of weird. Like, it's obviously a big deal, maybe one of the biggest events in Marvel's storied history, and certainly the biggest comics news story of...I don't know, the millennium? (Marvel should have timed this to announce it at San Diego Comic Con, instead of going with that lame "We kinda sorta maybe some acquired some Miracle Man rights, and might maybe some day publish some comics or something" announcement. At the very least, it would poured tubs of cold water all over every other publisher trying to announce anything). I suppose it could have a drastic effect on the Direct Market, too.

But so far, from where I sit, it seems like it will be more a matter of who signs some folks' paychecks than anything else.

Here are the few thoughts I had about the deal—beyond my initial "Woah!" and "Holy crap!" ejaculations of disbelief*—in the order I had them.

1.) What about Boom's The Muppet Show comic? I know a lot of people have been asking about what the deal means for Boom's various licensed comics, and I'm sure answers won't be hard to find once the dust settles...at this point, I'm not 100% even Boom, Disney and Marvel know exactly how all that will shake out.

Selfishly, I really, really, really like Roger Langridge's Muppet comic, and think it's one of the rare licensed comics that is actually an extremely good comic, and would be alarmed if the one company buying the other company somehow affects that. I've tried some of Boom's Pixar comics, but didn't get very far with any of them—they seemed well-made, but more directed at kids than something I could really get into personally. And I was really looking forward to what Boom might have in store for the ducks and mice.

Can Marvel make Muppet/Pixar/ducks and mice comics as well as Boom is/will? I don't know. On the one hand, Marvel has a longer history with comics in general than Boom, but on the other, I have a little less faith in Marvel, mainly because of how long it's been since Marvel was serious about licensed comics/dealing with characters that aren't their own (and those that are their own are quite often ill-served by Marvel). Like, based on things like New Avengers/Transformers or that hideous-looking Pride and Prejudice, I can't imagine Marvel producing an Uncle Scrooge comic at this point in time, let alone a halfway decent one, but I guess we'll see.

2.) I remember shortly after Joe Quesada became Marvel's Stan Lee-in-Chief, he went through a period where he was being really quite aggressive in tweaking the distinguished competition, referring to them as "AOL Comics" because Time Warner owned DC. Will his critics start referring to his company as "Disney Comics"?

3.) If it's true that Marvel and Disney settled over the Howard the Duck issue by the former promising the latter that Howard the Duck would always wear pants, so as not to be confused with one of the Disney ducks, maybe now Howard can go pants-less. Who's Disney gonna sue, themselves?

4.) I was quite amused every time I saw in the various press coverage mention of Marvel's catalog of 5,000 characters as a virtue, as if they had 5,000 Iron Men and Ghost Riders just sitting there waiting for movie deals. You know that 5,000 is is like 80% full of guys like Razorfist, The Puma, The Armadillo, Swarm, Marvello, Ruby Thursday and so on. You know, characters that are kinda awesome, but aren't likely to ever serve as the center of a successful franchise, or attempt at a successful franchise.

5.) If it does affect the comics at all, it's probably going to be in a way I like. Like I said earlier, I didn't expect the move to have much if any impact on the current Marvel Comics line, in much the same way that DC seems (for the most part) to be run by and for a very particular, shrinking market, regardless of corporate ownership.

But then I read this post on comicsreporter.com, a letter from writer Ben Schwartz. Go read it in full if you're interested, but here are the parts that made me go, "Oh yeah," and "Ah, of course":

Look, Marvel didn't just get bought up by a subsidiary of General Dynamics. Disney is a creative company, and superhero books in general could use a shake up. No loss, in my opinion, if they did get involved. Marvel's line has been a angry version of Weisinger-era Jimmy Olsen concepts lately (suddenly, everyone's a zombie; suddenly, everyone that was bad is good and was good is bad ...). After all these-post Miller/Moore years of "dark" and "edgy," ie, angry and adolescent, maybe Marvel moving towards pop light isn't a bad idea. The pop-culture Kirby/Lee/Ditko-era was Marvel's creative peak, while 2009 is its financial peak from movies, TV, etc, (but not in comics). They need something.


The Spectacular Spider-Man animated show is better than the comics. The X-Men and Spider-Man movies are, too. As I mentioned above, the guys running the comics division live in the past and their sales are mediocre. The people making the comics into movies are the ones connecting to the public in a big way, that's actually made Marvel fun for me again.

Well, that all sure sounds reasonable, doesn't it? A Marvel Comics that published comics more like Spectacular Spider-Man and X-Men Evolution cartoons or the Iron Man movie is certainly a Marvel Comics I'd likely read a lot more comics from (I should note right now that the comics I enjoy most tend to be the Marvel Adventures ones, and things written by Jeff Parker, Fred Van Lente and Paul Tobin—whose scripts all tend to be fun and accessible, sometimes despite having to deal with heavy continuity and the "angry and adolescent" stuff).

If Disney assigned a new editor who sat everyone down and was like, "Look guys, kids don't like art that looks like photos run through a couple of PhotoShop filters, knock that shit off," or "Necrophilia and tentacle rape enthusiasts are a pretty small set of readers, and frankly, ones we could do without. Perhaps we can go in a different direction with these covers?"

And those big "genies" that Quesada wanted to put back in the bottles—making the X-Men less like the movie and more like the original Claremont era, un-marrying Spider-Man, and making the Marvel Universe more "dangerous" feeling through inter-hero conflict—only served to make the line harder to access, understand and enjoy (Without getting into the virtues of any of those moves, I can't imagine it wouldn't have helped if Quesada had to run the script for "One More Day" past someone at Disney, someone with the power to mark it up with red ink and attach a post-it note saying "Are you kidding? This is completely fucking retarded. Do-over.")

6.) Maybe Marvel will start sending me review copies? That would be pretty awesome. Especially since I can no longer afford most Marvel comics.

*Ha ha! I wrote "ejaculations."


Anonymous said...

I'm sure Swarm could end up on SyFy (the artist formerly known as Sci-Fi Channel). Look what they did for Man-Thing. (Actually, from what I hear you might not want to, but it's not a character I was into to begin with.) I do agree that Boom! has done a great job with the Muppets (also the Incredibles), and hope to see the same people running those for some time to come.

All I'll say here about the NA/TF comic (unless prompted) is that as much as I hate Wolverine, whoever drew him on the cover of #3 should be legally blocked from ever drawing Wolverine ever again.

I wouldn't mind at least seeing MA treated with a bit more respect, if not used as a blueprint for a new 616. Not much fun these days.

Unknown said...

I think everything is going to continue the same. AOL owns DC as you mentioned, and of course nobody is jumping each other fence to see what they are doing.

snell said...

"You know that 5,000 is is like 80% full of guys like Razorfist, The Puma, The Armadillo, Swarm, Marvello, Ruby Thursday and so on."

You, sir, have just proposed the greatest team-up book ever.

Charles Webb said...

Caleb, just to be clear - the 'Rama is supplying you with preview books each week for the Marvel titles, right?

Bella's owner said...

Caleb, just to be clear - the 'Rama is supplying you with preview books each week for the Marvel titles, right?

Nope. I think Marvel sends pdf of big books every once in a while to Newsarama central--like, I remember reviewing Civil War #1 off a pdf for Newsarama a few years back--but many (most?) of the reviews you see at Newsarama come from books the writers bought themselves at their shops.

"Best Shots Extras" tend to be from review copies. A lot of the books I review there now, on Blog@, are review copies...it's probably about half and half right now.

Dean H. said...

Honestly, I am sort of hopeful about a Disney-owned Marvel.

Marvel and DC have been locked into a mutually destructive escalation over which publisher can be more vile for as long as I can remember. Marvel kills off Phoenix and Electra. DC kills off Supergirl and Barry Allen. Marvel debuts its Ultimate line with truly despicable "heroes" and hints of incest. DC has a minor super-villain rape a long-time supporting cast member and puts bullet through the head of comedic superhero on panel.

On and on it has gone.

No one seems to have given too much thought to the fact that both DC and Marvel are fighting for position in a shrinking market. Maybe Disney will assign some clever marketing person to look at the publishing piece of the business they just acquired and ask "why have so many people headed for the exits?"