Financial Security Could Result in Creative FreedomSomething-something years ago, when Warner purchased DC Comics for something-something dollars, people were probably asking similar questions about what the development really meant. In practice, it’s been pretty simple: DC makes the comics, Warner Bros. makes movies about those comics, and rarely do the twain really meet. The fact that Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel Comics (overpaid, some say) means that they have faith in the brand and will probably leave Quesada & Co. to their own devices. Only now Marvel Comics has an enormously powerful and profitable corporation bankrolling their efforts, placing somewhat less of a burden on the company to rake in profits from their monthly publishings. Translation: Maybe they’ll stop shoving countless events and crossovers down readers’ throats and just focus on publishing neat comics (that can later be exploited by Disney).
- 2The good folks at Pixar have already met with the good folks at Marvel, and that’s pretty good. The possibility of Pixar producing a Marvel movie is almost too enticing to consider, like a slice of chocolate fudge covered cake on a great big bowl of your favorite flavor of ice cream, and when you get to the bottom of the bowl there’s a diamond ring from your true love, followed by the London Symphony Orchestra playing your song live while you joyously agree to spend the rest of your life with that special someone while dancing the Continental on the moon. But I digress. Of course, the other possibility is that Pixar could take an active interest in the comics side of things (who wouldn’t want Brad Bird writing for Marvel Comics?), so it’s a win-win either way.
Marvel Might Drop Diamond DistributionIt’s a poorly kept secret that comics as a whole are slaves to Diamond, a company that distributes practically every comic book and as a result can set whatever standards they wish (like minimum publishing requirements, which have seriously hurt many smaller independents). Now that Marvel has teamed with Disney, which owns its own sizable publishing department, they have the freedom to ditch Diamond altogether and deliver a hefty blow to the company. Vindicating for some, but more importantly the prospect of losing one of their biggest financial assets could force Diamond to cater to the needs of smaller publishers in order to remain competitive, instead of the other way around (Economic Competition is the American Way!).
Disney Can Really Promote Those Marvel ComicsThis could depend on Marvel’s decision to switch to Disney’s distribution, but now that Disney owns Marvel they would be wise to start saturating the mainstream market with actual COMIC BOOKS. For the last few decades individual monthly comics have become an endangered species outside of direct market stores, only to be found in limited quantities at larger newsstands and 7/11’s (and even then it’s those weird Ultimate Marvel reprints). As a result, monthly comics have had difficulty finding new audiences, particularly kids who have little chance of running into them casually and getting hooked enough to seek out a direct market store. Disney has the opportunity now to promote these comics at Disney Stores across America, at Disneylands across the world, and toy stores just about every damned place. (Thanks to Erik Larsen, quoted at www.ComicBookResources.com, for making this point first.)
Don Rosa Does Ducktales and Howard the Duck CrossoverIt’s a little too tempting to populate this list with bad ideas for crossovers, so we thought we go the opposite route and only offer one AMAZING possibility for a crossover. You see, Howard the Duck, one of the finest Marvel creations not originated by Stan Lee (in collaboration with someone else), lived on a Duckworld before becoming stranded in the Marvel Universe. In a so-obvious-it’s-genius-again twist, Howard’s world turns out to be the same duck-filled planet as Duckberg and St. Canard, home of Scrooge McDuck and Darkwing Duck respectively. As written and drawn by Don Rosa, author of the brilliant Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, Howard’s jaded social satires and metatextual jokes could be a perfect foil to the beautiful sincerity of some of Disney’s most popular creations, as they travel back and forth from their home planet to the very different, yet eerily familiar "real" world of the Marvel Universe. Get those Eisners ready now!
Disney Owns Marvels Smaller CharactersDisney's film department now has the rights to most of Marvel’s catalogue of over 5,000 characters, but they don’t own Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four or any of the other characters Marvel licensed to other studios back when the company was a free agent. So we won’t be seeing that Pixar developed Spider-Man movie you’re fantasizing about any time soon. If Disney wants to exploit Marvel in movie format they’ll have to stick with some of Marvel’s less prominent characters, and as any diehard Marvel fan will tell you, that’s most of the good ones. Unlike Spider-Man, the X-Men and so on, characters like Nextwave, Nova and the Thunderbolts are actually among the most interesting in the pantheon, not to mention the easiest to adapt to film since they’re not bogged down with decades of messy event and retcon-related continuity decisions. Marvel might start making more and better comics with their less oversaturated characters, leading to more and better movies featuring more and better characters who might otherwise not have received more and better love.
Disney Doesnt Own Marvels Bigger CharactersSince Marvel has to honor their existing agreements with multimedia companies, that means that, unlike DC, the film rights for all Marvel superheroes are not owned by the same company, leaving a legal jungle in place rather than slashing and burning it to make some nice metaphoric condos (the condos are a metaphor for cleanliness and prosperity). In order to retain their licensed characters, most of these companies are likely to rush more and more films into the marketplace – look at Fox, which suspiciously announced a new Fantastic Four movie right after the announcement of the merger – and without the watchful eye of Marvel, these adaptations are likely to continue to suck – look at Fox, which also announced that the new Fantastic Four movie would be produced by the screenwriter of Batman & Robin, Akiva Goldsman. More movies rushed into theaters diminishing the Marvel brand? It’ll be X-Men 3 all over again (and again, and again). Somebody put us out of our misery now, please.
Jonas Bros and Miley Cyrus star in Power Pack The TV SeriesActually, this might be "So Bad It’s Good." Some of Disney’s biggest money-making ventures right now are the live-action television series starring their stable of easily exploitable young stars. Combining these series with Marvel comics to create some kind of "Secret World of Alex Mack" for new generations could be jaw-droppingly awful, or a kind of entertaining way to indoctrinate wholesome kids into the world of comics. Imagine the Jonas Brothers starring in a Power Pack series, or Miley Cyrus starring in a Degrassi-style soap opera based on Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, or… some other kid… who has a deal with Disney… in a Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius sci-fi sitcom (I don’t actually know who these people are). Can’t decide if that’s a blessing from God or just God awful? Neither can we.
Joe Quesada Could Be Running Disney Within a DecadeAbout 15 years ago, Disney took a chance on Pixar by producing Toy Story, a risky venture in an untested animation style from an untested company run by John Lasseter. Today, John Lasseter pretty much runs Disney. About 11 years ago, Marvel took a chance on Joe Quesada, a popular artist but untested editor, by giving him free reign over some of the company’s riskier, smaller properties. Today, Joe Quesada pretty much runs Marvel. Joe Quesada works fast, folks, and he’s a different entity than John Lasseter, who believes in old-fashioned storytelling excellence over big flashy marketing events. Joe Quesada has definitely put out some great comics in his tenure at Marvel, maybe even a lot of great comics, but let’s just say I’ve never seen John Lasseter respond to criticisms of Disney’s creative decisions with the argument, "It made money, so there." Watch your back, John.
We Will Have to Hear Fanboys Whine About This for YearsEvery decision made by Marvel over the next year-and-a-half, at the very least, is guaranteed to fall under close scrutiny by geeks, fanboys and critics wondering, "Did Disney Do It?" Even if Marvel does something great, like undo the embarrassing "One More Day" mini-series, fans are just as likely to celebrate as they are to bemoan the development on the off-chance that there might be corporate fat cats making the creative decisions in sterile boardrooms while drinking iced coffees and debating the stock market (which, frankly, was probably going on at Marvel anyway). Like the Warner Bros./DC merger, this effect will probably wear off over time, but for the foreseeable f*ture you should stock up on cheese, because there’s going to be a LOT of whine.