Mouse of Ideas

The world of entertainment was rocked on Monday with news of a merger of epic proportions. It was Rey who first alerted me upon seeing the news himself that morning, but soon Newsarama's front page was littered with stories covering the event: Disney had acquired Marvel for $4 Billion dollars. One huge name company had swallowed another, leaving the geek community to speculate what it could mean for the future of their beloved characters.

What does it all mean? Marvel may have gone bankrupt about a decade ago, but they've been steadily on the rise, boosted no doubt by the bevy of films based on and inspired by their characters. With a number of successful movies from other studios, they've even broken out into producing movies in-house such as Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. There are sequels to these films planned as well as movies featuring other characters, all of which will hopefully culminate in an Avengers film that teams up all the individual heroes played by the same actors as in their solo outings. It would be huge.

But what now? The gut reaction and major concern of most fans is that Disney will water things down quite a bit. Comics, cartoons, and movies will be heavily censored and geared toward a younger audience. Indeed, there has been a trend for some time with Marvel aiming for that demographic. Between the out-of-continuity Marvel Adventures line of comics and the Super Hero Squad toyline and upcoming cartoon, the company has shown some wisdom in planning for the future. With an aging fanbase, it was a logical move. Guys in their 30s and 40s who still buy books may be loyal, but how could they introduce their children to gun-toting vigilantes like The Punisher or Wolverine gutting his enemies with his claws. Now, those are more extreme examples of violent characters, and while Spider-Man and Fantastic Four are examples of more family-friendly characters, overall the average adult comic book reader wants mature, intelligent stories. For the most part, Marvel's bi-annual animated DVD efforts have met this criteria, though Next Avengers focused on the future children of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I don't think anyone wants to see “Steamboat Wolvie” anytime soon, at least not as the only incarnation of the character. Skew younger and cultivate the next generation of readers, but leave the continuity and reading level of the existing books and cartoons intact so as not to alienate the other loyal fans.

Obviously, panic at this time is not productive. Nothing is going to change immediately. When one company acquires another, the new owners need time to familiarize themselves with their new business, to learn how they do things from the people who've been doing it. As the assimilation progresses and they need to cut costs, they may cut some of these positions and consolidate, even as they begin to incorporate their own methods and ideas. Part of this process is an exercise of power, of eliminating the “us and them” divided attitudes as well as establishing dominance. But there's also no point in buying a new toy if you aren't going to play with it. Disney isn't going to leave Marvel in the box for long. It'd be a pointless business move, otherwise. At this time, nothing is really certain.

There are definitely positive possibilities this opens up. Both are strong companies, and though historically some mergers result in two strong entities collapsing under their combined weight, they may also be stronger for it. The prospect of Marvel characters being animated by Pixar is an exciting one, as would be seeing Marvel characters show up in a Kingdom Hearts game. I personally haven't collected comics on a regular basis since college, picking up one graphic novel a year at most, but I've followed the industry and I've been enjoying my old favorite characters coming to life in a new medium at the movie theater. With some properties tied up in other studios, such as Spider-Man with Sony and X-Men under FOX. There are 3-4 movies planned for each franchise before they can revert to Marvel, and Disney, control. Disney may start airing some classic cartoons as well, though I've heard their syndicated airings of the ‘90s X-Men series were heavily edited.

If you're the sort of person who thinks big companies are governed by what their fans say on the internet, Newsarama also put up a poll. I have the same hopes and fears as fans of all ages to all degrees, but I know that whatever is going to happen will happen no matter what someone writes on a blog or a message board. My 4000+ collection of comic books is still intact, as are my memories of the stories I read in high school and college. Nothing can change that, or the quality films that have been produced so far. And, who knows? Maybe somewhere right now, a Disney fan is worrying about the Masters of Evil showing up to attack Hannah Montana. And you know what? I'd totally watch that episode...


Blogger cube said...

I had some concerns when I heard about this merger because Disney has a tendency of approaching certain subjects in a very annoying politically correct ways.

I just hope they don't change too much about Marvel.

9/02/2009 9:26 AM  
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9/17/2009 1:05 AM  

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