In what is easily the biggest comic book news in the last ten years, the Walt Disney Company announced this morning its intention to purchase Marvel Entertainment for four billion dollars, a move that would absorb the Marvel Comics stable of classic superheroes and villains into the expansive Disney library of intellectual property.
Though still very early in the acquisition process, a number of details have emerged, including the fact that existing licensing and distribution deals will remain in place for the moment (and presumably for the duration of each respective deal) and that Pixar’s John Lasseter has met with key Marvel creative executives. A more complete rundown of information can be read on CBR News here.
For reaction from the ground – the writers and artists who have helped make comic books and Marvel in particular such an attractive space for Disney to move into – CBR News reached out to a number of comics creators, who shared their thoughts below.
Jason Aaron, writer of Marvel’s “Wolverine: Weapon X,” “PunisherMAX”
“I swear by the people I work with at Marvel, like editor Axel Alonso, and they're all very excited about this deal, so that means I'm excited too. To now suddenly be in the same family as John Lasseter and the folks from Pixar is a huge honor and a thrill.”
Nick Barrucci, Publisher, Dynamite Entertainment
Added 9/1/09 2:30 PM PDT
"This is promising for all involved. The news came out of the blue, and it's an historic moment for Marvel, Disney and comics. The opportunities that this opens up for comic characters is amazing."
Kurt Busiek, writer of “Astro City,” “JLA/Avengers,” “Marvels,” in a forwarded statement released earlier today
“I see the fan community already salivating over Pixar X-Men (has Pixar done any adaptations, guys?) or dreading Hannah Montana joining the Avengers. Or hoping that Disney will immediately fire Joe Quesada and reinstate the kind of comics they use to love back when Disney had no interest in Marvel. Or dreading that Disney will wimpify Marvel. Or exulting that now Marvel can be like Vertigo and publish comics that don't make money, because they can spend Disney's money without expecting to make a profit.
“And a lot of other things that don't seem likely, either.
“My reaction: This will change things. Whether it'll change things in a good way, in a bad way or (most likely) in a mixture of both, it'll change things. How? No way to tell yet, so there's not much point in drawing conclusions of any kind.
“I hope we have Roger Langridge ‘Muppet Show’ comics for a long time to come, though.
“I do recall, back in the Eighties, people at Marvel used to say they wanted to be Disney for older audiences. Well, I guess now they are. What that means, though, remains to be seen.”
Mike Carey, writer, Marvel’s “X-Men: Legacy,” Vertigo's "The Unwritten"
"It sounds like it can only be good news for Marvel, but I'm sure we'll learn more over the next few days. The way I'm seeing it, media production these days always seems to involve an alliance of different companies with different areas of expertise. The more you can do under your own roof, the better."
Evan Dorkin, creator of “Milk & Cheese”
“As far as I can tell, it's a win-win for Disney and Marvel. Sounds nice for them. I don't know what it could mean for creators, it's possible a certain group of creators will benefit if Marvel's publishing arm is tossed more money for exclusives and the like. Maybe they'll do some Disney licensed properties down the line. If so, some other folks will get a job.”
Matt Fraction, writer of Marvel's "Invincible Iron Man" and "Uncanny X-Men"
Added 9/1/09 2:30 PM PDT
"If it was good enough for Pixar and John Lasseter, it's good enough for me. Besides, the real shocking news from this weekend is that the Brian Jones death case is being reopened after forty years! Come ON people! This is a Rolling Stone we're talking about here!
Marc Guggenheim, writer of Marvel's "Amazing Spider-Man"
Added 9/1/09 11:20 AM PDT
"Honestly, I'm still processing it. It is potentially amazing -- particularly if the relationship follows the model Disney has set with Pixar. If the deal turns out to be good for Marvel then it will ultimately be good for the industry. Personally, it feels weird to be employed by two Disney companies..."
Matt Hawkins, President of Top Cow Productions
Added 9/1/09 11:20 AM PDT
“Well, for comic publishers this is great news because it increases the valuation of all our companies. In regard to creators, I have no idea. Disney seems to leave Pixar alone and let them do their thing so I think Marvel may maintain its own corporate culture but who knows? Marvel and Disney both are primarily work-for-hire companies so most people already working at Marvel probably will never notice the difference. DC has been part of the Time Warner (Warner Bros.) empire for decades so Disney owning Marvel isn't a big game changer, at least in the short run. This is a long term play for IP development on Disney's part for all the ancillary markets. As a Marvel stockholder I couldn't be happier.”
Erik Larsen, former Publisher of Image Comics, creator of “Savage Dragon”
“Potentially, this could open up new venues for Marvel books -- if they were to put spinner racks in Disney stores. It would impact a lot of other movie studios if the Marvel properties are suddenly taken off the table. But it really comes down to how hands-on Disney chooses to be. If they look at the line as say, ‘Whoa -- these comics should be aimed at kids’ and start insisting that things change it could impact things a great deal -- from creators to fans. If they just leave the comics alone and concentrate on bringing these characters to life on the big and little screen things might change very little for the fan on the street. It's all pretty up in the air.”
Rob Liefeld, co-founder of Image Comics, co-creator of Marvel’s Deadpool
“It's such big news. I'm still absorbing it all as is everyone else. I am 100% certain that it is great news for the stable of Marvel characters. No one is better than Disney at character brand building and no one has the breadth of their reach. I expect the Marvel stable of characters to soon appear all over the Disney networks, parks and cinema.
“I'm hoping it turns out just as well for the creators of content.
“This merger has an endless horizon, it can really go on forever in every direction. The Disney distribution arm is unstoppable.”
Joe Nozemack, Publisher, Oni Press
Added 9/1/09 5:00 PM PDT
"This deal is further evidence of the maturation and importance of the comic book community to the overall entertainment industry. It also highlights the enormous value of the next generation of comic book companies such as Oni Press, who - by developing amazing stories and characters in every genre that go beyond superheroes - become even more valuable as the remaining studios and financial institutions seek intellectual property."
Jeff Parker, writer of Marvel’s “Agents of Atlas,” “Thunderbolts,” “World War Hulks”
“I doubt Disney spent $4 billion to take Marvel apart. From what I can tell, their corporation likes to think of the consuming public as age-ranges to meet with a brand. I would guess they see Marvel as the brand that teens and young adults who are emerging from their all-ages market would go to next. My big hope is that this leads to breaking into new markets for the comics -- which would (I bet) be more a thing where the comics benefit by being pulled along in the tide than being focused on, but who knows? I'm sure everyone has worries of micro-management, but I don't have a problem with the idea of trying to be more inclusive for a wider audience. We can compare this all to when Warner Bros. bought DC Comics, but I think we're talking about very different companies in this case -- the buyers, not the comics companies.
“I'm sure a lot of comics retailers are interested in what Disney thinks about being distributed by Diamond, and I am too. Whatever they do there will affect the industry as a whole.
“And of course, I wish this would lead to a 3-D animated Fantastic Four feature. As well as a Disneyworld vacation package for my family
Rick Remender, writer of Marvel's "Punisher"
Added 9/1/09 11:20 AM PDT
"I just got off the phone with my editor at Marvel and was told this deal guarantees everyone currently at Marvel will get helium-filled rocket balloon car covered in gold leaf and powered by the dreams of children. Now, a cherub dream powered gold zeppelin car might not be exciting to you, but to me, it is. Very.
"I'll say the same thing everyone else has said, the Pixar deal is a precedent of a good studio being able to do what they do with the power and distribution of Disney behind them. The thing I like most about it is the wider distribution the comics will get. Comics badly need wider distribution to reach the next generation of readers, right? No one can argue with that. Or if they can, they shouldn't.
"Also, maybe we'll get a new Marvel section of Disneyland? I for one can't wait to take a ride on Mr. Modko's Fantastical Ride to DNA Experimentation and Gene Mutation."
Dan Vado of SLG Publishing, home of Disney properties “Haunted Mansion,” “Tron,” and “Gargoyles,” among others
NOTE: Despite being a Disney licensee, Vado wishes it to be known that he has no inside knowledge of the Marvel acquisition, and that his remarks should be taken strictly as his own opinions based on news reports.
“Marvel is the big winner here. My opinion, Disney overpaid (and Disney never over pays for anything) so it is obvious that Disney sees a huge licensing bonanza from the characters well down the line. Marvel books will, at some point, gain a stronger bookstore distribution partner should they decide to have their books sold through Harper.
“However it is worth pointing out that Disney does very little actual publishing of its own and has made most of its money by licensing characters out to third parties. It could be, again strictly conjecture here, that Marvel will end up being reduced to a licensing company and that its publishing will be scaled back dramatically as emphasis is put on content like movies and video games and less emphasis on things like publishing. Disney published its own line of comics years ago and pulled out. More recently they cut ‘Disney Adventures’ magazine, a publication with sales in the hundreds of thousands. So, seriously, publishing is not a big part of the equation here. I would expect publishing to scale back somewhat.”
Vado continued, “Big loser here are Disney licensees who created original content for their books and the creators who created that content. As is standard with any licensing deal, Disney owns the material that is created under the license and can, if they choose, republish the content once those deals expire without compensating either the companies who paid for the content or the creators who created the original material. Again, this is not a Disney thing, it is fairly standard of all licensing deals. SLG published collections of the Marvel Comics’ ‘Bill & Ted’ comics and did not compensate them for the artwork.
“While I am certain that the licensing deals which are in place will continue to their conclusion I have to wonder how some of the people who have jumped into the Disney Comics business will feel about creating new content for the company knowing that it all could become property of Disney/Marvel Comics at some point. Likewise, all Disney comic book licensees now get to feel dumb knowing that the money they are giving Disney is now also going to their biggest competitor in the field. As I said above, though, publishing is not a big part of the core Disney business so it is possible that even more licensing opportunities might open up.
“I am not certain how much creator-owned material Marvel produces, but those deals will more than likely become a thing of the past.”
Vado continued, “Another big loser could be Diamond and the Direct Market. It's now possible that Disney/Marvel will scale back on production, possibly focusing on cutting the line down to what it can actually manage to put out on time and just doing enough publishing to keep the characters in the public eye. It is also possible that Disney/Marvel might do all of their own distribution. In this regard the deal can be a huge game changer for everyone. Seriously, anything can happen at this point.
“At minimum I would expect that Diamond Book Distribution will lose Marvel from its catalog as they will no doubt move to Harper.”
Robert Venditti, creator, Top Shelf’s “The Surrogates,” now a feature film from Disney’s Touchstone Pictures
"In essence, it seems you now have one comic book publisher, where before there were two. Previously Marvel and Disney hired creators separately, now they might look more internally for their talent and feed off of each other. If you're already an established creator in the industry, this probably wouldn't affect you very much. But if you're trying to break in, it's possible there's now one less avenue for you to try and do that."
Marv Wolfman, former Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief and former “Disney Adventures” editor
“The first question I've been asked is whether they will move Marvel out west. I think there are people out here who are jumping up and down praying for that to happen. While that's always a possibility, off the cuff I would tend to doubt it. The reason I was only with ‘Disney Adventures’ for 4 1/2 years is that they moved their publishing from LA to New York and I wasn't willing to move back East with them. Then, a few years back, they moved some of that to either White Plains, MA or Vermont, I forget which right now and have no idea if they've moved elsewhere since. I can almost say with 100% certainty, that they would not move Marvel to the Disney lot. Hell, even ‘Disney Adventures’ was off lot. Disney TV and direct-to-DVD is not on the lot, either. It's too expensive to be located there. I would assume they'd leave Marvel where it is, although a year or three from now someone could decide to incorporate it into their division and move it to Rhode Island, for all we know. Although I doubt it. Again, it all depends which division Marvel will fall under and who is in charge and how much they want to control Marvel.”
Wolfman continued, “Disney can certainly help Marvel in terms of distribution, awareness and sales. They can get Marvel Comics into the parks and over the net better than Marvel can. Disney's Internet presence is much greater than Marvel's. They have resources Marvel does not, and I expect in a year or two we'll start seeing the results of the sale. I think Disney will be a major plus on that side.
“In the meantime, I assume they will leave the company as is, at least until they have an idea what they're doing with it. As far as the comics go, hopefully, they will leave Joe Quesada and company where they are and not interfere; they've creatively improved the Marvel Comics. Based on most of their Marvel Studios movies, they seem to have good people there, too. I'm not completely sure it was a wise purchase, but Disney is in the branding/franchise business and the Marvel brand is one of the largest in the world. Of course, everything will change if the Marvel characters fail at whatever Disney has planned.”
Wolfman continued, “[Television is] actually one of the places I think we can expect to see Marvel material appear. Disney has not been able to put together as successful a boy's network as they have with girls. There has been no boy equivalent to either ‘Hannah Montana’ or ‘Secret Life of An American Girl.’ Their current boys’ network, which is supposed to have adventure shows, instead has primarily boy oriented sitcoms, but I personally don't believe boys care about those kind of shows the way girls do. Marvel would fit in very well here, providing they get back their contracts from the various networks that currently hold them. Before Disney spent 4 billion dollars, I'm certain they investigated all the properties down to the nth degree. Last time I spent 4 bil, I certainly did.”
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