Positive Cynicism – A mouse in the House of Ideas (or is an idea in the House of Mouse?)

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Spider-Man, the Hulk, and Iron Man are all wearing mouse ears today.

The big news yesterday was that the Walt Disney Company announced plans to acquire Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Once the sale is final, Walt Disney will own Marvel Comics and its over 5,000 comic book characters. Disney aims to become the sole distributor of Marvel properties (the way Warner Bros. is for DC Comics) and make lots and lots of money in the process.

I think it’s a good decision for Disney. Disney’s second cable channel, Disney XD, runs 20 hours of programming every week that features Marvel Comics characters, and it does great things for their ratings. When Marvel isn’t allowing mind-destroying garbage like Ghost Rider or Rise of the Silver Surfer to get made, they manage to make some hit movies, too. There’s a lot of money in merchandising and trade reprints, and Marvel has created one or two of the most recognizable fictional characters in the world.

This is an even better decision for Marvel. Not only does this give them stable financial help (Marvel always seems to be struggling for operating cash when it’s not going bankrupt), but a better global reach and access to some of the best technology and creative minds the entertainment world has to offer.

At any rate, it probably means an improvement over those terrible animated DVDs Marvel keeps putting out, which I’m always hearing are “really good” when they’re actually “not as terrifically shitty as you’d think looking at the commercials.”

How does this affect Marvel? Well, in the short term, not very much. It’s going to be a slow build, like it was with the Muppets.

When Disney bought the Muppets back in 2004, they had to honor the licensing and distribution deals the Jim Henson Company already had in place. Which is why, with the exception of the TV movie The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz and a couple of Disney Channel specials, it took years for Disney to be able to do anything with the Muppets. Though it looked like Disney was just sitting on the Muppets for years, they were actually waiting for a number of deals to run out. They bided their time, putting out DVDs of older material and trying to get deals in place for when they could invoke the standard rich and famous contract for Kermit the Frog and company. That’s why it’s only been since last year or so that the Muppets started popping up in theme parks and starring in a new Christmas special (and this season there’ll be a Halloween special and, maybe next year, a new movie).

It’ll be the same with Marvel. The movie rights are all over the place: Spider-Man’s at Sony, Iron Man’s at Paramount, the Hulk’s at Universal, the X-Men are at Fox. Besides which, there’s this whole Avengers series of movies that Paramount is doing – they’ve contracted for at least five. So Disney’s really going to have quite a wait before they can access those characters for any movies. Which is fine, I think. Marvel has many other characters in the wings, and Disney has a thriving direct-to-DVD market and is desperate to make a bigger splash in video games …

Granted, this news may not be good to you, but after everything Joe Quesada and Brian Michael Bendis and the spectacularly untalented Mark Millar have done to destroy the Marvel Universe (for future reference: replacing fun and drama with heavy cynicism doesn’t make your comics “mature”), the only real disappointment I have here is that Quesada isn’t being replaced with someone who knows what they’re doing instead of blindfolding himself and throwing a dart at his “idea” board. (And he seems to only be able to hit the “more sexism” card, anyway.)

I welcome this news, because I still think Disney is, for the most part, a home for quality entertainment. And I like that Disney is now the home of Pixar, the Muppets and Marvel Comics. When I hear Bob Iger say that one of the best decisions Disney made about their Pixar acquisition was to not interfere in Pixar’s business, it makes me smile knowing that Marvel will be free to be Marvel. And when I hear John Lasseter is excited about Pixar making Marvel Comics movies, it just makes me smile. Because, let’s face it, Donald Duck, the Hulk and Gonzo the Great all live in the same dorm in my head, anyway.

And if Marvel publishes Spider-Man vs. Mickey Mouse, I’ll buy it just as soon as I bought Superman vs. Bugs Bunny. Because I’m that kind of fanboy.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

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