The biggest show biz news of the week was Disney's announcement of its intention to buy Marvel Comics. The implications for various media from comic books to films, to video games, and to theme parks arise immediately (captured by the above illustration by Khary Randolph found here). Here are some issues that occurred to me:

Clashing corporate cultures: We're talking two unique pop culture universes of course. The Magic Kingdom, the House of Mouse vs. what was long ago called the House of Ideas, Marvel's self-praising name for its history of innovation in comic book storytelling. Disney buying the major US comic book company isn't the same as Time Warner's long ownership of DC Comics. Time Warner doesn't evoke a pantheon of beloved characters in family-friendly entertainment, unless you consider film's Golden Age of Bogart and Bacall to compete with Superman and Wonder Woman. In fact, many have wondered why Warners hasn't exploited DC's big roster of comic book characters (Batman is the only recent success story) nearly as well as Marvel, who have licensed their characters to numerous studios as well as producing their own successful films Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The link above leads to descriptions of Disney's willingness to foster development of film adaptations both in-house and in other studios.

The other issue of clashing corporate cultures involves speculation about the overlapping of Disney and Marvel stories and characters. Will the Hulk appear in Disney Adventures magazine? Is that even under consideration? Or will Disney's wholesome family image lead it to tame some of Marvel's more violent (The Punisher) and sexy (Spiderwoman and many others) characters? If you've ever watched some programming of the inaptly named ABC Family Channel, for years a Disney holding, you know that the company long ago allowed for niche marketing that looks nothing like the safe havens of Disney's world. So, the reasoning goes, Disney didn't buy Marvel to conform it to their own image, but because it represented a great opportunity to increase their revenue through diversified product exploitation, a point recognized by journalist and comics reviewer Don MacPherson.

More Disney Comics? This is a logical question for those comics readers of legacy characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and especially Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge. Barks' created the miserly multi-billionaire in the comics long before he appeared in cartoons and along with Donald Duck, has become something of a cult figure internationally, where Disney comics far outsell what superhero titles make in the US. For the last decade, the license to publish Disney characters have been bounced from one publisher to another. Currently, Boom! Studios, a new publisher, has the rights to several Disney characters and have published several titles with Pixar characters including The Incredibles, Toy Story, Cars, and another Disney acquisition, The Muppets. It would seem logical to let the rights revert back to Disney when the current agreement expires and let Marvel oversee their publication. I have never understood why Disney hasn't promoted their Duck stories more in this country since they've proven so strong overseas so I hope we see them treated better at last.

Posted by: Alex Wainer