So, let’s start off on a positive note. Why is Disney buying Marvel such a good idea? On the surface, the companies don’t have similar storytelling philosophies and this whole thing seems like a bigger publicity marriage than Tom Cruise and…well, anyone. So, in no particular order, here’s why this is a good deal.
1) Disney needs a comics publisher. Simple enough. Disney had an excellent run long ago with it’s own comics titles like Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, The Beagle Boys, and Super-Goof. Yes, these were children’s comics. But like many bits of bygone children’s entertainment, they had a smart, adult sensibility to them as well. Like the classic Warner Brothers cartoons, these were comics that parents could share and enjoy with their children. Disney’s been looking to getting back into the comics industry for a while now, and this whole buyout may have been started by talks they were having with Stan Lee earlier in the year or late last year. Again, Disney and Stan Lee raised a few eyebrows considering most of his recent work has been overshadowed by his ‘dirty old man’ projects like Stripperella and self-promotion stunts like ‘Who Wants to be a Superhero’. But Stan has also put out some quality work the past few years. His ‘Just Imagine’ run at DC where he got to re-invent the classic DC characters showed that he stll new what he was doing and didn’t have to rely on exploitation.
2) Steve Jobs. While I mentioned John Lasister and Robert Iger as the two men that can make this deal really work, there is a third person waiting in the shadows that can really change everything. Again, part of the Disney buyout of Pixar put Steve Jobs on the Board of Directors for Disney. With Steve Jobs involved, this deal has the potential to completely revolutionize comics distribution. I wouldn’t be surprised if before the end of next year, or even this year, the entire Marvel catalog and comics archive will be available on iTunes as well as digital publishing of comics to go alongside the traditional print run; something I’ve been advocating that the comics industry needs to survive for a couple years now.
3) Marvel Manhattan at Disney themeparks. Let’s face it: California Adventure really wasn’t as big a hit as Disney wanted. They’ve been continually redesigning it as time goes on. Turning a good chunk of that property, and similar land in Orlando, into a Disney Imagineer created Marvel Manhattan is just pure win. If only for the fact that you know they’ll figure out how to have Spider-Man swinging between buildings for real. Considering that Universal already has their Marvel attraction in Orlando, they just may license the IP out to them. Still, with the big redevelopment push going on at California Adventure and no competing attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood, it is perfect timing for the Anaheim park.
4) Marvel needs a film and animation studio. Strike that. Make that: Marvel !!!NEEDS!!! a film and animation studio. If I knew the code to make NEEDS flash, I’d add that in too. This is critical for Marvel. One of the reasons why their comics films have been so uneven sice X-Men started the new wave is that Marvel doesn’t have a single studio that oversees production. Film quality has even varied within studios, as seen in X-Men and Fantastic Four, both from 20th Century Fox. Now, with Iron Man, that’s changed a bit, but Marvel still doesn’t have a ‘traditional’ studio in the sense of the term. They have more control than before, true, but they still have to work with studios on things like distribution. And you can bet that Paramount, Sony, Universal, and all the rest have their little inputs they want included in the films. Now with Disney, Marvel has a bit more bargaining power by having the 800 lbs gorilla standing behind them when they deal with these studios. I’m sure distribution rights will still remain with all the current parties involved, but in the end, Marvel Studios has a bit more say about the content of the films. Not that it’s really been a problem up to now besides every electronic system in Spider-Man having the Sony tag prominently featured, but this is a good ‘nip it in the bud’ solution as long as Disney lets Marvel Studios create in peace. Also, having an actual, modernized, and talented animation studio linked directly to it for the first time ever gives Marvel the chance to make some truly great cartoons. I’m excited about the Studio Madhouse Iron Man anime, and the limited Lionsgate Animation movies were excellent as well, but this possibility has me totally jazzed. Just as Bruce Timm gave WB/DC a serious creative shot in the arm with the animation series he oversaw, Disney and Marvel can do the same thing with their properties as long as they have the right individual involved. I’m going to put forth Mark McCorkle and Robert Schooley as the perfect candidates for the job. As the creative force behind both Kim Possible and Sky High, they show that they know how to do an excellent animated series as well as understanding the comic book genre six ways from Sunday.
So, like I said before, there a great potential for this deal to be truly wonderful. However, it also has the possibility of being a total disaster.