Monday, August 31, 2009

Marvel meets Disney

So, the Walt Disney Company is going to buy Marvel Comics.

Lot of teeth-gnashing over this.

First off, I honestly don't see, and have never seen, the problem some people have with Disney. They created a brand, the were successful. Big whoop. I get various pollution problems connected to the theme parks, and whatever, but you know, that's the same with any multi-national corporation. Big deal, it's like we're all conditioned to hate because it's big and wasteful. So's the government, so what? I bet Disney's health plan (which has been offered to same-sex partners since the 80's) is better.

They make entertainment, and, aside from a horrible period in the early-to-mid 80's, they do it pretty well.

Anyway...Marvel has been trying to Disneyfy itself for years. With plans for "Marvel Mania" stores and theme restaurants across the country, and a general concern with the value of their properties over using them effectively. I mean, for years I've been pretty much convinced that putting out solid comic books was the LAST priority for Marvel. Not when you have video game and movie deals, or merchandise to push.

think about it....How many Mickey Mouse cartoons have you actually seen? Precious few compared to say Bugs Bunny, or even Yogi Bear. (and you ought to seek them out, they're good...not the sublime madness of the Warner Brothers stable, but fun.) Yet every, single one of us knows Micky on sight.

That's what Marvel has been after for a long time, the ability to sell their "5000 characters" (yeah, tell me when anybody cares about 4,980 of those) based on their images alone. Not in stories, not in adventures, not with the simple, elegant stories that Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko dreamed up, but as images, as iconography

I went into one of the few remaining "Marvel Mania" stores in the Universal Studios theme park...piles and piles of shirts, backpacks, statues, action figures and toys. All well and good, but where were the COMICS?!?! Y'know the stuff that made your name? Oh, here they are, like 10 titles off in a corner.

Sad, Man....Sad.

I mean seriously, Spider-Man is right up there for me. Genius creation, broke all the rules for comic book superheroes, clever, well written. Right now, Marvel has (I think) 4 Spider-Man comic book series on the market, including one that's weekly.

Only one is any good, and that's the one that exists outside "normal" continuity. (That would be Ultimate Spider-Man, or Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, or whatever the hell they're calling it this week. Yes, faithful readers, I didn't get off the wagon...I'm still there. You'll pay for this, for being so good, Brian Michael Bendis!!!)

I won't even get into the cesspool that's become the X-Men line. It's almost a unwritten rule that only one X-Men book can be any good at any given time, the rest just have to wallow in 30-year-old plotlines, and concepts that were picked to death in 1985.

Captain America, however, is still very good. RIGHT NOW it's very, very good. Get on that.

Marvel has been slowly creeping toward the day when they won't have to publish comics. Why do it, when you make huge dollars selling the icon to a film or video game company to tell the story? (or to co-finance, the "Marvel Studios" model) This merger/buyout/whatever with Disney will only accelerate that pace. Disney is gonna realize real quick that the monthly pamphlet business ain't what it used to be. Plus, now there's a bonafide big-time movie studio

Maybe they'll continue with online comics. Maybe a trade paperback that comes out every 6 months, because the trades, and book stores, are where the real money is. That could be good or bad, hard to say. Me, I like my monthly books, I like my boxes full of comics. I'm not going to be happy about this.

For good or ill, this could be the beginning of a pretty huge shift in the comic marketplace.

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