This fall, Walt Disney’s famed feature animation division is adapting one of Marvel’s comic series, Big Hero 6, into a full-length feature film. This film, which premieres November 7, follows as the next film from Walt Disney Animation Studios after the record-breaking success of Frozen. There’s considerable interest in this movie given it’s a melding of Marvel’s characters and Walt Disney’s fabled animation division, but when movie-goers look to find the source material or find what’s next – they won’t find anything. Not from Marvel, at least.
Despite the Big Hero 6 movie being synergistic product of Disney’s acquisition of the company in 2009, Marvel tells Newsarama that there are no plans to feature the characters of the film as part of any upcoming comics projects – neither as guest stars, in their own series, or even reprinting earlier stories that inspired the movie. When asked for further comment on Big Hero 6 at Marvel Comics, the publisher declined to comment.
Originally created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau during their tenure on Alpha Flight, Big Hero 6 actually debuted in a spin-off series by Scott Lobdell and Gus Vasquez titled Sunfire & Big Hero 6 in the fall of 1998. After that, the team popped up intermittently as guest stars of various secondary books in Marvel’s comics line such as Thunderbolts and Defenders, but by and large was relegated to the back issue bins for ten years. In 2008 Marvel commissioned famous Uncanny X-men writer Chris Claremont to create a new Big Hero 6 miniseries with David Nakayama, and they were last seen in 2012’s Amazing Spider-Man #685 as a Japan-based force to repel an assault by Doctor Octopus.
But for fans interested in the upcoming Big Hero 6 movie and looking for its comics counterpart, those comic stories are hard to come by. The last collected edition of Big Hero 6 stories was a 2012 reprint of Claremont’s 2008 series, but that has been out of print for some time (It is, however, available digitally on comiXology for $8.99). The single issues of the original Sunfire & Big Hero 6 series are going on eBay for upwards of $30, and their first intended appearance in Alpha Flight #17 has risen from being a title found in the dollar bin to fetching upwards of $15 and $20 online.
Although Big Hero 6 comics neither new or old are planned from Marvel, in a surprising move the manga publisher Kodansha is publishing a Big Hero 6 comic inside it’s Japanese anthology Magazine Special. Done by manga-ka Haruki Ueno, Big Hero 6’s squishy mascot Baymax has his own serial which began in the magazine’s August 6th issue. Kodanasha have done a number of manga adaptations of Walt Disney animated movies recently such as Frozen, and this actually isn’t the first Kodanasha project of Marvel characters; back in 1970, Kodanasha published Japanese-inspired retelling of Spider-Man’s origin by Ryoichi Ikegama that American audiences didn’t see officially until an English reprint in 1997.
In the past, Marvel have shown reticence publishing comics to capitalize on the mainstream popularity of Marvel-based movies if they weren’t produced in-house by Marvel’s film division, and earlier this month Marvel Senior Vice President of Publishing Tom Brevoort explained the reason.
“If you had two things,” Brevoort said on his Tumblr page,” and on one you earned 100% of the revenues from the efforts that you put into making it, and the other you earned a much smaller percentage for the same amount of time and effort, you’d be more likely to concentrate more heavily on the first, wouldn’t you?”
While the Big Hero 6 film is being created under the same Walt Disney umbrella that Marvel is under, the same logic Brevoort presented here is true: as Big Hero 6 is being produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and not Marvel Studios, Marvel itself will receive far less returns on any success Big Hero 6 has than focusing on comics tying into, for example, Guardians of the Galaxy. In 2013, Marvel Television’s Vice President of Animation Development and Production Cort Lane told Newsarama that “Big Hero 6 truly belongs to Disney Feature Animation Studio,” which may be more true than you’d think.
While it is true that in the build-up to this year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past movie Marvel reprinted the original story-arc and did a thematic tie-in with the X-Men: Battle of the Atom event, the X-Men remain a huge pillar in Marvel’s comics line despite its movie rights being owned by 20th Century Fox. Big Hero 6 has never been in that position at Marvel Comics, not even to the degree Guardians of the Galaxy had been prior to that movie’s announcement.
With Big Hero 6 coming out under the Walt Disney Animation Studios umbrella however, other Disney-owned publishing companies have been quick to create tie-in products for the movie; Random House has over a dozen Big Hero 6 books planned, from a junior novelization to an “Art of “ book, and even two “Little Golden” books. Hiro and Baymax will appear as new characters in Disney Infinity 2.0, but their inclusion in the video game is under the “Disney Originals” category, not the “Marvel Super Heroes” category.
Newsarama reached out to several comic creators who have worked on Big Hero 6 in the past, including co-creators Seagle and Rouleau, but as of press time have received no response.