Comic Industry Insiders See Plus for Marvel in Disney Merger


Suddenly, a Mickey Mouse/Spider-Man team-up doesn't seem out of the question.

News on Monday morning that the Walt Disney Company would acquire Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion has shocked the most loyal fans of Marvel's superhero comic books and movies. But some early reaction from people in the industry is positive.

"I am stunned," one comics fan posted on the Newsarama comics news site.

"I hope I'm wrong, but this seems like the worst news in comics' history," wrote another.

"So long as Disney keeps their fingers out of the story content of the books, I am okay with it," another comic book reader posted.

A self-selecting Newsarama reader poll, as of this writing, reveals 18 percent positive reaction while a majority are skeptical to concerned, and about 20 percent describe themselves as "terrified."

But long-time Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, widely credited as one of the co-architects of Marvel's post-bankruptcy success-story, is already addressing fan concerns via his Twitter account.

"It feels like Christmas morning," Quesada 'tweeted' Monday morning, "I haven't seen this much excitement in the Marvel halls since... well, ever! ... If you're familiar with the Disney/Pixar relationship, then you'll understand why this is a new dawn for Marvel and the comics industry."

Quesada continues: "Everybody take a deep breath, all your favorite comics remain unchanged and [Marvel Senior Editor] Tom Brevoort remains grouchy ... this is incredible news and all is well in the Marvel U."

As for industry insiders, most believe that as long as Disney doesn't make drastic changes to the characters or structure at Marvel, the news is positive for comic book fans.

"I just read the news and that's big stuff for the industry," said comics' writer and teacher Andy Schmidt, who until 2007 was an editor at Marvel. "Ultimately, this is probably a good thing for the industry as well. Disney will most likely give these comic book characters, and by extension all comics, an even wider exposure."

"I honestly would have expected this news a few years ago. But with Marvel's recent successes at the box office I'd have thought they were more interested in becoming a media giant rather than being bought by one," said writer Chuck Dixon. "And four billion seems cheap to me. Spider-Man alone is worth more than that."

Marc Bernardin, comic writer and Senior Editor at "Entertainment Weekly", already has experience with Disney's acquisition, since the film rights to the graphic novel he co-wrote, Monster Attack Network, was acquired by Disney in 2008.

“It’s a ballsy move. Like, ‘Why buy the rights to one comic when we can simply buy them all?’" Bernardin said.

Marvel not only publishes comic books featuring popular superheroes like Spider-Man, X-Men and Captain America, but also produces movies based upon their licensed characters through Marvel Studios.

Disney's move to put Marvel's brand under its control is not completely unprecedented in the comic book industry, as DC Comics has been a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Entertainment since 1969.

"Hard to say how this will shake out, but it could be good for Marvel," said Tony Bedard, who has worked as both an editor and writer in the industry. "Hopefully, Disney recognizes that the current editorial team at Marvel knows what they're doing. With Time/Warner's deep pockets to back it up, DC can develop and nurture lower-selling titles like "R.E.B.E.L.S." or "Jonah Hex", whereas Marvel has had to watch their bottom line and cut titles a bit more ruthlessly. Perhaps Marvel will now be able to give more projects a fighting chance to find and grow their audience. I'm cautiously optimistic about this."

However, it is a bit ironic that the relationship has been forged so successfully considering that Marvel sued Disney in 2004, claiming its company was owed at least $16 million for cartoons it licensed to ABC Family Channel. The acquisition also calls into question the relationship between Disney and BOOM! Studios, the publisher who acquired the comic book license for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck from Disney earlier this year.

The news also puts into question the future at Florida's major theme parks, since Universal Studios Orlando, one of Walt Disney World's largest competitors, currently features Marvel characters in its Islands of Adventure theme park, with attractions like the Incredible Hulk Coaster, Doctor Doom's Fearfall and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

Among comic book fans, the biggest concern is how the Marvel characters and the company's publishing choices will be skewed by the new parent company. But most industry insiders think Spider-Man and the X-Men are probably safe.

"The biggest question this acquisition poses to me, from a purely comics standpoint, is ‘How will this change what Marvel chooses to publish?’ Not that I think that suddenly, Disney will step in and set some sort of mandate, but if you draw an analogy to the Warner/DC relationship, it’s important that DC publish non-superhero titles for Warner to funnel into production. Because not every superhero demands his or her own movie," said Bernardin. "You also need to have your 'Preachers', your 'Y: The Last Mans', your 'Losers'. But right now, Marvel doesn’t do much of that outside their Epic line. They are, by and large, a publisher of superhero comics, and to this point, it’s worked incredibly well for them. But I think that’ll probably change.”

"My first question as a story editor and writer is how will this affect content. And honestly, I doubt it will affect the comics very much at all, which is good," Schmidt said. "Marvel already has a strict work-for-higher contract so Disney's treatment of freelancers and their rights can only get better for creators--meaning we may see even better creators working for Marvel in the future. Disney is also well known for letting creative people do their work in a good working environment. Now that I think about it, I really don't see a downside--not that there isn't one, but if Disney's reputation holds true, we're probably gearing up to see some fresh ideas, new creative teams and wider exposure for Marvel's characters in the near future. I hold that change is good and exciting. It forces more creativity in the industry and I hope this will only encourage and challenge all creators and publishers to get out there with fresher and better content."

And while it might be too early to talk about Goofy serving as the newest member of the X-Men, or Doc Ock fighting the Incredibles, among the creative people who write comic books, the joke is just too easy to pass up.

"I think it can only be a good thing for Marvel," said novelist and comics' writer Mike Carey. "Having a multi-media entertainment giant at your back gives you security, and security gives you the freedom to take bigger risks. Not that Marvel has ever been what you'd call timid. Also, those rumors I spread about Donald and Minnie were in poor taste and I apologize unreservedly."

"I see the fan community already salivating over Pixar X-Men (has Pixar done any adaptations, guys?) or dreading Hannah Montana joining the Avengers," said comics writer Kurt Busiek. "Or hoping that Disney will immediately fire Joe Quesada and reinstate the kind of comics they use to love back when Disney had no interest in Marvel. Or dreading that Disney will 'wimpify' Marvel. Or exulting that now Marvel can be like Vertigo and publish comics that don't make money, because they can spend Disney's money without expecting to make a profit. And a lot of other things that don't seem likely, either.

"My reaction: This will change things. Whether it'll change things in a good way, in a bad way or (most likely) in a mixture of both, it'll change things," he said. "How? No way to tell yet, so there's not much point in drawing conclusions of any kind. I hope we have Roger Langridge "Muppet Show" comics for a long time to come, though.

"I do recall, back in the '80s, people at Marvel used to say they wanted to be Disney for older audiences. Well, I guess now they are," Busiek said. "What that means, though, remains to be seen."

Twitter activity