Disney to Buy Marvel

Let’s just jump right in.  From Variety:

The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to acquire Marvel Ent. in a stock and cash transaction worth $4 billion.

Under the terms of the deal, Marvel shareholders would receive $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

Disney will acquire ownership of more than 5,000 Marvel characters, including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor.

The boards of both companies have approved the pact, which is subject to antitrust review and the approval of Marvel shareholders.

Robert A. Iger, Mouse House prexy and CEO, said in a statement: “This transaction combines Marvel’s strong global brand and world-renowned library of characters including Iron Man, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Fantastic Four and Thor with Disney’s creative skills, unparalleled global portfolio of entertainment properties, and a business structure that maximizes the value of creative properties across multiple platforms and territories.”

The classic cover to The Spectacular Girth of Spiderman

The classic cover to "The Spectacular Girth of Spiderman"

Lot’s of words about the news this morning that Disney has announced it’s intentions to buy Marvel Comics and all that that entails.  I keep seeing cries and gnashing of teeth, like somehow the house of mouse is going to sink it’s talons into the Marvel soft spots and just start tearing, but I hardly think that’s the case, and really, if ANY company out there needed an entity like Disney to take the reigns, it’s Marvel.  Want some proof?  Let’s pull up the handy wikipedia entry and lay out some timeline details to show you just how poorly the house that Spidey built has handled itself.  This time line is by no means complete or able to really define all of the dumb mistakes, near bankruptcies, and  just plain bad business choices and complete lack of foresight that Marvel has portrayed as long as I have been alive.

We’re just going to start in the 70’s, where Marvel tries desperately to bring their properties to the screen (because ultimately, this is about translating properties to the big/little screen, and not selling comics, which I guarantee Disney cares two shits about, except as ways of keeping the intellectual properties in circulation), but fails mostly.  Bad versions of Spidey, Captain America, Doctor Strange, and many more (as much as you might like Bill Bixby’s rendition, the Hulk was pretty weak too), try and fail to do anything but make people snicker at the bad costumes.  They give up this hope for awhile, focusing on comics and cartoons, something they knew how to do.

After decades of growth, helping to create the direct market system (which, you can make your own decisions about how good a thing this was)  and creating a stable of very popular characters, Marvel’s silliness really starts in the 1980’s when the giant named Jim Shooter was made EIC.  Shooter was a man who liked to have his hands in all the cookie jars, rampant tales of creators being treated badly surface, which isn’t to say Shooter didn’t do some good.  The Epic line was a great chance at producing creator owned material, and a lot of great books come from this attempt.  This really isn’t part of the story, but I like to add this, because people should remember these things.  Shooter was responsible for a lot of good happening at Marvel, but he was also responsible for helping put in place the current system, which works against smaller creators.

Anyways.  Marvel is sold to New World Entertainment in ’86.  The man in charge was a snake oil salesman named Ron Perelman (No, not that one).    After starting the decade strong, Marvel’s participation in the industry generated speculation boom pays them back in spades when the roof caves in industry-wide, crushing everyone beneath the bootheel they created with floods of trashy comics, the alternate covers, and general bad business practices, especially those by the head of the company, Perelman.

In ’94 Marvel decides it wants in the distribution game, it acquires Heroes World, a comic distributor,  and they throw everything into this hat.  When Heroes World can’t deliver, it destroys the direct market system Marvel helped put in place, and sets up Diamond as the lone monopolizing lord of all comic shop distribution, the effects of which are getting worse every year, hurting the smaller guys and spoon feeding folks like Marvel while slowly strangling and collapsing in on itself.

Deciding that speculation on comics wasn’t enough harm, Marvel decides it wants in the trading card game and buys Fleer.   This will lead no where.  Strange stock practices and shading dealings by Pereleman and Co. force Marvel to file bankruptcy in ’96, and when the dust settled they were owned by Toy Biz.  Thus begins the era of Bill Jemas and Avi Arad.   And while these two guys were mainly responsible for the explosion of Marvel properties to the silver screen, being the guys behind Spiderman’s jump, they hand most of the other properties to guys who have no concept of the characters or what made them great (partly because it became very apparent early on that Arad and Jemas had no idea what made the characters work).

Marvel continues to fluctuate, it’s fate a roller coaster of will they or won’t they go out of business periods, through out the 00’s years.   Questions about bad leadership and bad business practices continue to plague the company. As they have since the 7o’s.  That’s not to say that there haven’t been good people in charge, Joe Quesada, once an artist and writer for Marvel ascended to the EIC position and ushered in a new wave of creators and takes on classic characters, bringing Hollywood and the Bookstore creators to the comic creation table, instead of the other way around for once.

Heres to hoping theres plenty of magic left at the Mouse to handle the task.

Here's to hoping there's plenty of magic left at the Mouse to handle the task.

But this isn’t about the comic arm, this about the licensing of properties to TV and Film, Disney’s territory.  Disney knows how to handle properties.  Obviously, they have the money to back things up, and no one can say they don’t know how to market and release films and TV shows.  And they’ve done wonders with companies like Miramax (you try wrangling the Weinstein’s for a decade), so keeping Marvel in check should be a breeze.  So long as they do their homework.

Wow, this got rambly, I didn’t really intend for it to do so.  And of course, halfway through I got bored of my own words, and that can’t be good for you readers, so I’ll just stop here.

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