Disney and Marvel

14 09 2009

Here’s an email exchange I thought I would share.

Hi Neal,
Do you think the Disney purchase of Marvel comics means the death of an era? Or did that era end when Marvel’s paper products stopped being profitable and they had to turn to movies?

Odd to think of Mickey and Spiderman working together, maybe sometimes under the Disney treacle treatment, and (I assume this is true) the special Disney capital punishment copyright protection suddenly following along this large new realm of characters, just because they are Disney.

Does it seem to be a colorful example of a general national trend? Something Nader-y about powerful corporations?

I am sure you know more about it than moi, would love your thoughts.


Hi Pete,

I am hopeful that Disney will leave the creative side of Marvel alone, as they say they will. It brings them a largely male demographic that Hannah Montana doesn’t appeal to. And with the Touchstone imprint, for example, Disney demonstrates they don’t need to put mouse ears on absolutely everything.
Marvel has never tapped the grown-up audience like DC has with their Vertigo line (Sandman, The Invisibles, etc). I’ve noticed some Marvel titles (The Ultimates, Daredevil) trying to move into more adult territory, but as far as I can tell there is an unbreakable policy against swearing, nudity, and excessive blood. Undoubtedly this is in deference to parents and the cultural assumption that Spider-Man is for kids. It seems likely that Disney will reinforce this policy, and unlikely we will ever see a Marvel movie as deeply evocative as The Dark Knight. Even so, there is plenty of room for fun and powerful movies in the vein of Iron Man, X-Men, and Spider-Man (1 & 2, let’s not repeat #3 please)
The copyright issue is something I had not considered. It’s an interesting thought. Will parodies of the Fantastic Four be met with lawyerly death squads? One hopes not.
As for the death of an era…that’s something I’ve been trying to pin down for some time. I’m sort of amazed that superheroes have any traction at all, given that all the big ones were created in the 40s and 60s by a bunch of hacks who could only appeal to readers of adolescent-to-infantile disposition. The comics of the Golden Age and Silver Age are most valuable as fodder for later writers and artists who gave the characters depth and believability. If Stan Lee had to start from scratch today, he would probably become a blend of Ed Wood and Michael Bay. The point I’m failing to make is this: the beginnings of comic book characters are less important that their present. They are woven into our cultural fabric and will never go away.
I think the real era marker is the creation of Wolverine in the early 80s, the last superhero to achieve cultural icon status. Thousands of new characters have been created since by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, and others, but none will ever have the broad, instant recognition that Spider-Man or Superman has.




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