Friday, September 11, 2009

It's The End Of The World As We Know It...The New DC! The New Marvel!

So there's been new changes at both Marvel and DC. The Mouse now owns Marvel, angering a lot of people who believe that the Jack Kirby estate should be paid a percentage as Marvel is only worth what it is due to Kirby's vision. Let's not forget Steve Ditko, Don Heck, John Romita and quite a few others, but that just ain't gonna happen. Disney paid a staggering four billion for Marvel, essentially to buy the rights (and profits) to a few movies that have done surprisingly well of late. Still the money maker was always with DC - after all the last Batman flick grossed over a billion dollars alone and has become the only comic book related movie to spawn an Oscar. An amazing feat when you consider that, for many decades, all anyone identified Batman with was Adam West camping it up in some tacky gray underwear.

While there's been a lot of ranting about the fate of the Marvel Universe now that Disney owns it I've yet to see anything, well, concrete. Tom Brevoort still has a job. So does Joe Quesada. For now. But in comic books editors offices usually have revolving doors and no matter how popular a person is, if they fall out of favour, upset or annoy someone or commit the cardinal sin of losing masses of money then they're generally removed, often without fanfare and more often than not, with a lot of scorn, scurrilous rumours and outright and vexatious comments spread about them in public. There's nothing like ruining a persons reputation and the comic book industry do it better than most. There's also the question of the characters and creators. We have a general idea of how Disney treat their creators. They're well paid, for the most part, but every line they squiggle belongs to the Mouse and there's nothing anyone can do to change that. It's policy. Who knows if this will extend to Marvel. Will we see a cross-over between Spider-Man and Mickey Mouse? Beats me - however I have seen stranger things happen. I'd not be surprised if we see the return of Prime or Rune before we see another Howard The Duck comic though.

Over at DC things have been happening at a rapid pace. The response was that Warner Brothers have taken more control over DC Comics, restructuring the company and re-badging it as DC Entertainment. Paul Levitz is out, Diane Nelson is in. Was Paul pushed or did he jump? Does it matter? Paul isn't out of a job and from what I've read by people who *gasp* know the guy, he appears to have wanted to go back to writing anyway. I expect he got a decent payout. As Levitz himself stated in the official press release, "After so many roles at DC it’s exciting to look forward to focusing on my writing and being able to remain a part of the company I love as it grows into its next stage. It’s a new golden age for comics and DC’s great characters, and I hope my new position will allow me to contribute to that magic time." Hardly sounds like the words of anyone who's disgruntled, and those who've been sacked from lower profile positions have often made it their immediate goal to slander the company they've left, thus burning the bridges down to the waterline. Levitz hasn't done this and appears to remain in DC/Warner's employ.

Is change good? There's a few answers to that. Each time Marvel or DC undergoes change a pile of people start clearing their desks, and that's to be expected. Anyone who shells out the money we've seen will come into the new company and install their own people - I know I would. Just what changes will now happen at both Marvel and DC I guess we just have to wait and see. It won't stop a pile of people who aren't connected to the companies in any way, shape or form from hysterically ranting about it all though. I like to adopt the wait and see attitude though.

In the meantime what I did do was contact a pile of people who might have a valid opinion. You might recognise some names in this lot. Not everyone I contacted wanted to go on the record, indeed quite a few replied back saying that they have nothing to say about the subjects of both Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner and I can respect that. However a few people did offer up some comments and some very wise ones at that. Here's the pick of them.

"I think, in both cases, the changes aren't as dramatic as fans and professionals would like to theorize," says Dan Panosian. "Marvel was owned by Revlon [Pearlman] for a time. I think a like-minded, character driven, company like Disney can only be a positive thing. Fans worry that Marvel will be censored but they forget that Disney owns Miramax and last I checked, no one is censoring Quentin Tarantino..."

"As for DC... They have proven themselves leaders in this business for years and years. I don't think that's going to change. I would expect a boost in sales for both companies and for comic books in general as things get more and more mainstream and in touch with current media trends."

Someone who has seen change before, many, many times and at more than one company, including DC, is legend Dick Giordano. Dick has this to say, "Both moves were in the works behind closed doors for many moons, I would think. Rumors about changes at DC preceded the Disney/Marvel announcement so I think that it is unlikely that either was a copy-cat deal. Just a guess.

"I think both were aimed at increasing movie profits for the parent companies. Neither Warner nor Disney care about comic books or comic book fans. It's somewhat ironic that after the film industry which for years, ignored the possibility of comic book characters attracting adult audiences, suddenly jump in with both feet at a time when the peak sales of comic book movies may have passed and are leveling out a bit.

"I doubt very much that Disney or Warners management will make huge changes in the day-to-day operations of either company except, possibly to look for ways to save money, most likely at the expense of the creative community. For example, they both feel uncomfortable with and avoid any sharing of profits . Both companies in their core business, do not have a fine record in this area. Only time will tell, though , it is much too early to speculate on what their long range plans are.

"As for as a mass exit of creative personnel from either Marvel of DC because of their new situation, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen. There simply is not enough work in the US comics industry as it is and only a very small handful will be comfortable enough with their work potential to 'take a hike!'"

"I believe that Warner has long treated DC as the bastard stepchild that they inherited, and did not appear too eager to actually plumb the creative resources that they had at their disposal," says Charles Yoakum. "They followed the old adage, "Well, Batman is popular, but now we'll do it RIGHT!" conveniently ignoring all the great stories that had been done in the comics because, to them, comics were crap.

"Marvel hired people who took a chance and used the properties to make movies that took directly from the best elements of the comics themselves and thus used their acquisitions to their best advantage. X-Men 2 is Chris Claremont's X-Men and no one elses... and its by far the best comic book movie ever made in my opinion.

"Time Warner is just making adjustments that will allow them to use their properties as best as they can, something that they should have been doing 20 years ago. Neither corporate move would stop me from doing work from either company, they may actually become more professional in their dealings with artists as time goes on. We writers and artists can get screwed by a much better class of people.

"As our little niche media is recognized by the rest of the general public for what we comic fans had always known- i.e. that we're a media with a lot of entertainment to give - we should expect that with greater dollars comes greater responsibility, and greater corporate overseeing."

Trevor Von Eeden commented, "I've only recently found out about Disney's acquisition of Marvel--and I don't doubt that it's for strictly monetary reasons--same goes for Warner's, in relation to DC.

"As far as how it affects me, I must say--not at all.

"I've NEVER cared about who ran either company, only about how I've been treated by their employees (i.e: their editors.)

"I give absolutely no thought to who runs what, in ANY aspect of this corporate-owned country. All I ever have--or ever will--care about, is the quality of what I have to offer.

"Things that are out of my hands (i.e: out of my control) are exactly that--out of my hands. I never give 'em a second thought. And as far as contracts go, they should be judged by (the fairness of) their content, and no other factor. Doesn't matter to me WHO'S running the company--only thing that matters is HOW it's run!

"You might as well ask me what I think of "God," in terms of ruling the masses. I don't."

David E Miller: "I think that this is fantastic news for the longevity of these characters as now Disney and Warner are staking their futures on them. However, I worry about the future of comic books because now that Marvel and DC are being scrutinized as being part of larger entertainment conglomerates rather than comic book companies."

"I'm sad to see Paul leave the leadership role at DC," says Gerry Conway, "He's given a lot to the company over the last few decades, and helped guide it through some turbulent times. I hope the new management builds on his legacy."

And lastly, but definitely nowhere near least, comes this from Michael Kaluta. "I've not got a lot of thoughts about it all, except 'it's about time SOMEONE started paying attention to the Comic Books...' DC Comics has been sitting on a Gold Mine without seeming to try to get things into other mediums... Marvel has been a bit more adept at it, esp lately, but it's all driven by the Film Industry, not the Comic Book Industry pushing itself out there...

"SO, It's all good news as far as I'm concerned: untapped wealth, a rich cache of treasures, enough to fuel Film and TV for decades!"

So where does that leave us? Mark Evanier has weighed into the debate here and here and he's already predicting the demise of comic books as we know it, again, that's just supposition on the part of Mark -- I doubt he has any idea as to what Disney and Warners are about to either do, or not do, anymore than the rest of us. he might have a good idea, or an opinion, but that's about it. The one thing that did bother me a lot though. Tony Isabella, in a recent forum post, had this to say, "Within three hours, I received four phone calls and ten e-mails asking me to comment on it. About two-thirds were of the 'as an old friend of Paul Levitz' variety and the rest were of the 'as someone who hates DC" variety.'"

I ask this - in the midst of all the hysteria and burning of virtual bras, have people lost any sense of impartiality? It reflects the sad state of people when being impartial can be construed as fence sitting. My opinion, for what it's worth? Wait and see. If things happen that people don't like then don't buy the product - pure and simple. Someone will take notice of the bad press, but more people take notice of reduced sales/profits. If it's not broken people don't fix things - ie: if it's making bin loads of cash then the status quo will remain. If it breaks, then it'll be fixed and time will tell if that fix works. Until then...

1 comment:

theseditionist said...

A few very quick points.

New rule: No one's allowed to fear about what Disney will do to Marvel without referecing what Disney did or didn't do with Pixar and, to a lesser degree, Miramax. First hint: Marvel wasn't just bought for characters but also for talent. Shutting down publishing hurts that, doesn't strengthen it. (And publishing is profitable.) Pixar wasn't just bought to do Toy Story 3 but for John Lassetter and, to a lesser degree, Steve Jobs. Both companies were bought to build on, not to destroy, I say. And I've seen no basis for the fear. Just fear.

Time Warner is just trying to copy Marvel structurally. It's not an expansive deal like Disney/Marvel, just more bureaucratic shuffling. Hint: TW has controlled DC for over 40 years and... we get Superman Returns and talk of a fast reboot. (Well, and maybe the loss of Superman in 2013 but I digress). Again, the Disney deal is expansive, cumulative. The TW/DC restructuring is just that and doesn't address failings to date. Restructuring won't make DC comics better, it won't prevent Catwoman-like bombs. (While the current slate of movies looks good in that there's alot in the hopper, there's no reason to expect much. Or that there aren't Catwoman bombs amongst them. (I say that as someone who was bullish on Iron Man as soon as Favreau was hired.)

Any similarities between the two deals is illusory and irrelevant. Other than demoting Levitz, the DC thing is a big non-story trying to grab a little of the spotlight from Disney. Tip for TWDC: Work something out with the Siegel and Shuster estates -- although I'd love to see Disney buy (or license) Superman.