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Disney Buys Up Marvel’s Superpowers

The long arm of Disney gained yet more muscle today as it purchased Marvel in a $4 billion deal. Spider-Man, X-Men and Iron Man are only a few of the thousands of characters who now belong to Mickey Mouse.

Franchises such as the these have gained extraordinary mass appeal over the last decade or so thanks to blockbuster adaptations. But it’s the hardcore fans who have really fuelled the recent success of Marvel. Will those same fanatics stay on board now that their beloved vigilantes are in the same stable as Pluto and Daffy Duck?


A sweep of the forums suggests not. Fans have already had to let go of any sense of “niche” they might have enjoyed when scouring comic-book shelves. Now the most powerful entertainment company in America has lined them up alongside Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. You can imagine Mickey in his office with Iron Man – you know the evil version out of this South Park episode – giving him a stern induction into the Disney line-up.

“Go out there and make me some f******’ money ha ha!!”

But before we become too enraged, it is worth pointing out that these characters were intended for broad mass entertainment at the outset. Spider-Man set sales records throughout the seventies and the superhero concept was at the very least a national obsession for American teens and at most a global phenomenon.

Furthermore, Marvel does deal in a more “cartoonish” brand of superhero. They tend to wear bright, tight costumes and have happy endings. Spider-Man feels a long way away from Disney but The Fantastic Four, for example, do not. Rival company DC Comics – that owns the Batman franchise – is certainly not so well suited to Disney.

The thought of Mickey’s ears appearing behind the batman logo does just feel so wrong, particularly in the light (or dark, rather) of Christopher Nolan’s impact on that franchise. The lighter, brighter characters of Marvel are certainly better suited to Disnification.

Admittedly, the purchase of Pixar in an even bigger deal was a smoother fit and an easier way of accessing grownup credibility for Disney. But this is ultimately an empowerment of Marvel’s many brands allowing them broader reach and perhaps the type of domination they originally enjoyed on paper in the middle part of the twentieth century.

Disney is becoming almost uncomfortably huge. But something with as much leverage as this mega-company has to buy something and this an obvious and immediate way for them to re-connect with the young male audience. It’s the big-business antidote to Hannah Montana et al and the fans will have to hope that Spidey vs Pluto is not in the works.



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