Dr. Toon: Mouse, Marvel and Mythos
Wolverine's facial expression suggests that he has ingested a dose of medicine that no spoonful ofsugar could sweeten. In his razor-taloned hand he holds sheets of music. His eyes are rolled upwards, gaze fixed on a sweet little bluebird fluttering above his mouse-eared cowl, rather than the one coyly perched on his deltoid. Behind the disgusted mutant an unseen assistant is releasing more of them. Worst of all, Wolverine is being exhorted by a tweedy musical director to sing "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" with "PIZZAZZ!" Who has doomed this most feral of X-Men to such a fate? Magneto? Apocalypse? Mister Sinister? The Phalanx? Perhaps a glance at the heading above this Sept. 2 editorial cartoon by Nate Beeler of the Washington Examiner will give us a clue: "News Item: Disney Buys Marvel Comics…"
A fantastic four billion dollars sealed the epic deal that brought the popular comic book company to Disney, along with 5,000 characters and numerous complicated licensing arrangements. This new deal would enable Mighty Marvel to become, in essence, its own movie studio instead of licensing its characters to the likes of Sony (as they did with Spider-Man). With the deal also comes artistic freedom for Marvel to conduct the various book lines as they wish. What does Uncle Walt's empire receive? Disney had long been in pursuit of the young male audience for quite some time, having nicely captured the female demographic with numerous princesses and the ubiquitous presence of Hannah Montana. Their last effort to capture the boys was a live-action show called "Zeke and Luther." Almost predictably, it was the jeune filles who clicked the remotes to see the clean-cut cuties while the boys only had eyes for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Clearly, some rebranding was in order. Enter Marvel Comics.
Thus, Disney's Bob Iger and Marvel's Ike Perlmutter have combined to form an entertainment powerhouse that allows independence -- and collaboration -- for both. Imagine a three-way team-up between Marvel, Pixar and Disney to bring some of the Marvel properties to both large and small screens. Marvel TV productions had been more or less on a par with DC's properties, producing a very good Spider-Man series and very adult versions of the X-Men while DC did the same with Batman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited. However, it is no secret that DC had been thrashing Marvel in the DVD arena; while DC had scored major triumphs with superb DVDs such as Superman Doomsday, Gotham Knight, and Justice League: The New Frontier among others, Marvel Prods. trotted out some serviceable but inferior offerings such as Ultimate Avengers and retellings of the origins of Dr. Strange and Iron Man. One outright disaster was Next Avengers (a.k.a. Avenger Babies).
What the media overlooked in the financial complexities, emotional reactions and creative potentialities of the Disney-Marvel deal was the cultural impact of combining two of the greatest storytelling entities on the planet: Disney is now the largest repository of America's modern mythology. In this age of media conglomerates, few deals, mergers and buyouts will have greater impact on this country's psyche. As the two corporations combine and intertwine their narrative powers, the myths we enjoy will be continually evolving, refining and redefining themselves.