Look out, here comes the Spider…mouse? Disney to buy Marvel Comics

As noted in the subject line, today’s big news is not a hoax, not a dream, and not an imaginary story: Disney is buying out Marvel Comics, publishers of the Hulk, Spider-Man and the X-Men, for $4 billion.

Already, of course, the Internet is abuzz about this deal. Reactions range from surprise to indifference to paranoia, it seems. As for my reactions, I don’t expect much to change at Marvel Comics itself. Much like when DC Comics merged with Warner Communications in the late 60s and continued along its comics writing as usual, Marvel’s comics should do likewise. Thus, Wolverine can keep slicing-and-dicing, just as Miramax is free to make films like “Rent” (that’re far removed from “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse”).

Disney’s main reason for buying Marvel isn’t for the comics, of course, given they barely pay any attention to their *own* characters’ comics (despite the Duck comics’ popularity in Europe far outstripping any of Marvel’s own books). Rather, Disney wants access to the merchandising opportunities, TV shows, movies and cartoons based on the characters, and the source of revenue from such.

As for the existing deals with other studios, theme parks, etc., my guess is they’ll continue to honor them as before, until the existing agreements expire. At that time, the Marvel properties will probably move to some Disney-owned outlet (Spider-Man cartoons on Disney XD, the X-men movies on ABC, etc.).

It would be nice if Disney made use of their newly-acquired comic book company to give the Disney Duck comics wider publication, though I somehow doubt it (the recent deal with Boom! comics to distribute Disney’s books might make that tough for now anyway).

Of course, from a media diversity standpoint, this probably isn’t a good thing, since it makes for even less diversity than before for media ownership. However, it might be a good thing for Marvel having Disney’s resources and marketing know-how at hand, since it could give them an easy one-up over Time-Warner’s tepid-to-nonexistent marketing skills and over-reliance on just Batman for movies, cartoons, etc.

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