The Shadow Perspective: Disney buys Marvel

By El Che


by Shadowkat Nightson

Disney bought Marvel for $4 billion. Let’s do the science for the uninitiated.

I have watched Marvel rise and fall. I still cringe when I recall them filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1996 because of the mistakes they made regarding distribution and franchising. I remember watching them create an absolute mess of their movie licenses (i.e. Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, etc.), only to pave the way for a brighter future with the first Blade movie, which was an intelligent gamble for them considering the Blade film was R-rated and featured one of their lesser known properties. It’s a shame that franchise never translated into a successful comic book and ended with that terrible third movie. The Spike TV show had amazing potential, but I digress: Marvel started getting things right in Hollywood.

Marvel unleashed a virtual onslaught on Hollywood, leaving Warner Bros.-property DC Comics in the dust. X-Men. Spider-Man. Daredevil. Fantastic Four. Hulk. Elektra. Ghost Rider. The Marvel brand was golden whether you liked those movies or not. (I really did not like the Wolverine movie.) Then, Marvel got smart and decided to control the production of their movies instead of letting another entity do it: IRON MAN. When they took over THE INCREDIBLE HULK, they improved on the utter nonsense that was the first HULK movie by rebooting the franchise. Marvel proved that no one could handle their characters like the ones who own them and Iron Man made the fans and the shareholders enthusiastic about the genre, again. In addition, Marvel’s comic book line has been on fire for a consecutive number of years now with blockbuster storylines like Avengers Disassembled, House of M (which finally got rid of all of those unnecessary mutants), Civil War, World War Hulk, Secret Invasion and the current Dark Reign. These have virtually been some of the best books ever written. The bottom line must be looking good, and the future is certainly looking bright as Marvel plans to unleash Iron Man 2, Thor, First Avenger: Captain America and Avengers in theatres within the next two years. More on that later.

Which brings me to my reaction to Monday’s news of Disney acquiring Marvel. This is why you do business. You build a company based on a great product (in this case, intellectual property), control the licenses with maximum efficiency to diversify your portfolio and sell it after you improve its overall worth. Here’s where fans get concerned: Marvel has been acquired by Disney? Are the creators who make Marvel great going to get pushed away? Will the books get watered down? Is Donald Duck going to team-up with Iron Man? Relax, people. I think you underestimate Marvel’s intelligence and presume much about Disney’s interest in the Marvel brand.

When Rhymefest called me on the morning of August 31st, he asked me: “What do you think about Disney buying Marvel?” I replied, “That hasn’t happened yet.” He says, “Oh yes, it has. It’s all over the news.” I was stunned, at first. Then, I started to smirk a little bit. Genius. This move was sheer genius. I started digging for details on the deal, reactions to it and quotes from the powers-that-be at Marvel. “This is perfect from a strategic perspective,” said Disney Chief Executive Robert Iger. “This treasure trove of over 5,000 characters offers Disney the ability to do what we do best.” Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. At closing, the amount of cash and stock will be adjusted if necessary so that the total value of the Disney stock issued as merger consideration based on its trading value at that time is not less than 40% of the total merger consideration. Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion. This is a matter of math, people; and the math is good. That’s why this deal happened. Now, let me tell you where Rhymefest and I disagree.

Fest contends that the books will be affected by this acquisition. I disagree. It’s true that Disney wants to do more in the boys market, but I think Disney understands that Marvel has this market on lock and wouldn’t interfere with what makes Marvel tick. Rhymefest contends that in an attempt to make properties more mainstream (than they already are), Disney will exert a certain influence to make some properties “less” than they are. Time will tell, but I’m rarely ever wrong when it comes down to how these properties are handled. I know when Marvel is messing things up (Spider-Man’s “One More Day” & “Brand New Day” storylines come to mind) and when Marvel is doing the right thing. I think this puts Marvel in another league entirely, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. I’ve been collecting comics since I was child, and I’ve learned a great deal about business by watching Marvel and DC do that special thing they do. I’ve spent so much money on these titles that I feel like a shareholder (which is why I am still upset about that Wolverine movie). I highly doubt Disney is spending $4 billion to mess up what makes Marvel work. In fact, I will trust things to improve at Marvel even more.

Furthermore, I can’t wait to see how DC and Warner creatively respond. Trust me: Warner killed the game with the brilliance that is THE DARK KNIGHT. That movie kicked ass on every level. But Marvel is hot on their heels with Iron Man 2 & Thor, next year. The new BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM video game is looking to shatter records for Warner, and it was recently awarded a Guinness World Record for “Most Critically Acclaimed Superhero Game Ever.” Marvel is looking to exceed expectations with the new ULTIMATE ALLIANCE 2 video game. It is officially on. Don’t even get me started on television. Marvel has hit a stride with IRON MAN ADVENTURES and WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN, both really good shows that I initially deemed unnecessary but [now] cannot miss an episode of. DC and Warner are producing excellent animated movies like GREEN LANTERN and the upcoming SUPERMAN/BATMAN feature. This is a great time to be a fan, and I don’t want other fans to believe for one moment that Disney plans to disrupt that. Have faith. And, if they don’t, I will never buy another Marvel comic again. That’s not a threat. It’s an assurance you can take to the bank. But I believe in what Marvel has done creatively and financially lately (except the Spider-Man books, the Wolverine movie and the atrocious depiction of Galactus in the last Fantastic Four film). Power your imaginations and watch Disney defy expectations. And let’s hope Mickey Mouse doesn’t become a member of the Avengers. I’m serious.

Shadowkat Nightson is the CEO of Nightsons, LLC and manages Grammy-award winning artist Rhymefest. Shadowkat recently released “Nightsons present The Hurt Game” as a digital album on iTunes and Amazon, which is on sale now.

Filed in: Uncategorized • Monday, August 31st, 2009

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Che Smith is a revolutionary artist, writer, and activist. Popularly known as Rhymefest, the South Side Chicago native has been a trailblazer in music, television, and politics.