Meet the New Boss

The interwebs have been all a-flutter of late with the news that Disney is buying Marvel Entertainment. Everyone’s got their panties (and the tights beneath) bunched up with worry, wondering if Spidey’s gonna sprout mouse ears or Wolverine will still be allowed to say ‘Fuck’ in MAX titles.
Actually, I wasn’t going to write about this at all. But then, I woke up yesterday with a link to the NYT article in my inbox, accompanied by the following note:
Hi, Rachel. What do you make of this? (Note the gender slant that the article describes.)
And far be it from me to leave my public hanging (Hi, Dad!). So, here’s what I think.

  1. Not much is going to change at Marvel Comics. You’ll see more ads for Disney properties. There might be a cross-over event at some point, and people will laugh and play along, and it’ll be sucky or mediocre or surprisingly awesome, and things will basically stay status quo, but probably with slightly better benefit packages.
  2. Disney will begin to use Marvel properties to develop their lines for boys, especially tween boys. Disney’s been struggling with this elusive boy demographic for a long time (much as Marvel has been known to struggle with the ‘lady-creature’ demographic), and Marvel comes with a set of iconic but versatile characters with strong brand identification who resonate with exactly the group Disney’s trying to wrap its grubby mouse-fingers around.
  3. This is where the gender thing comes in, because Disney is specifically looking to develop Marvel properties as boys’ entertainment. To an extent, this is exactly what Marvel has been doing with them, although Marvel’s target demographic is arguably even narrower. On one hand, I’m peeved that Disney’s approach seems to mostly involve reinforcing the fallacy that superheroes are for boys (girls, of course, get princesses and Hannah Montana.). On the other hand, I’m still glad to see the demographic for Marvel superheroes wideningand, if nothing else, I know Disney’s too calculating and ruthless not to see opportunities to market across gender lines.
  4. Yeah, I have some Disney issues. I grew up in South Florida. It’s pretty much inevitable. I mean, they have this whole charter town called ‘Celebration,’ and at orchestra competitions, their whole orchestra would be outfitted in matching ballgowns and tuxedoes. Bizarre.
  5. Also, I’m interested in seeing how this is going to affect the villains in animated Marvel films. When I did research last year on gender transgressive villains in comics, I found comparatively few in the Marvel ranks who fit the Disney drag queen mold described by Meredith Li-Vollmer and Mark E. LaPointe in their 2003 study ‘Gender Transgression and Villainy in Animated Film.’ It’ll be interesting how much of the visual design of the children’s and teen programming and products will be informed by Marvel versus Disney sensibilities.
  6. Going back a bit: for all its faults, Disney is fantastic at marketing to and developing products for the ladies. Sure, Disney’s the evil empire, but it’s gotten there by being very, very good at what it does. And, honestly, I doubt they can fuck it up much worse than Marvel has been. Spider-Man lip gloss, my ass.
  7. If any of the drones of Disney’s amorphous hive-mind happens to be reading this: A Power Pack Saturday morning cartoon would rock really hard.
  8. Of course Wolverine will still get to say ‘fuck’ in MAX titles. If no one could use naughty words in a property produced by a Disney-owned company, the porn industry would have to put a lot more time and energy into developing colorful metaphors.