As GM has proven, corporations are like empires: they rise and fall. Since the mid-00s, Iíve thought of Disney as an empire in decline. Disney will survive another day, though.† So will its new purchase, Marvel Entertainment.† Some comic book fans may be furious, but itís far wiser to embrace the change than fight it.
Saying this, I doubt that even a giant like Disney is going to change the practices of Marvel too much. It certainly wonít force the company to produce G-rated fare at the level of Disney comics. If it does, and fellow fans complain about a lack of so-called hardcore material, remember that Marvel already had the Punisher meet the characters of Archie comics in a mid-90s crossover. Marvel wants to appeal to certain audiences, too; at least Disney is a master at mass-appeal.
My childhood was in the 90s when Disney was pleasing audiences left and right. Cartoon scholars will giddily describe this period as an Animation Renaissance, with films like ìBeauty and the Beast” (1991) and ìThe Lion King” (1994).
Then I hit my early teens and Disney movies lost their appeal. Besides a passing fascination with ìMulan” (1998), I had largely written off Disney as an evil corporation. Iím sorry to say this had nothing to do with the alleged human rights violations regarding Disneyís third-world merchandise factories, which have hopefully been rectified. At 12, I had simply deemed myself too cool for what I considered ìmainstream.”
Comics were still neat, though.
Comic books, like poems, didnít take very long to read and were written by a minority to be read by a minority. Comics, unlike my old favorites of ìLion King” and ìPeter Pan,” felt like they belonged to me.
Like Disney, however, Marvel comics works with iconic characters. These characters resonate with the audience in a different way than Disneyís broad, handsome heroes and good-natured princesses. You donít have to dive very deeply into X-Men to find a metaphor for bigotry, nor actually be insane to value the antics of Deadpool. Marvel has an edge for early teens because it deals in comics about outsiders.
My blind worship of Marvel was short-lived, though.† Despite some unique characters, Marvel followed (or follows) the grand tradition of American comics: keep storylines at the status quo. The Hulk will never find a permanent cure to his greenness and the Punisher, despite some silly adventures in Riverdale, will never find peace. Even Peter Parker and Mary Janesí marriage was written out of continuity in a 2007 storyline, a misguided attempt by Joe Quesada and others to appeal to fans who want to see Spider-Man as a young, swinging single (Pun woefully unintended).
Disney may have a pretty monochromatic concept of good versus evil (or good talking lion vs. bad talking lion), but Marvel has a difficult time moving its characters forward.
Itís my hope that Disney might force Marvel to polish up its work. Disneyís Peter Pan might never grow up, but maybe someone could send a memo to Quesada, if heís not too busy rolling in money: ìLet Peter Parker become an adult and stay that way.”
On that note, Disney could be looking for the ìoutsider” appeal that attracts young teens in droves. Marvelís presence might just influence Disney to produce high quality entertainment for teenager and adult superhero/sci-fi enthusiasts.
Watching one company absorb another doesnít mean we should mourn our childhoods or our comic book characters. Maybe all child and adolescent entertainment is eventually meant to blur together into something as idealic as human nostalgia. Seeing Deadpool in an upcoming sequel to Kingdom Hearts would be a nice bonus, though.
Gillian Daniels is a regular contributor to the Voice. She can be reached for comment at GDaniels10@wooster.edu.