It has been a long time coming. Ever since Disney plunked down four billion bucks to buy Marvel, the world has been waiting for Marvel to lose its autonomy. It finally happened last week when Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter was deposed as reigning king of the roost at Marvel Studios.Kevin Feige stepped over his former boss to report directly to Disney honcho, Alan Horn, to oversee that Marvel Studios joins with Pixar and Lucasfilm in its next logical step of integration with the House of the Mouse.
Perlmutter is a notoriously tight fisted skinflint that refuses interviews and lurks in the shadows, dodging photographers like a vampire reeling from the crack of dawn. (Only one image of him from decades ago exists on the internet!) Legends of his unscrupulous tactics abound from wanting to offer only potato chips at a Marvel premier to denying new pencils if two inches were left on an old one. He led Marvel with all the fear tactics and guile of Dr. Doom but his success as a dictator was unquestionable until now.
Perlmutter was deemed too much of a threat to the sanctity of Hollywood business etiquette and has now been banished to control only the television, animation and publishing end of Marvel.
Oh, the irony!
The world knows, and Kevin Fiege will attest, that the success of Marvel Studios has been predicated on the quality of the source material culled from the comic books and their persistent adherence to it. Yet, the comic book publishing end, like Ike Perlmutter, will be destined to play second fiddle to the hugely profitable films regardless of how responsible both the comics and Perlmutter are for being thesolid foundation on which the current Marvel empire has beenbuilt.
Perlmutter in his storied career has proven to be both resourceful and vengeful so be sure he will not be buried in the comic book ghetto for long but what does this mean for the comic industry?
Don’t expect to see comic creators getting paid well anytime soon. Now that DCComics is cutting back in wake of a reported $2 million deficit andand Perlmutter’s predisposition to cheapness, there probably could be no better time to jump ship as a creator and go independent.
The driving force of the world’s most famous superheroes is no longer comic books, it is film. The publishing arms of Marvel and DC are both firmly planted in the back seat of their entertainment conglomerate’s priority list. DC is also racing to enforce edicts from on high to realign their comic book versions of their characters with upcoming film and television versions.Don’t be surprised if Marvel and DC both pull the plug as comic book publishers while their valuable properties are licensed to other comic book publishers just to save a buck.
In case you have not heard, the Marvel Universe as the world has known it since 1961 is ending. Why not? Death sells. So knock off the whole thing and reboot from scratch. The idea is so original they are calling the event “Secret Wars,” like that was never used before.
The scary thing is that, as much as this smacks of the usual mockery of fan’s intelligence perpetrated by DC Comics, this all makes perfect sense if you have stock in Disney, Marvel’s parent company.
Amazingly it has taken six years for this to happen but Marvel is finally on the verge of being Disneyfied.
What could be more Disney than uniformity? The House of the Mouse is the master of the style guide. Homogeny is the backbone of their marketing genius. Marvel however, though it has a particular identity recognized only by a specific subculture who understand the nuances of the superhero genre, is a mish-mash of styles and continuity that requires a doctorate in nerdgasm to fully grasp.
The development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has done a wonderful job of solidifying the continuity of a core group of characters for the masses. Now is the time to pull in the rest of the properties and neatly align them so they all make sense to the common folk. Enter Secret Wars where all realities collide and are rearranged into one neat package.
Secret Wars comes complete with a color coded map of the new world that all the Marvel characters will exist in and is named “Battleworld.” It is eerily reminiscent of early maps of the Magic Kingdom in “Disney World.” Could it possibly be the foretelling of a Super theme park west of the Mississippi? Check those land acquisitions in the Navada Desert. More likely is it just mind soap to guide us subliminally into their marketing mouse hole.
And what about that re-use of the Secret Wars name? Does it play into giant marketing scheme to tie in all of Disney’s major properties together under one neat umbrella?
Secret Wars, Star Wars VII , Captain America: Civil War, Star Wars VIII , Avengers: Infinity War 1, Avengers: Infinity War 2, and Star Wars IX are all released consecutively over the next five years.
That is a lot of “War” titles all being calcified by a Disney owned video game called “Infinity” (imagine that) that allows players to interact with figurines from all of Disney’s properties including Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars. An entire generation will unwittingly galvanize the new Disney Empire of properties into a single mega universe.
By 2020 all things Marvel and Star Wars will be “infinitely” as Disney as Donald Duck and Goofy!
A reimagining of the Marvel Universe does one more important thing. It redefines characters that are more than half way to a date with public domain. By 2020 a significant number of major Marvel character’s origin copyrights will be due to expire in less than forty years. New origins will update the characters with current audiences and extend the copyright of the new origin 95 years!
Oh, and if you think Marvel an Disney won’t be putting the screws to Fox during all of this, think again. Expect to see familiar mutants suddenly becoming transcended Inhumans and the Fantastic Four innocuously bottled up till Fox finally caves in on their deal. New continuity can take all of those Fox held characters right out of the timeline with no argument and completely derail their profitability as film franchises.
The Emperor rules the Universe and the Emperor is a mouse.
Steve Jobs’ passing was no surprise. His failed health had been quite public and his recent resignation as CEO of Apple was a clear sign. The dignity with which he handled his final days in public is as much an inspiration as his life and the impact his vision has had on the world.
It is hard, now, to imagine a day without some technological influence that Steve Jobs and the company he stewarded did not have some impact on. As a comic creator, I can tell you that the course of the entire comics medium has been redirected, in large part due to innovations derived from Apple.
There certainly were computers before Steve Jobs and Apple came on the scene. In 1974, when I was in 8th grade at Saint Titus in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, I had access to an already obsolete computer that had been used for actual Apollo moon missions. It was a clunky machine that had to be programmed with binary punch cards and its output seemed no more sophisticated to me than that of the newly released Mini Bomar that launched a frenzy of low cost handheld calculators on the world.
Learning to program that two digit dinosaur was a real trial and to this day the words of my Math teacher, Rev. Joseph Oechsle, ring in my ears, “Trash in, trash out!” The lesson was that computer was only as good as the person programming it.
Vintage home computing
A few years later I would sell computers meant for the home as part of my job working in the electronic appliance department at K-Mart where I tried making some extra cash while we struggled to build our fledgling comic company, Comico. I sold machines like the Texas Instrument TI-99/4A, the Commodore VIC-20 and the Commodore 64. These computers saved data on audio cassette tapes and sophisticated gaming was PONG.
By that point in my life I had no interest in computers. I was totally focused on comics and the ugly pixelated images and type that these computers could barely generate were of no use to me and my aspirations to be a comic artist and publisher. I was blind to their potential.
This all seemed to change in 1984 when the hammer was launched into a giant screen during Apple’s first and most memorable Super Bowl commercial. Not only did it change the impact that Super Bowl commercials had–it changed the way the world would look at personal computers. It also introduced Graphic User Interface(GUI) which put icons on our desktop suddenly making computers much more intuitive and useable to the general public.
We had one of those Macs at Comico when it first came out and immediately we used it to generate all of the type that we used for our letters pages, graphics and editorial columns. Between the Mac and our photocopier we had practically eliminated our dependancy on our local typesetter and the graphics house where we had most of our photostats done. This transition to a variation of desktop publishing ended up saving us us a ton of money.
Digital comics have come a long way since Shatter. Where Shatter’s pixelated digital imagery made it obvious that it was generated on a computer and was in fact a badge of honor for its accomplishment, today it is nearly impossible to tell which comics are drawn by hand on paper and which are generated completely digitally.
Steve Jobs recognized the power of digital art which was evident when he bought Pixar from Lucasfilmin 1986. Under his guidance Pixar changed how animation was created and delighted the world with Toy Story in 1995 followed by a long list of incredible 3D CGI films that set new standards not for just animation but entertainment in general
3D CGI hashad its affect on comics. Many creators use it to create their comics entirely, others use it as a form of reference for everything from anatomy to architecture.
The biggest impact that Steve Jobs has had on comics in my opinion, however, has been in the area of web comics which would not have ever been possible without the advent of the personal computer. Since the turn of the century (boy that sounds weird!) digital comics have been proliferating on the internet at a rapid pace. Almost anyone with a computer, a scanner, and internet service can now publish comics on the web.
Thanks to the personal computer there has never been more diversified work available in the comics medium. We take full advantage of that here at CO2 Comics. The computer and the internet have given Bill Cucinotta and me a chance to publish comics again and to reach an audience that before was never possible.
Distribution of comics is also changing thanks to Mr. Jobs and company. Just as Apple redefined how music was heard around the world with the 2001 introduction of the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone and the iPad are quickly becoming the place where people read their comics with apps purchased through the App Store. These of course are not the only options for digital comic distribution, but as with the introduction of GUI and the Macintosh personal computer, Apple seems to always be the innovator of record.
Maybe I’m biased. This blog is spat out of my dependable iMac every week and Bill does all the designing on his. We’ve both done our fair share of work on other PC’s but it is our Macs that have always been the faithful workhorse. This is a certain to me as the notion that the future of comics is brighter and more diverse now than ever dreamed possible thanks in large part to innovations set forth by Steve Jobs and Apple.
Rest in peace, Steve Jobs but expect your legacy to survive for a long, long time. You made a difference in the world and it will always be remembered. Thank you for making a difference in the world of comics, wether you intended to or not. The art of making comics is far richer thanks to your innovation and inspiration.