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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 08/31/2009

The Fantastic Four-Billion! Disney Buys Marvel in Mondo Deal

By Michael Cavna


Spidey, Storm and Iron Man have just joined forces with one of the universe's superheroes who is even more powerful than themselves: Uncle Walt.

Walt Disney Co. has just acquired Marvel Entertainment comics for $4-billion, the Associated Press is reporting this morning -- a monster move that taps (among other things) Disney's supreme ability to market and distribute a movie globally. The deal is so large that shares in Marvel leapt by more than one-fourth in value in a single bound.

D.C. Comics may own such Hollywood-hot properties as Batman, but Marvel just delivered a whale of a haymaker in dominating the global big-screen universe. Pluto, meet Wolverine -- you'll be sharing the same supreme Hollywood kennel. Call it The Big Dog.

The deal has reportedly been approved by the Disney and Marvel boards and is pending an antitrust review and a thumbs-up from Marvel shareholders. With the deal, Disney acquires Marvel's 5,000-plus characters. The Fantastic Four -- meet the Incredibles.

So who are some of Hollywood's winners in the deal, besides the studios themselves? Here are just a few -- our cheeky picks:

1. JON FAVREAU: At the media roundtable at last month's San Diego Comic-Con (sitting in the exact same seat as Disney/Pixar's John Lasseter earlier), the director of "Iron Man 2" enthused over the fact that Marvel now had a dedicated movie lot. Imagine what might be at his disposal now that Disney owns the playground. Plus, if Disney dollars end up behind it, next year's "Iron Man 2" stands an even better chance at breaking the opening weekend box-office record that has been held by stablemate Spidey.

2. THE $UPER-COUPLE: Scarlett Johansson signed on for "Iron Man 2" (and she hopes for more, she told some of us at Comic-Con) while hubby Ryan Reynolds -- a man of many franchises -- is reportedly getting his own origin story as "X-Men's" Dead Pool. Again, if Disney dollars are behind the franchises, the Scarlett-Ryan spawnlets should enter this world as the miniest of future moguls.

3. STAN LEE: The Marvel mastermind (and co-creator of so many characters) enjoys another step toward ensuring that the great Marvel legacy lives on -- more characters on more platforms to more markets

One of the great spontaneous moments at this year's Comic-Con was when dozens, and gradually several hundred fans, chanted, "Stan! Stan! STAN!" as Lee, the conquering hero, strode winningly don a second-floor breezeway. Today, Mr. Lee, we offer you the same rousing chant.

So the Official Riffs Reader Question of the Day: What do you think of the deal? Approve? Disapprove? And what will this mean for onscreen Marvel characters?

By Michael Cavna  | August 31, 2009; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Geek Buzz, Superheroes  
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Comments

"Iron-Man"? "Bat-Man"? The extraneous hyphens look very 19th-century: "To-day we shall play some base-ball in the after-noon."

The real question about the merger is whether Marvel's female characters are going to have to start wearing more clothes.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 31, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Then again, Storm wears more frocks than Disney's Little Mermaid has tried on in her entire life...

--M.C.

Posted by: comicriffscavna | August 31, 2009 1:50 PM | Report abuse

I've never seen a cartoon character that has been improved after Disney got their claws onto it, but I have seen quite a few that have been ruined beyond repair by Disney's mercenary "optimization" processing. There's no better example than Winnie the Pooh: the Disney version is simply insipid and drippy when compared to the real characters in A.A. Milne's books.

I'm sure that Marvel fans would argue that their favorite characters are much more complex than the World of Pooh, but I wouldn't know: I've never been a big fan of any Marvel characters. Still, I cannot imagine that the X-Men are going to be improved by having to go through the same censorship board that controls Hanna Montana.

Posted by: kilby | August 31, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

I fear the losers in this deal may be the folks who actually buy and read Marvel comic books. It should be remembered that Gladstone Publishing had done a wonderful job of taking the Disney comics properties and making a great series of books with them, and then when Disney saw that those comics were actually doing well, they took the license back, tried publishing their own titles, and ran them into the ground. Unless Disney can let some outside franchise handle the comics (as they did in the "Golden Era" when Carl Barks et al. were putting out Disney titles for Western Publishing under the Dell brand), then I fear that the Marvel comic books may soon fall be the side. I wonder how many people working at Disney have even **heard** of Steve Ditko?

Posted by: seismic-2 | August 31, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

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