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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Comics Corner

    Illustration+by+Ken+Wright.
    Illustration by Ken Wright.

    Two big stories in the comics world dropped last week on the same day. What does this mean for comics readers and creators? Let’s take a look:

    Disney buys Marvel for $4 billion

    Barring any moves from the Department of Justice about antitrust concerns, this will be a major win for Disney and a probable win for Marvel. Why probable? The deal would likely structure the two companies in a way that’s similar to DC Comics and its parent company, Time Warner.

    One of the biggest non-secrets in comics is that DC Comics publishes its stable of old and new characters as a licensing path for Time Warner. That new villain facing Batman in the latest issue of “”Detective Comics?”” Potential action figure. He, she or it can also be used in any of the cartoons starring Batman and any Batman-related cartoons such as “”Justice League Unlimited”” or “”The Brave and the Bold.”” When Christopher Nolan begins his follow-up to “”The Dark Knight,”” he’ll have a stable of villains and storylines from which he can create a new Batman movie.

    Marvel caters to teen and adult males through its publishing branch and, more recently, its successful movie properties like Iron Man and Spider-Man. Disney will bring considerable resources to Marvel — marketing, movie and animation studios, publishing and, most importantly, money.

    Disney will also bring to Marvel certain demographics that seem to elude most if not all comic book companies: adolescent girls (think Hannah Montana and High School Musical and their sizable mobs.)

    However, there have been instances in which licensing and merchandising concerns have worked against comic writers and artists. The most notable example is Jack Kirby’s treatment in the 1970s. Disillusioned with Marvel after receiving no profits or having his original art returned for such creations of his as the Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and The Avengers, Jack Kirby went to DC under the promise of breathing new life into its lineup, starting with “”Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.””

    Kirby’s dynamic artwork and bold designs gave the comic a fresh look — except there was a problem with Superman’s head. It wasn’t realistic enough to satisfy the licensing and merchandising requirements at the time, so artists were called in to redraw Kirby’s Superman heads. The same problems may happen once Disney and Marvel complete their merger, with Disney exercising editorial control over what Marvel publishes.

    Then again, it may not be all bad news. We’ll soon see Iron Man and the Hulk, along with WALL-E and the Beast, greeting Disneyland visitors. Consider these comic book crossover possibilities: Spider-Man gets a better Spidermobile with Lightning McQueen as his new partner in fighting crime. Howard the Duck meets Donald Duck in a grudge match to resolve the two companies’ copyright infringement issues once and for all.

    Kodansha ends publishing licenses with Tokyopop

    This was the other big news of the week. Kodansha is the largest publisher of manga (Japanese comics) in Japan. Tokyopop is one of the largest manga publishers outside of Japan. This announcement means that Tokyopop cannot continue publishing many of its licensed Kodansha titles. While the company announced Thursday some new titles in its fall and winter publishing schedule, it still leaves numerous series at various states of completion in limbo or in transition to other publishers.

    It’s not entirely surprising that Kodansha decided to pursue licensing agreements with several other companies. While Tokyopop is a juggernaut in the U.S. manga publishing business, it grew too quickly, trying to expand its manga and anime properties simultaneously. Tokyopop also oversaturated the market at times with its titles in an attempt to take up precious shelf space at chain bookstores that have created sections in the past decade specifically for manga. Kodansha’s decision may ensure that its series are published at financially stable companies.

    UPDATE: Major changes at DC Comics as Warner Bros. creates DC Entertainment.

    — Steven Kwan has been reading comics since he could pick up a book and has taught classes on comics for more than two years. He is a nutritional sciences senior. He can be reached at arts@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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