When Disney bought Marvel there was a prevailing feeling of slight dread in the fandom community. Is the man going to overpower our comics? Are we going to get corporate direction on how our comics are put together? Sure we all knew from Warner Brothers owning DC that large corporations weren’t the end of the world, but still, Disney owning Wolverine?
I was actually encouraged by the move. Post bankruptcy, Marvel has been a very well run company and I thought throwing the weight of a major corporation like Disney behind it would only improve the product. Turns out it’s caused some problems, but not the ones we could have anticipated. Backed by one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, Marvel has surprisingly gotten cheap. Real cheap.
It got everyone’s attention with the firings of editorial staff a few weeks ago. But it really started before that. Qualified editors like Nate Cosby (responsible for much of the Hulk books over the last couple years) were let go without replacement. Stories have since emerged that the entire Marvel offices have access to one bathroom, forming big lines at lunchtime. Editors pay for copies of their own books. They don’t print copies of the trade to support a backlist, regularly letting books go out of print.
Now we’re getting books like All Star Squardron cancelled before they finish and other solicited books such as Nick Spencer and Becky Cloonan’s Doom mini series cancelled before they even come out. Not to mention, Marvel shaving 5% off creator royalties for trades.
It’s shocking to see a company with such a strong creative roster run in such a terrible way.
Thanks to some excellent journalism by Heidi MacDonald, we know that the reason for this is Marvel’s CEO Issac Perlmutter. Along with Avi Arad, he helped save Marvel from bankruptcy, and though he no longer owns the company, he runs it as CEO for Disney.
A rich, rich man, it seems Issac seems to want to spend as few resources as possible to make money. Let’s be clear what this really means: he’s cheap. He cuts corners and he looks for ways to save money at the cost of the product.
Now, two facts are important: 1) Marvel is a profitable company and 2) up until recently, they were the undisputed king of the marketplace.
Now, I believe DC’s reboot isn’t as strong as it appears, but no matter how solid or flimsy it turns out to be long term, it has undeniably made DC more competitive than it has been in a while. Hopefully this will shake Marvel out of its stupor.
In today’s economy, it is understandable that companies don’t have the resources they used to. However, there is a piece of corporate evangelism that is being spread around today that people have to do “more with less.” This is bullshit. Complete bullshit. If anyone ever tells you this, they are a grade A asshole. You don’t do more with less, you do less with less.
When you spread the same workload among a smaller group of people, the quality of their work will suffer. When you start taking money away from hard working creators and canceling series that have already been solicited (although to be fair, creators are being paid for completed unpublished work), you are going to start driving creators back across the street to DC, which, for a few years now, has had all the appeal of a compost heap to anyone not named Morrison or Johns.
Marvel has an amazing creative roster and with the backing of a company like Disney, the idea of the company becoming something like Pixar SHOULD NOT be a pipe dream.
No matter what DC’s sales figures say, Marvel still has a creative roster that Dan Didio would give his left leg to have (and then abuse and drive away). It is a shame to see that potential squandered by a cheapskate, particularly when it is hardly necessary.