Monday, December 31, 2012

Secret Plans to Turn Marvel Into the Next Disney

When New World Entertainment acquired Marvel Comics in 1986, the new owners believed they had the makings of a "mini-Disney." Two years later, corporate raider Ron Perelman would say exactly the same thing after acquiring Marvel, writes Sean Howe in Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, an unofficial history of the comic book king.

Reading the book, I get the sense that Walt Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) $4 billion buyout of Marvel in 2009 was inevitable. Decades of booms and busts seem like necessary steps toward bringing the two together in a partnership that would forever change the way Hollywood thinks about comics.

Today, studios and TV networks are profiting from the medium like never before. Marvel's The Avengers set a new opening-weekend box office record over the summer, surprising most. Howe recounts the history that brought us to this point.

I recommend his book to comics fans and Disney investors alike, though students of business might also appreciate his handling of byzantine topics such as creator's rights and intellectual property. Here are eight things the book taught me about Marvel's flirtations with Hollywood and earlier owners' attempts to create a "mini-Disney."

Disney has an even better record thanks to decades of cultivating character-driven brands across media, experience chief Bob Iger has since brought to Marvel. The executive team at Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) DC Entertainment unit should take a lesson and make Howe's book required reading.


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