A Ben Cohen Ink Comic


By Ben Cohen a “legendary master of the left field.” -BRP!

“Unintentionally misunderstood since 1975.” –Anonymous

“A big f@#k you, to the audience.” -B. Pendarvis

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking Stock: Disney/Marvel...one unafiliated cartoonists perspective

Marvel was once Timely, then Atlas, then Marvel, then briefly Atlas/Seaboard before returning to Marvel, but always a comic book company first, until they were bought by New World Entertainment. Then they were bought and almost destroyed by Revelon’s Ronald Perlman. Then saved from the brink in heroic fashion by Isaac Perlmutter and Avi Arad owners of Marvel subsidiary Toy Biz. Saved from the clutches of Perlman and bond holder Carl Icahn. Then the other day Disney bought Marvel for $4 Billion.

Behind the Curtain

First off lets admit to the intriguing conspiracy theories that haunt Walt Disney. He was a 33° Freemason and an illuminist and they are concerned with Masonic symbolism and the use of our political, economic, educational, and cultural institutions to control our society from behind the curtain. This is not inconsistent with the ideals of forming a Republic by our forefathers, and has loose associations with Skull and Bones (Bush, Kerry), our political dynasties (Bush, Kennedy ect…) and stories like Alen Moore’s dissection of Jack the Ripper in from Hell. There is much there to speculate and conspire about, what is interesting here is the purchasing of a cultural media company founded and built on the blood sweat and tears of Jews (although there seems to be wide variety of cultural influences these days). As Paul Buel has written about there is an underground or outsider ethic that has come with Jewish influences on American pop culture, an antithesis in many ways to Freemasons. This is an interesting merger in that regard. I must disclose that I am a son of both cultures.

Not Moving

New York City has been the home for Marvel. Unlike its chief rival, DC, its characters predominantly occupy the mythos of the city. That being said it has had ties to LA for decades, heck even the Uncanny X-Men currently reside in my old stomping grounds San Francisco. They have even had a place in Florida at Universal Studios for years. So for Marvel this is not a major physical move.


With the Bullpen (which is hardly in its heyday) things are not changing; Disney wisely believes in the controlling powers at Marvel (Joe Quesada ect…). But, as I have stated before, this does not mean more people are going to read Marvel Comics. There is little evidence to show that trickledown effects of broader exposure of franchise characters has helped in reversing the trends of lost readership (mid 20th century comics use to be read by boy's, girls's and adult males in the millions...now we are happy with 10's of thousands even with a growing adult female readership), in the younger demographic there has long since been more engaging mediums to occupy their time. However, there will always be a place for comics in American culture, and I now believe this to be the case, based on a broadening diversity of readership and cartooning.

Time Warner (WB) ownership of DC Comics, MAD Magazine (formerly EC), former subsidiaries of Image comics, ABC comics (or has Alan Moore ended this?), The Spirit and CN comics, has not lead to more comics sales, but it has lead to a stable environment and cross pollination of intellectual properties. Some of which have been quite good (i.e. the work of Darwyn Cooke, Alan Moore, Chris Sprouse, J. H. Williams III, Tim Sales, Jeff Loeb, Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli, Mark Schultz, Jamie Hernandez ect…).

With an inverse model, the licensing agreement between Lucas Films and Dark Horse however may have increase comics readership, because of the introduction of a new, highly popular intellectual property into the comics medium, that continues the story in a way that the films could not expand on. Ironically, Marvel once had the Star Wars contract.

Disney itself, is not foreign to the comic book business. There has been a great deal of sharing of employees between Disney and comic companies. From Disney Quest use of employees from comic book publishers like Image, Marvel, DC and Malabu to Disney’s own publishing of quality comics, highlighted by their well-respected use of Scrooge McDuck in comics by Don Rosa.

How this will effect the broader comics market in America may prove to be no more substantial then anecdotal. It remains to be seen how it will affect Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly, Top Shelf, Slave Labor, Oni, Archie and pip squeaks like Ben Cohen Ink. With so much diversity out there in today's market this big move may end up being inconsequential in comparison to seismic shifts of the past. That being what was once a plethora of sometimes innovative often aping comic book companies have been consolidated into two big companies and a large number of upstarts, that are actually mostly independently minded will thus remain primarily unaffected.

Disney the Media Conglomerate

We are living in the media, media arts and pop culture age of a Rockefeller type era. You have “liberal” NBC Universal, which has licensing contracts with marvel from film to theme parks. Rupert Merdoc (Fox) and a rightwing conspiracy that is so prevalent that they have become the media they so often attack. They of course know a thing or two about comics and cartooning with the Simpsons in their quiver. CBS seems to be to be the most behind the ball, but people still watch their shows, don’t ask me why. Viacom which owns Nick, which of course has a comics magazine, plays the part of hip stick it to the man, i.e Disney (don’t belive me…watch iCarly). All the while apeing their business model (new theme park to open in New Orleans…I guess Sponge Bob is leaving Universal’s cartoon alley too…leaving Bullwinkle, Krazy Kat, Popeye and the rest of cartoon ally to themselves…How does that work with Fantagraphics publishing the old strips?). From a comics perspective moderate/liberal Time Warner (DC) now has an even bigger rival in moderate/conservative Disney (Marvel, Pixar, ABC, Touchstone, Miramax and ESPN). Marvel is one of three pantheons of American pop culture that truly contributed to the evolution of our cultures obsessions with mythos, the others being the DC Universe and the Star Wars Universe (I exclude Star Trek, because it is a show that only steps into the realm of supernatural from an exploratory scientific fictional basis). What is significant is other than Lucas films we have lost all independently grown, self-sufficient major players in the media arts market.


Disney has gone out of their way to stress that both the comics and the films of Marvel under current management will go unchanged by Disney. This is good news, because it became crystal clear that when Marvel controls the development and production process of a film about their characters you get a better bang for the nostalgic buck (Iron Man).
The big change is the conversations that have already conspired between the best animators and film storytellers, Pixar, and the best superhero comics, Marvel. If these two seriously have the opportunity to work together, this could prove to be a brilliant merger.


While Disney television is adequate and Marvel has pretty much been adequate, I am not expecting a big boost in this area. If people are thinking this will suddenly make WB Animation have a rival, you are in for a disappointment. That being said, we may find that Disney’s army of digital animators benefits Marvel and some gems comes from it. Neither Marvel or Disney as far as I understand it have virtuosos in the traditional animation vain anymore, so the jury is still out.

Fun Parks

With Nickelodeon's plan to brake ground in Louisiana, I wonder how long it will take for Sponge BoB and Spidy to vacate Universal's theme park. It will be hard to warrant visiting Universal , Orlando's Dr. Suess World, where I proposed to my wife...I think we will be at Disney World hanging out with Pluto and Iron Man (in fact I know we are going there in this winter for a TMJ conference). I also wonder if they will utilize Marvel's characters in Disney Quest's superhero section...that would be very cool.


Despite having been bought by a Toy manufacture (Toy Biz...that was formerly a Marvel subsidiary) I have yet to be blown away by marvel Toy's...although their line of vintage X-Men and Avenger's based off of the original Kerby drawings were cool (my two year old daughter loves Bobby, Hank and Jean...but she recently threw Bobby and Hank down the stairs and Hanks head fell off and eventually Bobby's hips broke..we are both sad now). I remain indifferent to Disney's toys, but I hold out hope that it may improve what has been a substandard design process for Marvel toys in the past. Clearly Disney knows how to merchandise.

Taking Stock

Ok, I am totally pissed at my self for not having invested in Marvel in the 90's...DUMB. For those who have read Dan Ravi's Comic Wars...this buy out has a special soap opera wrinkle to the story. It also will likely lead to higher value to Marvel stocks, which had improved from vastly from the Perelman days. With the success of Marvel films like Spider-Man and Iron Man and a competent comic publishing scheme things can only go up even more now.

Non-Super-Hero-Comics ect...

With Tim Gunn's (Project Run Way) appearance in the resurrection of Millie the Model (still not sure what Iron Man has to do with it), there is a resurgence in house of trying to appeal to female readership at Marvel (hopefully more effectively then their more resent attempts...see my note Joe v Kelly). The potential merger with successful (if not lame) Disney productions like Hannah Montana (Nick's iCarly is much cooler...to my 2 year old...ok and to Erin and I too) could have potential use in a multiple of mediums. Under Stan Lee editorial leadership there were a number of other comics written for "girls;" Nellie the Nurse, Sorority Sue, Wendy Parker and the most popular Patsy Walker (I think I would start here). I don't think you will be seeing Sherry the Show Girl at Disneyland anytime soon. The potential is there for some interesting resurgences from Marvel's archives (I hope they please Trina Robbins). If only Simon and Kirby had created Romance comics for Marvel...oh the possibilities now.


There is little potential for this to effect me personally. I screwed up when not pushing a friend of my fathers to help me get into working for Disney. He, I think jokingly offered me a job when Disney Quest was in development. If I had known then that Marvel would be acquired at some point, I might have dropped out of comics school (SCAD). This would have made my step-brother exceedingly happy, he has always felt I have been foolish in sticking with my underground comics interests. I doubt my current work on SHAME will lead to the halls of Marvel... err...Disney, but you never know...I am hoping for the poor, but pure world of DQ or Fantagraphics. I have sent submissions to Marvel in the past, but not since embracing the alternatives. When I picked up Wolverine by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller in ninth grade, I made mine Marvel and was in pursuit of drawing the X-Men...but my development has steered me farther and farther away from that goal. I have always enjoyed, playing the hater of Disney, while secretly enjoying it. WB was a more comfortable fit...but Marvel I am never bashful of supporting and have held to a standard they rarely have met since the 80's...who knows where my mind and my carrier will be now that the world has turned inside out.

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