Sunday, September 6, 2009
Last Monday did not go as I had planned it. The news of Mickey's acquisition of Marvel, unexpected to say the least, caused me to spend much of the day at my keyboard, corresponding with friends and colleagues who, like me, were dumbfounded and had no other outlet to vent their disbelief. Many have asked how I feel about the deal, but I wanted to delay my response until after the initial shock had worn off.
I feel cautiously optimistic (not, of course, all that different from my general demeanor), but I have a good reason: Pixar. After Disney bought them, the studio kept their integrity (and branding) intact, operating much the way they always did, but with a whole lot more muscle. Muscle isn't everything, but it sure can help. Trust me, I draw superheroes for a living.
To be perfectly honest, I don't think much is going to change in the publishing arena. We represent such a tiny blip on the revenue radar of the Marvel marketing machine, that I doubt we will see any major shifts, especially any time soon. Creative people may have built the Marvel brand, but the company represents so many more interests at this point. That's actually the way I prefer it — high stakes can hinder creative freedom because so much is riding on the outcome. I even see this dynamic within my own assignments: I get paid more for a cover than for interior pages, but the supervision is much more heavy-handed. I am rarely asked to make sequential art revisions, whereas covers often go through several iterations. As a result, my sequential work is a much purer representation of my creative vision (if I could be said to have one).
My only real reservation involves commissions and reproductions. As I'm sure many of you have noticed, every comic convention boasts an artist alley where you can meet the creators of your favorite books, maybe even buy a sketch or a print from them. I don't know if this practice is condoned by Marvel, but it is certainly ignored and thus, effectively permitted. I've heard rumors that DC once "cracked down" on the practice, but that the backlash was so swift and fierce that the policy was quickly abandoned. I can't back up this apocryphal account, but it sounds plausible at least.
My dad, who used to airbrush t-shirts in the 80s, remembers Disney representatives visiting shops to proscribe the selling of t-shirts with Disney characters. Disney had (and has) every legal right to do so, but the enforcement of such laws belies an allocation of resources that could, I think, be put to better use. This is not to say that I take trademark and copyright infringement lightly (my livelihood depends on it, after all); rather, it is my hope that the focus remains on new creative endeavors, not simply the protection of past accomplishments. Pixar exemplifies this ideal, and I'd like to think Marvel can follow suit.