In an article that starts off looking at the possibility that Marvel’s Kevin Feige will be the new head of Disney Studios, replacing departed Rich Ross, Kevin Melrose distills more than 20 years of Marvel history, such as how they came to have their own studio and various hardball tactics by Ike Perlmutter.

Arad, chairman and CEO of Marvel Studios, was convinced the company should produce its own films, and in 2003 turned to Harvard MBA David Maisel, who came up with the idea to fund the venture by borrowing money against character rights. Marvel CEO Perlmutter quickly hired Maisel as the studio’s chief operating officer, and with that — and $525 million in financing — the company was finally in the movie-making business. But just as Lee was nudged aside years earlier, so too was Arad after he and Maisel locked horns over the frequency of film releases and the caliber of characters involved. Perlmutter sided with Maisel — “Ike was a supporter,” Maisel told Fortune, “not just of the deal, but of my role” — and in May 2006, Arad cashed out $59 million worth of stock and left the company.

For those just coming in, Marvel wasn’t always a studio powerhouse. As Melrose alludes to, a few years back they borrowed $525 million to start a movie studio, with the perpetual rights to the characters as collateral. So basically, if the Thor movie had tanked and the Cap movie had tanked, Merrill Lynch would have owned them forever. It’s hard to believe that this was once a seriously explored outcome. Marvel and Feige (and David Maisel before him) have done a model job profitably transitioning the characters to the screen, with next week’s AVENGERS the culmination of years of planning.

Yeah, it all seems to be going great. So when are they going to announce that Ant-Man movie already?


  1. 59 million for Avi Arad? For being a bureaucrat? This definitely puts that Avengers film/Kirby treatment b.s into perspective. And a giant taste of bitter into my mouth.

  2. I have to give the people running the Marvel movie business credit for a long series of (brilliant!) choices regarding editorial development, casting and (especially) the choice of (left-field) directors.

    This starts all the way back w/ first Blade, where they pulled a guy out of nowhere (Steven Norrington -who I had never heard of, despite the fact I know the names of more film directors than anybody else I’ve met) who did a brilliant job – continues on with Spidey, FF, DD, etc + and, 15 years later, is still going, with the perfect casting of unknowns for Thor, Loki, Steve Rodgers, etc – and amazingly clever scripting decisions – like the bits of business altering 70 years of Cap lore (scenes w/ Cap as a weakling and the wonderful USO stage show sequence) – which worked so well that comic book fans (as far as I know) didn’t even bother to complain.

    It all seems inexplicable to me, since it appears key decisions have been made by a diverse group of people at various studios, and yet, there seems a continuous overall vision and competence. This is not luck. At first I thought it was Arad pulling and pushing but he seems to be out of the picture, and still Marvel keeps it going. ..? / ! — My hats off to somebody or some group of people somewhere.

  3. @Knackairliner
    I agree wholeheartedly. It’s funny how this comes on the heels of all the teeth gnashing over Before Watchmen. Which has been beaten to the ground to the point where I no longer care. Yet for somehow I don’t feel the same about how Kirby got screwed.

  4. with the perfect casting of unknowns for Thor, Loki, Steve Rodgers, etc

    Chris Evans wasn’t an unknown when cast as Captain America. Try branching out from the indie movie scene and into the mainstream once in a while.

  5. A comment I keep hearing over the net at the mow “Dc is Evil (and such comments.) Im off to the Avengers for the weekend”.
    so does two wrongs make a right we will never know.