Ike Perlmutter, longtime Marvel Entertainment CEO, has been sent packing. The New York Times reports that Perlmutter has been laid off by Disney after Marvel’s parent corporation determined that Ike’s role was redundant. In fact, the Times says Disney has decided all of Marvel Entertainment is redundant and will “be folded into larger Disney business units.”
The news comes a few months after a public rebuke of Perlmutter by Disney CEO Bob Iger following a protracted proxy battle in which Perlmutter-backed stockholder Nelson Peltz attempted to seize a seat on Disney’s board. Perlmutter’s layoff is described by the Times as “part of a cost-cutting campaign,” something the notoriously frugal Perlmutter likely won’t find as ironic as we do.
Perlmutter is the latest casualty of Disney’s massive layoffs, the reported aim of which being the elimination of 7,000 jobs, or 4% of the corporation’s global workforce. It’s another sign of extreme irony that Iger was forced to announce the cutbacks because of the Peltz/Perlmutter takeover bid…and now Ike is the victim of it. Rob Steffens, co-president of Marvel Entertainment, and John Turitzin, chief counsel were also laid off.
As for what Marvel Entertainment being “folded into larger Disney business units” means for Marvel’s staff, that feels very much up in the air. Disney has a fairly robust publishing wing already, and they’ve been releasing books based on Marvel properties for readers of all ages since 2012, though those releases have consisted of picture books and prose and not comics specifically. It could also mean Disney will begin to rely more on licensing out their Marvel comics production, something they’re already doing with Scholastic in the young reader graphic novel area. They’ve also struck major deals with Penguin and Taschen for deluxe reprint programs.
Ike Perlmutter’s tenure at Marvel oversaw its total triumph as the most important brand in entertainment for over a decade, starting with its bold move to create its own movie studio back in 2007. The success of Iron Man led to Disney’s acquisition of the publisher on August 31, 2009. However, the comics publishing wing survived under Perlmutter’s extreme frugality which not only led to amusing anecdotes about fishing paper clips out of wastebaskets, but affected the publisher in more direct and harmful ways: Ike famously didn’t understand the importance of backstock to a publisher, and didn’t allow any to be kept on hand. This meant that instead of keeping a trove of perennial classics in constantly print and basically minting money for the bookstore market, books were constantly going out of print, coming back in different editions and just being a confusing tangle.. Although the publisher got better at managing its backlist, its bookstore sales are still only a fraction of what they could be…part of the reason they’ve been licensing out so many projects.
Although Ike was increasingly absent from the Marvel office, running the VA as a shadow cabinet member in the Trump administration, he was still a feared presence, given to mercurial rages. After Disney acquired Marvel, he became one of their biggest shareholders, and tried to apply his cheap ways to the larger Consumer Products division. His penny pinching even as the MCU became a multi billion $ franchise rankled both Iger and Kevin Feige, leading to Perlmutter being booted form running the studio. And his return in the form of a potential shareholder revolt brought out the fight in Iger, who buried Ike’s taste by revealing he had wanted to fire the most valuable man in Hollywood, Kevin Feige. Ike Perlmutter also had a reputation for homophobia and racism, with a few lawsuits resulting from his actions
But enough history: I know what you are asking. Is this the end of Marvel Comics? My DMs and texts are a mixed message on that at present. It could be as dire as it sounds: a redundant division fading into the trailers on the backlot of the World’s Happiest Studio.
Or it could be that dissolving Marvel Entertainment was the only way to get rid of Ike, given his contract. I’m hearing more optimistic takes that having Marvel President Dan Buckley report directly to Kevin Feige is the vest thing that could happen.
In another ironic although unrelated touch, in only a few days, Marvel will switch from Hachette to PRH for distribution, meaning even more changes at the publisher….or what’s left of it.
Obviously, this is a developing story. And let the anecdotes about Ike flow…hidden for years out of fear. Sounds like we have a Whole New 10 Days That Changed the World on our hands.
[Additional reporting by Joe Grunenwald.]
I’m glad to see Perlmutter tossed out on his keister. Hopefully the comics will rally, but Ike needed retiring and good riddance
Perhaps I am naïve in thinking this, but it seems like a hell of a leap (by some) to assume that the “redundant” statement implies anything about Marvel publishing moving forward. Every time one of these “restructures” occurs, the chicken littles in the industry come out and claim “THIS IS IT” for the parent companies of Marvel or DC to continue publishing comics. I suppose one of these days they will be correct, but I don’t see Marvel or DC moving away from it while the IP farming it presents is still so attractive.
I worry about the future, I know a lot grifters will latch on to the idea that Marvel Comics essentially being eaten by Disney and will say its the “death” of comics has arrived. I hope if anything that Marvel is able to release their old material in a affordable manner with decent formating and that best of all the freelancers become employed by marvel.
Basically, Marvel has been tucked firmly into the movie division since Feige became the Chief Creatice Officer a while back, so this welcome move is just getting rid of the dead weight name Ike. I wouldn’t worry about Marvel publishing because the comics are all R&D for the movies and TV shows now — and for that beta-testing-on-paper to work, the readers have to be emotionally invested in it — ie: the stories have to count, they have to matter. And if they were farmed out to other publishers, the licensors wouldn’t allow ancillary publishers to change anything, nothing would count, nothing would matter — so that would defeat the whole purpose of using the comics as beta-testing. It’s why Warner is never going to farm out its comics to other publishers, either.
Let’s be realistic, Marvel Comics has been nothing but an IP Farm for a number of years already.
There hasn’t been much unbridled creativity and zaniness since Gerber, Friedrich, Englehart and al. hung up their gloves.
These days it’s mostly stiff & pretty pictures and not a lot of competent sequential storytelling.
Same as DC.
With first the shift of film and then television to Marvel Studios under Feige, Marvel Entertainment under Perlmutter has not only been proven to be redundant, but in those cases inferior. Indeed, currently Marvel Comics under Buckley reports to Feige and Perlmutter; having two bosses is pretty much the worst redundancy one can have.
The part where Ike didn’t understand the value of Marvel’s back stock was a head scratcher. This brought me back to the days in the mid-late 2010s when I would go to the Barnes and Noble, manga had outnumbered trades for a long time. I might be talking out of my behind, but that might have contributed to the low numbers of trade paperbacks that I’d see in bookstores. Manga sales were down around that time, yet they outnumbered the American comics trades on the shelves.
As far as I’m aware only Marvel books distributed by Hachette are those published by Abrams Comicarts, such as the recent Fantastic Four Full Circle by Alex Ross. Other than that, the single issues and collected editions are distributed by Penguin Random House and Diamond Comics. Small correction to an otherwise great article!
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