Welcome to the coldest take on this week’s biggest news: the somewhat inevitable news that the fifth most powerful person in entertainment, Kevin Feige, would be taking over Marvel publishing and television as part of his portfolio, with the added title of Chief Creative Officer.
While there are other excellent takes on this, it’s taken us a little while to put this together because we spent some time digging among our sources to see what the move really meant. In the short term, surely it means very few immediately changes for Marvel Publishing.
Two things that became clear the more we talked to people: that this move had been in the works for a while and that it was aimed more at the TV side of things, with the comics/publishing side more of a bonus prize for Feige – and likewise, a ding to Marvel chairman Ike Perlmutter, who is disliked by both Feige and Disney head Bob Iger.
Indeed, remember this rumor from earlier in the year: Rumor: Marvel Comics is moving to the West Coast?
Although it was only a rumor – as I reported at the time – it was a surprisingly insistent and strong one and the pattern of chatter suggested that there was something that had set it off. I’m now hearing many renewed claims that Marvel Publishing will definitely move to Burbank, at some point in the unspecified future…but I’d still classify these as mere speculation at this point. But the option is more on the table than it has been for a while. And who knows, with Marvel Entertainment in charge, maybe Marvel Comics would get more bathrooms.
When looking at this whole move there are a few key elements:
Feige now rules Marvel’s TV arm:
You would have had to be pretty oblivious not to see Marvel Studio’s gradual annexation of Marvel Television, culminating in the Hall H reveals of all the shows coming to Disney+ under Feige. Marvel TV’s output has been closing up shop, with the Netflix deal lying in the graveyard of TV shows, Agents of Shield ending this year and even an upcoming Ghost Rider show suddenly cancelled. Gabriel Luna fans mourned that one, but the rest of Marvel TV’s output was not appointment TV:
“Legion,” a collaboration with FX Productions and “Fargo” executive producer Noah Hawley, also recently wrapped up on FX after three seasons. Marvel TV had a very public misfire in ABC’s “Inhumans” series, which was canceled after one poorly-reviewed season in 2017, while the Fox-Marvel series “The Gifted” was canceled after two seasons earlier this year. A live-action “New Warriors” project had been ordered straight to series at Freeform in 2017, but that project was scrapped a year later. An animated “Deadpool” series from Donald and Stephen Glover that had received a series order from FXX also fell apart last year, with studio and network — as with “Ghost Rider” — citing creative differences.
The result is a slate that has been winnowed down to just a handful of projects. Marvel Television’s two current live-action shows are “Runaways” at Hulu, which launches its third season in December, and “Cloak & Dagger” at Freeform. The latter show ended its second season in April with no word yet on whether it will receive a third.
Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb was, critically, not mentioned in any of Disney’s released info on the Feige move and it been confirmed that he now reports directly to Feige. Just where he’ll end up in this is a question mark, but multiple sources told me to keep an eye on the very well-liked Stephen Wacker, currently VP, Creative and Content Development at Marvel Entertainment.
Anyway, with things like the Scarlet Witch Vision retro-com WandaVision forming the spine of the new Disney+ service, we won’t see any lessening of the MCU on streaming land. Feige has proven his ability to build comic book style continuity on a multi-million dollar budget platform, and he won’t stop now.
But where does that leave…
Disney’s Overall Publishing Plans and where Marvel Comics fits into it
Marvel Comics based material has become an arm of Disney’s overall publishing program via Marvel Press. There’s also Marvel’s own fairly vigorous licensing program which has seen some of their material for younger readers sent out to publishers like IDW (much as Dark Horse published comics material based on Disney and Pixar properties.)
But then Marvel was just hiring an editor to work on YA materials? I dunno!
This part of the business isn’t talked about as much as the comics or TV arms, because it’s less interesting to the fanbase, but believe me, Disney leaves no potential profit source unexploited. I recall how early in the Marvel/Disney relationship there were some x-over things like the Haunted Mansion graphic novel, part of the Disney Kingdoms line at Marvel. But that kind of theme park-ish spinoff has, rather sensibly, been moved to the licensed publishing program, as Haunted Mansion is now at IDW.
Does Kevin Feige even like periodical comics?
So that brings us back to the main question – what practical effects will this have on Marvel’s comics publishing efforts? Will Feige be sitting in on every story summit henceforward and weighing the relative merits of which X-men should get their own books?
Hardly. I’m told that Feige does seem to have a real reverence for the legacy of the print origins of the MCU, and those who created it and that, disputes with the Marvel Creative Committee aside, he has strong working relationships with Marvel President Dan Buckley and Joe Quesada who has the current title of exec vp, creative director at Marvel Entertainment. Marvel publisher John Nee as not mentioned in any of the intel, but I’m told he’s still in place, reporting to Buckley as before, with Sana Amanat and CB Cebulski also still in place.
Quesada may be a little busy though, as he’s hosting his own show on Disney+, an Anthony Bourdain-type exploration of the creative community called Storyboards.
The most likely scenario is that Marvel Comics will run much as before, with maybe a little more direct input as an R&D department for the MCU. That still leaves Perlmutter in charge of the purse strings, however, and while he can’t legally be entirely banished, he’s being painted into an increasingly smaller corner at Marvel.
The big test, more than one person told me, will be when Feige or the Marvel editorial team wants to hire someone pricey – something currently not allowed. Marvel’s cheapskate ways have increasingly applied to page rates of late, and that’s behind their continuing reliance on a revolving door of creators. Disney has never been known as a money spout, but there’s more to come on this front for sure.
But to summarize for now: no big changes in the near future on the publishing end and Marvel remains the most successful brand in existence right now. But nothing stays the same in the churning world of movies, tv and streaming of 2020 and beyond. The Beat is just getting started following this one, True Believers!
I’m a former Marvel intern and have spent years wondering if I was crazy for thinking the bathroom situation in the Marvel office was insane. This passing reference was my first confirmation that I’m not crazy.
More evidence that Marvel is a movie/TV/streaming company that publishes comics as a sideline.
My take (and I’m always wrong with these things): Maybe the entire substance among all the smoke is that Perlmutter’s neutered; more reporting to Feige instead of to Ike. TV gets limited to Disney-owned platforms and outlets. With responsibility for movies and TV, anyone seriously think Feige’s cares about the relatively pissant publishing operation? Of course, apparently the comics’ business model is based on volume of many, many over-priced low budget, low selling titles. What if fewer, better, better selling books became the model? That would be easy enough for Feige…
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