Robot 6

The Middle Ground #43: When Bad Things Happen…

The more I think about the news that BOOM! Studios has lost the Pixar license, the more it depresses me. It’s not that I don’t think that Marvel is capable of producing good Pixar comics – they’ve done some great all-ages work recently, with Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Paul Tobin’s Spider-Man and Super-Heroes titles and the Oz books – but more that… it seems unfair that BOOM! lost the license, if that makes sense.

Oh, I mean, sure; it more than likely comes down to money and the fact that Marvel is owned by Disney, just like Pixar, so there’s probably much more money to be made doing everything in-corporate-structure, if not in-house. But I’ll admit to being a little naive, and being surprised that what would’ve seemed the most obvious creative benefit from keeping everything in the company family – That a Marvel-produced book might have work by Pixar talent – seems to be something that’s completely bypassed by the announced Disney*Pixar Magazine apparently featuring reprint material instead of any new strips.

To make matters odder, it’s material reprinted from the BOOM! books, which – Am I the only person that strikes as odd? I know that Cars isn’t a relatively long-lived concept (The movie came out, what, five years ago? Back when Owen Wilson had a career, anyway), and that there isn’t exactly a long line of Cars-related comic material to reprint, but the Boom! material is less than a couple of years old, and chances are already familiar to the target audience of the magazine. Isn’t there any European material out there that kids won’t already have seen, or – and this is probably missing the “Hey, cheap magazines made out of pre-existing content!” aim of the whole enterprise, I know – brand new comics that could have appeared in its place?

At least reprinting the BOOM! material shows that Disney apparently loved what Boom! were doing – it’s a weird backhanded compliment, after taking the license back for Marvel (“We loved what you guys were doing – It’s just that it has your logo attached. I’m sure you understand”), but a deserved recognition of the great work that BOOM! was doing with the characters and the material. I wonder whether BOOM!’s creators will produce new material for the Marvel books, or whether that’ll fall to more familiar Marvel hands (if there’s any new material at all, of course), but more than anything, I wonder what’s going to happen to BOOM! as a result. The publisher is already relaunching its kids line as KaBoom!, and has both Peanuts and what looks like a new Roger Langridge series already announced, so it’s not as if we’re going to see any fall in quality, but – even though BOOM! is keeping the “regular” Disney line – does losing the Pixar books mean a loss of visibility, or a loss of credibility with other licensers, for the company?

Like I said: The Pixar move to Marvel was inevitably all about money and corporate interests than anything else. But I find it depressing, nonetheless; despite the quality of their work – work so good that Marvel are immediately reprinting it – BOOM! has to deal with the rumors and reality of losing such a high profile license and series of books. I’d complain it was unfair, but that’d suggest I thought that the comic industry had to be fair in the first place.

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I think most folks are reading the switch to Marvel the way you are, but I’m not sure it’s entirely correct. Boom! was licensing publication of those properties, and it looks from the sales figures like they just decided to stop because they weren’t doing that well for them. Stopping publication would then revert the rights to Disney under any normal licensing deal, which I figure this was. Disney can then put out that same material under Marvel, which they own, and that works out to greater exposure for the creators who worked on those Pixar books. Since the creators, I’m sure, knew they were doing work for hire on properties they didn’t own on comics they didn’t receive royalties from, and Boom! no longer felt like it made sense for them to keep putting the books out, and Marvel/Disney thinks it might make sense for them to, this all seems relatively uncontroversial to me, if seemingly complicated from the outside. I don’t think it’s unfair at all, and I’ve got no reason to tow any of these companies’ lines.

Its not that the work was so good Disney and Marvel are reprinting it so soon, but more likely that its work available for launch so that the magazine can get out for awhile while they shore up more material when they move onto the next phase.

Also, the only way it could be unfair is if Disney used some crazy lawyer magic that got them out of contract with Bom.

Is Marvel also getting the Muppet license? I take it Boom! has published their last Muppet comic as well, which is a crying shame–those were terrific books.

I am surprised Disney didn’t just buy Boom.

Buy Boom? Why? Disney already owns a comicbook company, one with highly recognized characters.

What does Boom publish which isn’t licensed or owned by the creators? Probably very little. So why buy them? It’s cheaper and easier to withdraw the license and then hire the artists and writers to work on new comics.

As for the license and moving it to Marvel… Disney did that once before with Gladstone. They didn’t understand the market, and Gladstone regained the license (with Marvel distributing issues to the newsstand). Disney can do that… they probably have a clause which allows them to cancel the agreement with advance notice.

There have been a few Pixar comics before Boom… Tokyopop, Dark Horse, even Marvel way back in 1995.

There is quite a bit of material from other countries:
http://coa.inducks.org/character.php?c=Lightning+McQueen&view=4&c1=date

But what should be understood… almost ALL Disney comics in the U.S. is “pre-existing content”. Since Disney licensees only pay royalties on original, never-before-seen material, it’s extremely cheap to publish a Disney comicbook. That’s right… after your story has been published in, say, Denmark, you get no royalties when it is published in Germany, the U.S., or anywhere else. Boom was a bit unusual in that they published new Disney material for Pixar and The Muppets… probably because there wasn’t any good material to import, unlike the Double Duck and Wizards of Mickey stories from Italy.

As for the audience… Disney’s target audience churns every seven years. There are some kids who have read the Boom Pixar comics, but I suspect there are many more which have not. If Marvel can team with Disney’s newsstand division, then there will be a much wider audience discovering these comics, which is the important thing.

Meanwhile, Boom is putting out some amazing collections which haven’t gotten much notice…

http://www.boom-studios.com/walt-disney-s-comics-and-stories-archives-vol-1-tpb.html
http://www.boom-studios.com/graphicnovels/walt-disney-treasury-donald-duck-vol-1.html

…and teasing some awesome new titles for Kaboom!

I’ll really miss the Muppets and Incredibles ongoing comics. I highly doubt that Disney/Marvel will produce anything nearly as good as Boom was… but I’ve got my fingers crossed.

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