Welcome to a bonus edition of We Want Comics, our column on the world of licensed comics, where we’re thinking about the impact of the Fox/Disney deal. Much has been written about the impact it will have on film and TV production side, particularly with Marvel Studios’s film rights, but it may also have repercussions for comic book licensees. Disney own Marvel Comics, and have publishing arrangements with Joe Books and IDW; they may not be interested in sharing their profits with more companies.
Briefly, these are the publishers that possess comic book rights for 21st Century Fox film and TV series:
Dark Horse Comics:
– Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel
– Serenity (shared with Universal)
– James Cameron’s Avatar
– Planet of the Apes (2001 version)
– The X-Files
– Edward Scissorhands
– The A-Team
– Planet of the Apes (original and prequel series)
– Big Trouble in Little China
– Escape from New York
– Die Hard
– Bob’s Burgers
If Disney decided not to renew Dark Horse’s license, it would mark the end of an even greater era than the Lucasfilm partnership, as their “Aliens” and “Predator” books preceded their “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” ones by two years, and inspired the “Alien vs. Predator” games and movies.
It’s entirely possible Disney will decide to unleash Marvel’s creators on the world of James Cameron’s Avatar, which is still the highest-grossing movie ever made, and Joss Whedon’s characters. They may want to give IDW the rights to Aliens and Predator instead, as those monsters would conflict with Marvel’s increasingly child-friendly image.
The situation with BOOM! Studios is thornier. 20th Century Fox have a financial stake in the publisher, and right of refusal on all film adaptations of their books: the list of BOOM! series that have been optioned by Fox is currently endless. Before that, BOOM! published various comics based on Pixar films, The Muppets and Disney Afternoon shows from 2009 to 2011. Many assumed the partnership ended because Disney purchased Marvel in 2009, one year after their arrangement with BOOM! was made, but according to an editor and writer on Facebook (who shall remain nameless) that was not the case:
FYI, the Disney/Marvel deal didn’t end the first run. That’s what BOOM likes to say, but it’s not true. It ended due to BOOM breaching their contract with Disney in numerous ways, including publishing material that had not been approved, and canceling “Uncle Scrooge” and “Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories.” Disney was also not pleased that they canceled Pixar’s “The Incredibles” on a cliffhanger, ending the series with the characters run out of town by a city that had turned on them.
It’s entirely possible that Disney could take away BOOM!’s licenses and award them to Marvel or IDW, though granted, BOOM! has changed and grown much in the years since the end of their Disney line. It’s equally possible that Disney would strengthen Fox’s fruitful relationship with the publisher by not renewing IDW and Joe Books’s licenses, and return them to BOOM! instead. It might all depend on whether Disney applies their philosophy of fewer films with bigger budgets to Fox and downsizes the studio, decreasing the amount of projects based on BOOM!’s comics.
Still, that Disney have arrangements with two comic book publishers other than Marvel implies their stance has softened since they claimed the “Star Wars” titles. Perhaps the profits from non-“Star Wars” comics are so negligible that they’re happy to let these companies carry on, similar to their arrangements with non-English publishers like Tokyopop. At least one thing won’t change for sure in the wake of this deal: Bongo will still publish “Simpsons Comics” until Matt Groening inevitably sells his company to Netflix.