Friday, April 10, 2015

Is the House of Mouse the most friendly cartel in North America?

An article on Business Insider recently pointed out that now that Disney owns Marvel, it is actively pursuing the death of franchises not associated with its very lucrative movies. A quote from the article reads as such: "Even as Marvel kept many X-comics on the shelves, comic book writers have dragged the characters through the dirt in the past decade with a decimation of the mutant population, a negative portrayal of the team in a big crossover with the Avengers, the death of Wolverine, and the retconning of two popular characters (Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver) to cut their ties to the X-Men." And as can be expected, more marketing money is allocated to merchandise for characters that Disney owns than the ones that it does not.

My own research shows that there are few mentions of the X-Men on the website (or for that matter The Fantastic Four). Take it from a fan of the X-Men, they used to be HUGE; now not so much. And it's basically confirmed that Disney has forbidden the creation of new X-Men characters. My question to you doesn't necessarily revolve around whether Disney has the right to crush its competition like this, because it obviously does or it wouldn't be doing it. My question to you is whether this kind of conduct breaks any antitrust laws, and whether or not you (like me) are crying out "foul!"

As you may know, United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws which regulate the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. It was used to break up Ma Bell on January 8, 1982 by forcing AT&T Corporation to relinquish control of the Bell Operating Companies that provided local telephone service in the United States. "Monopoly" (despite the popularity as a board game) is a dirty word in our capitalist society and for good reason. Monopolies kill competition and the public at large is the one that suffers because of it.

Admittedly, comic books are a far cry from controlling all the phone service in the United States. However, the idea behind antitrust is to prevent collusion that restrains trade. I'm not a lawyer, but it doesn't seem fair that a company like Marvel could sell its characters to different film corporations, and then get bought out by a huge film corporation which then demands that it strangle any comic characters that support its competition in the free market that is Hollywood.

Honestly, I love the Marvel movies produced by Disney. But the more I hear of its business practices, the more I'm convinced that the House of Mouse just might be the most friendly cartel in North America.


  1. It did seem fishy how after 50 years they decided to end the Fantastic Four comic just before the reboot movie comes out. And now they "killed" Deadpool off just when production on that movie is beginning.

  2. Actually, Disney owns the X-Men, so it's not doing anything to its competition. Looking at it like that is an incorrect way to see things. If they happen to be focusing on their unlicensed characters, well, that just makes good business sense. Especially if they want to make the licensed characters less appealing to Fox and Sony. And, well, Fox has been completely unwilling to work with Marvel or Disney on things related to the X-Man franchise, and Sony only -just- allowed some negotiation with Spider-Man after, at first, being completely resistant.

    None of it matters, anyway. Comic books, at present, are no more than marketing tools for the movies. Any one of Marvel's movies generates more profit than the entire line of Marvel comics for an entire year. Or more.

  3. *shakes head*
    It doesn't surprise me. When it's all about the money, corporations do things... It's annoying. And probably illegal. But only if they get caught and/or sued.

  4. The House of Mouse has always been incredibly protective of their franchise, sometimes to the point of lunacy. A few years ago a local mom and pop daycare center painted Bambi on one of its walls and they were threatened with a lawsuit by the Disney corporation.

  5. I thought I was going to say something intelligent about Disney and this issue, but Andrew makes some points that tell me I don't know much on the subject of Disney, Marvel Comics, et al. But historically you're right, Mike, about monopolies and trusts being bad in the long run. But one irony: the old Ma Bell (regulated) monopoly treated its workers better, had better training for them, and paid higher wages compared to many of its competitive descedants

  6. My grandson loves Marvel's Super Hero Squad. His feelings will get crushed when he finds out that big corporations like Disney can hurt Marvel characters. Children do not understand legalities and finances. To them popularity of their favourite characters is very important. Also if they do not see them in stores they will wonder why. Also, my husband and myself have just started understanding what X-Men is all about (in order to understand our adult children's conversations). I feel that we took the trouble for nothing.

  7. I am not a fan of monopolies. Though I do like the game. grin.