Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

October 31, 2012

Not Exactly Comics: Two Giant Media Mega-Deals In One Half-Week


So Penguin and Random House are merging; Disney bought LucasFilm. I'm not sure there's a bunch to say in a comics context that isn't either "remains to be seen" or fairly tangential. There is some stuff, though.

Books first. Penguin and Random House both offer comics publishing initiatives in various stages of development: Pantheon at Random House is probably the highest profile grouping of such books at Random House, although they are also a significant distributor whose clients include DC Comics. Penguin has announced plans for a couple of stand-alone lines (here, here) in recent weeks. With such a giant chunk of market share being held by the new, combined publisher, it's more likely that the bigger effect will be on the general shape of the book business in which graphic novels have a significant role: a diminished ability for agents to use competition to push up advances, for instance, or more institutional support available for the next Persepolis- or Wimpy Kid-sized hit.

The Star Wars to Disney thing has a bigger, fizzier effect on the general entertainment end of things. It certainly solves the rest of their "boy appeal" problem that acquiring Marvel helped them negotiate -- it gives them a bunch of different content for things like filling up cable TV service options in other countries, not just movies. In terms of comics, there's an obvious story: Dark Horse has had the Star Wars license for years and years. They have made both a lot of money (in comics terms) and significant contributions to that creative milieu during that span. They apparently have the contract for the short term, not the long term, which given the general desire a company may evince to lock outside partners up in advance of a deal may be telling all by itself. May be. Who knows? They've been a good partner for them, and it's hard for me to think someone would just abandon that. You never know.

One thing that strikes me when a deal like this is made is how less interested than ever I am in entertainment product, even when made with skill and care. I felt that way with Marvel, and I feel even more like that with the Lucasfilm, as my connection to that material is a lot less whole-cloth and ingrained into my DNA. Do I really want to experience more stories about Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian, or do I sort of want to experience what I felt when I encountered those characters played by those actors in those original films? I realize there are some characters that seem to provide value through the skill-set of a lot of different creators -- Batman, Sherlock Holmes -- but I truly doubt that all the characters work this way. And seriously, I'd be fine never reading another Batman or Sherlock Holmes story, particularly if that option were off the table for talented creators. Then again, I'm so far removed from being the natural audience for this stuff at this point that it could be a total misread on my part.

One fine development is that J. Chris Campbell sent me that funny cartoon up top. You should go visit his site to help thank him for me.
posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink

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