Superhero’s shouldn’t be this complicated
Although it may seem unbelievable in today’s world, there was once a time when Marvel was so desperate for cash that it nearly disappeared off the face of the earth.
Sometimes the story starts with bankruptcy
In 1996, Marvel was forced into bankruptcy court after selling off its best intellectual properties and still finding itself incapable of generating revenue.
Marvel sold X-Men to Fox in 1993 for a flat fee, a move that saw them losing out when Fox turned the characters into a major box office success.
They didn’t make the same mistake twice when they chose to sell Spiderman to Sony in 1999. Instead of just getting a flat fee, Marvel negotiated a 5% cut of movie profits. This deal was probably a big win in 1999 but became the subject of a lot of heat in 2019.
Last year the Marvel we now know, the one controlled by Disney, tried to up their financial stake in Sony-driven Spiderman films to 50%. This deal was too steep for Sony and led to a short period of intense confusion for fans.
The Spidey-rumor-mill went nuts.
A few months of confusion, tweets, and rumors resulted in a deal that left both sides a little unhappy.
Marvel would go forward with a 25% cut of all Sony produced Spiderman films, and Spidey would be featured in at least one more Marvel franchise film.
Marvel gets a higher percentage of Spiderman revenue, and Sony doesn’t have to risk another attempt at a Spiderman franchise that doesn’t have the power of the MCU behind it. (We may have Andrew Garfield to thank for a Spiderverse that’s led by Tom Holland and spearheaded by Tony Stark).
But how did Disney end up with Marvel in the first place?
Back in 1999, Marvel had planned to scoop itself out of its financial messes with a chain of restaurants and a series of trading cards. Because if there’s one shore-fire way to make money, it’s by risking it all on a restaurant.
Marvel did manage to open one of their planned restaurants, but it closed within a year. Luckily for Marvel, they had David Maisel (the guy who gets a big thanks at the end of the ‘High School Musical’ style Avengers: End Game curtain call credit sequence).
Maisel convinced Marvel to put all the chips on the table and make movies themselves, and Marvel eventually agreed. As collateral, Marvel put up –
- The Avengers
- Captain America
- Nick Fury
- Doctor Strange
And several other lesser-known characters.
Had the bet failed, all these hero’s would have become property of the banks.
A New Beginning
The newly created Marvel Studios came out of the gate swinging with an unknown character from a series of obscure and almost entirely unheard-of comic book series –
The movie made $500 million and saved Marvel’s ass while also drawing the attention of a much bigger fish..
The newly crowned “King of Disney” Bob Igor saw something he had to have, so he took an enormous risk and bought the still brand new Marvel Studios for roughly $4.3 billion.
While at the time the investment seemed reckless, in hindsight we can see that it was dwarfed by just the Avengers movies alone.
Both Marvel and Disney took enormous risks, and both are far better off for those risks.
Let that be a lesson to us all.
But in reality, this will all become meaningless when Disney inevitably buys Sony as it has done with Fox.
All the other sold-off rights (X-Men and Fantastic Four) reverted back to them with the Fox acquisition, and so to will Spider-man eventually.
So the answer to the question set by the title is: Sony… for now
Come to the dark side Sony, you’ll get lonely out there all by yourself…
They all become Disney eventually…
One of us… One of us…