In 1933, a ragtag bunch of comic book professionals banded together to form what eventually became Marvel Comics-- a company that has been at the forefront of the comic book industry since its inception. Unfortunately, Marvel hit the skids in the early 1990s due to a series of editorial miscues and financial mismanagement that cost the company a fair chunk of money. Worth just shy of $100 million in the late 1980s, Marvel ran out of money and declared bankruptcy in 1996.
As a result, Marvel went licensing-crazy, leasing the movie and TV rights to its characters for quick cash. Subsequently, Marvel re-organized its editorial and publishing divisions, becoming one of the most profitable comic book companies in the world, despite having little-to-no room for error, given its precarious financial position. Disney's purchase of Marvel Entertainment, announced last week for a reported $4 billion, represents a massive victory not only for shareholders, but for those that rebuilt the company from the ground-up.
The Disney purchase also represents several growth opportunities for the Marvel brand. Thanks to Marvel's marketing and the success of its movies, everyone on the planet knows who Spider-Man and Captain America are. Utilizing Disney's marketing reach will undoubtedly extend that brand awareness to many of Marvel's lesser-known characters. Furthermore, Marvel will no longer need to whore out their characters for a quick windfall, finally having the backing of a corporate mega-giant like their main competitor, AOL Time Warner's DC Comics. Now on equal footing, Marvel will have a greater opportunity to compete in the publishing side of their business, particularly given Disney's pledge to keep their hands off Marvel's money-makers.
In addition, Disney's large presence in bookstores and book distribution will allow Marvel books a wider reach. Marvel has been making a larger proportion of their revenue from bookstores and paperbacks, rather than monthly comic books, perhaps due to the fact that readers can get entire stories rather than teeny, tiny chunks. Given this trend, Disney's positioning in bookstores provides Marvel with an even larger ability to rake in cash dollars.
Just over a decade ago, Marvel was flat-broke. Now, thanks to running a tight ship and growing their business, their brand is worth billions. Disney's purchase of the company is a testament to Marvel's success and Disney's assets-- as well as their pledge to largely keep the company as-is-- will make the Marvel brand even more valuable than it is now.