It was announced today that Disney shelled out $4 billion for Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Not only does it now own Spider-Man, the X-Men, and Iron Man, but is also in business with almost every Hollywood studio. What a tangled web!
More important than printing comics (which, they actually still do!), Marvel is valuable for the merchandising and movie rights to all its characters—over 5,000—many of which have become the massive film franchises that are the lifeblood of the movie studios. The only two studios that aren't dependent on Marvel for summer tentpoles are Disney and Warner Bros. (which bought out DC Comics and its stable of characters including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman). Paramount has Iron Man, Sony's long been living off Spider-Man, 20th Century Fox lives and dies by how many X-Men,Wolverine, or Fantastic Four films it can spin out and Universal would like you to like The Hulk.
All of a sudden, those studios have just discovered that Disney may be in control of their summer fates. Welcome to your new groveling life, studio executives.