It's ironic that the buy should happen at the same time Marvel is celebrating its seventieth anniversary. The characters in Marvel Comics are American Icons; perhaps not to the degree of those at DC, but its difficult to doubt the notoriety of the likes of Spider-man, or Wolverine. Disney, in fact, is only about as old as Marvel itself; their first feature film (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) hitting theaters the same year Marvel's, then Timely, first comic hit the shelves. This is perhaps the biggest reason the news is difficult to comprehend; both companies seem equally indestructible so the notion that one old fish has swallowed another is perplexing.
This aside, I think the buy means trouble for the Marvel stable. Disney is now notorious for its franchise buy outs: The company now own the rights not only to their own properties, but also to those of the Pixar Properties, the Jim Henson properties, and now those at Marvel. Not to be a negative Nancy, but consider the entertainment presence the Jim Henson characters since the buy out in 2002. The characters, it seems to me, have been exploited for merchandising purposes but have been used for little else. I could be wrong but nothing comes to mind aside from some DVD releases, and some toys.
The major reason I'm concerned is that I believe Marvel understood the success of their properties was dependant on comic sales. While they're not the most economically successful, they're what continues to generate fans, and keeps fans enthusiastic about other media releases. Of course Marvel itself has been doing a thoroughly disgusting job exploiting its material for toys, TV shows, and movies with the intent to move beyond the comics, so perhaps a de-emphasis is inevitable. I'm concerned because Disney-- a company that booted out hand drawn animation because it wasn't selling despite it being the backbone of the company, and that it wasn't selling largely because of the poor artistic decisions being made-- has a strong fiscal focus. You may say, "Well, yeah, they're a cooperation" but what I mean is that their decisions don't seems to be effected by artistic, traditional, or social influences. I wouldn't doubt for a second that their return to 2D animation musicals has been driven by the mixed success of their own (non-Pixar) 3D movies, and the ever building nostalgia for the Disney Renaissance. I think I'm just now waiting for the news that the company that remorselessly threw out their drafting tables will be doing the same to the printing press.
The other concern-- should Disney spare the printed page-- is artistic. Disney of course makes some wonderful material, but it's hard to ignore that even the darkest of material at Disney isn't that dark. Marvel, by contrast, is a very adult in its material. Captain America shot dead, Norman Osborn's usurpation of control, and others are just some of the examples of artistic decisions that would potentially have been hampered with by Disney Execs at the top. While I'm sure control won't be hands on, there is bound to be company mandates. I expect Marvel will very quickly become the "safe" comic company. Remember Disney is a company whose darker properties include Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney won't be interested in older comic readers, but young kids who favor the television shows. The movie properties are likely to suffer this as well: More like Spider-man, less Dark Knight or Iron Man.
I'm hardly trying to "sound the alarm" here-- I'm actually fairly indifferent at present. If and when what I expect to happen does, I imagine the feelings will be different; I grew up on these comics, but the fact is in the face of Marvel's radical story choices and commercialization, I've been moving to DC naturally, anyway.
DC is in fact now more accurately comparable to Marvel. DC is of course owned by Warner Brothers who have-- astoundingly-- been fairly hands off except in the way of movie production. However, I feel Disney has too much of its own agenda and is more focused on lining up a commercially successful pendant for boys to their Princess line for girls. The biggest threat to the Marvel Universe is no longer Dr. Doom; it's Mickey Mouse.
What do you think the acquisition means? Is this what Marvel meant what they told us to accept change? Are the Disney executives, in fact, skrulls?