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Marvel is rebooting its kid-friendly line of comics. But, after being bought out by the kid-friendliest of companies, there is a little more at stake.

A lot of reasons were given for the Disney purchase of Marvel. The main one was that Disney wants to get its hands on the thousands of characters just waiting to be made into a film. This pool of characters could bring a lot of money into Disney’s coffers over the next several years.

Of course, many of Marvel’s most popular characters are optioned by other studios. Spider-Man, X-Men and the Fantastic Four are optioned by Sony and Fox, and, what’s worse, those studios can hold onto those options as long as they keep making movies with the characters. There are still a lot of good characters that are fit for adaptation. But all the big guns are spoken for.

This lends weight to another reason bandied about for the purchase. Many industry insiders are saying that the purchase of Marvel allows Disney to address a market that they have wanted to target for a long time—the young boy market.

Disney has done well and made a lot of money from selling their wares to little girls. From the young children who love anything with one of Disney”s “Princesses” on it to the tweens who never miss an episode of Hannah Montana, Disney has this demographic wrapped up all the way from pre-school to high school.

The company knows that there is just as much money in the little boy market, but the Disney Princesses and Hannah Montana simply do not do it for them. But Spider-Man would. The Hulk would. The X-Men would. There is plenty of kid-focused merchandise featuring these characters out there already, everything from bedsheets to underwear. 

So, if Disney wanted to attract the male child demographic, it would make a lot of sense for them to “make theirs Marvel”. Instead of working to develop a property that would appeal to little boys, a prospect that would be hit or miss at best, why not go for a proven property?

But as lucrative as these characters are, their home and incubator is the comic book. The comics created the characters, present them in an accustomed form, and really wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the comics. From both a creative and promotional level, there is a need for comics featuring these characters that Disney’s desired demographic can gravitate to.

Of course, comics aren’t exclusively for kids, and haven’t been for decades. This is evidenced by one of Marvel’s bestselling titles of the year being one that graphically portrays one character ripping another one in half. I’m sure there has to be a lot of rather morbid 7-year olds out there that would love seeing tha,t but I’d bet all of their mothers wouldn’t.

This makes Marvel’s rededication to the all-ages book, as evident with Super-Heroes a few weeks ago and Spider-Man tomorrow even more prudent than ever before. Now, Disney has an intelligent, original, kid-friendly Spider-Man book they can stock in their retail stores—right next to their Spider-Man toys and clothing.

Marvel has been ahead of the curve when it came to providing younger audiences with entry-level fare. Now, it has the possibility of being rewarded for this big-time. And if this means more cool comics my kid can read, the better! 

Also out this week:

Fraggle Rock #1:

People of my generation might have as much reverence for Jim Henson as they do for George Lucas. While Lucas will always be worshiped for his holy trinity of Star Wars films (and I mean A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, just so you are totally sure which three I mean), Henson has a trinity of his own—Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and Fraggle Rock.

That last one might not get as much love as the other two, perhaps because it aired for four years on the pay-cable channel, HBO. But it was a great show, full of morals and lessons and fun.

The Fraggles are back in comics starting this week in a series done by a veritable who’s who of comics, and, I, for one, are glad they are back. I’m happy that I will be able to introduce the characters to my daughter as I reintroduce them to myself.

Various (W), Various (A), Archaia Entertainment, $3.95. Three-Issue Miniseries.

The Last Unicorn #1:

Peter S. Beagle’s  1968 novel, The Last Unicorn has charmed generations of readers, sold 5 million copies, been translated into numerous languages around the world, and has been adapted into an animated film and a theatrical stage play. But it hasn’t yet been adapted into comics. That is, until this week.

The charming story of a Unicorn, thought to be the last of her kind, going on a wild and daring adventure of exploration to find others like her arrives on store shelves this week, brought to you by IDW. With fans such as Neil Gaiman and Ursula K. LeGuin on board, even if you have not been touched by this tale in your life, how can you resist giving it a chance now?

Peter B. Gillis (W), Renae De Liz (A), IDW Publishing, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Punisher #16:

The new, monstrous version of Frank Castle is fighting monsters to save Monster Metropolis. The battle will have winners and losers, and no matter what happens, Frank will have to die—again. Could this be the end of Franken-Castle?

Yes, but of only this first introductory arc. The title will continue on as Franken-Castle from #17 forward, and the new Patchwork Punisher will be the status quo for a while longer.

But is this a good idea? The change made is daring and a big risk, but according to one comic shop owner I spoke to, fans are abandoning ship as the status quo is not being restored. Sales on the title have been in a fairly steady decline and the series is in danger of dropping out of the Diamond 100 entirely, which would put it into cancellation territory.

Rick Remender (W), Tony Moore (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Garrison #1

His name is Garrison. He seems to be connected to the C.I.A. somehow, but doesn’t work for them. He can take down a trained agent in seconds, and has, on a number of occasions. He appears out of nowhere and disappears just as quick. He is known for his cowboy hat and snake tattoos on his arms.

Other than that, little is known about the man, which is odd in a society where the government knows every little thing about everyone. This mystery captivates Agent Jillian Bracewell, who dedicates herself to finding out all she can about Garrison. But that is the path that can lead to death for her. Is she willing to risk her life for the truth?

Jeff Mariotte (W), Francesco Francavilla (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $2.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

Captain America #605:

The first issue of this arc created a firestorm of controversy amongst the right-wing pundits due to some confusion over the bad guys of the storyline being confused with members of the Tea Party Movement. If the storytelling was a little clearer and the post-production people didn’t just pick the first thing that came on Google Images, the whole thing could have been avoided.

Regardless, it’s hard to believe that this arc-ending issue will get the same amount of mainstream press. The fight between the two Captain Americas comes to a dramatic end and neither will ever be the same. Also, the next arc is set up as a new secret enemy is revealed. It is a perfect jumping on point for new readers.

Ed Brubaker (W), Luke Ross (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Ongoing Series.


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William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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