Usually it's only investors, journalists and the employees involved who get all excited at corporate mergers. The recently announced Disney-Fox merger, on the other hand, is a tiding of great joy to super-fans of superheroes like Captain America and the X-men.

Here's why.

Disney owns Marvel Studios, whose movies featuring characters like Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk have been huge hits and even huger financially successes due largely to their popularity among fanboy (and fangirl) audiences.

One reason for this popularity is something called "continuity." All of the Marvel Studio films (as well at its TV shows) connect together into an over-arching environment known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe aka the MCU.

While casual moviegoers probably don't care that much, fanboys love the continuity of the MCU because understanding the characters prior to watching each installment deepens their emotional connections to the characters. 

Furthermore, many fanboys are already deep into the comic books on which these films are based and have thus invested in characters, and relationships between characters, that they've known and loved literally for decades.

Unfortunately for continuity-loving Marvel fanboys, before Marvel started making its own movies (and long before Disney bought it), Marvel sold the movie rights to three of its most popular franchises: Spider-Man (to Sony), and the Fantastic Four and  the X-Men to Fox.

Just so you understand, those franchises don't just include the main heroes, but a roster of secondary heroes, major and minor villains and supporting characters, all of whom been developed and defined through decades of writing and constant fan input.

If you're not a fanboy (or fangirl), it's hard to explain why the absence of these characters from the MCU matters so much, so here are some analogies. Imagine the Harry Potter story without Ron Weasley, Sex in the City without Samantha, or Seinfeld without Kramer.

Those shows would be pretty lame, right? That's how the fanboys feel about an MCU without those franchises included.

To make matter worse, Fox's attempts at bringing those franchises to the screen have been a mixed bag. In particular, Fox's three attempts at a Fantastic Four movie have been so unrelentingly putrid that one wishes they were merely forgettable.

Last year, Marvel and Sony negotiated to include a rebooted Spider-Man in the MCU and the two films so far that have included him have been among Disney's most popular films, partly and maybe primarily due to fanboy enthusiasm.

Which leads me to the merger.

With the Disney-Fox merger, the major remaining chunks of intellectual property from the original Marvel comic books will be located inside one company, a company moreover that has much better track record in making films based upon Marvel's intellectual property.

Fanboy forums and podcasts are thoroughly euphoric at the idea of an MCU expanded to include the characters that have always seemed (to them) to be painfully absent from the story-lines.

As a bit of fanboy myself, I understand their enthusiasm. However, I'm also a business journalist who's been involved in, and carefully watched, mergers involving huge companies. Based on that experience, I will make the following prediction:

When it comes to cutthroat behavior, back-stabbing, and the "killing off" of major characters, Disney-Fox: Turf War will make Avengers: Infinity War look like a playground squabble.

Published on: Dec 14, 2017
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