What Happens to Disney’s Business if Comic Book Movies and TV Become More Like the Comics?

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

After months of promising that its comic book movies would impact the show, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns tonight with an episode that further explores the after-effects of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Are Marvel and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) creating a dangerous precedent? What will be the long-term business effects of establishing this sort of cross-media continuity?

Host Ellen Bowman puts these questions to Fool analysts Nathan Alderman and Tim Beyers in this episode of 1-Up On Wall Street, The Motley Fool's web show in which we talk about the big-money names behind your favorite movies, toys, video games, comics, and more.

Thanks to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the show -- and Marvel's multi-media business -- will never be the same again. Credit: Marvel Entertainment.

As viewers, Tim and Nathan say that Hydra's reappearance and the disassembling of S.H.I.E.L.D. adds heft to a show that needed it. Live+7 ratings -- where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tends to excel -- should soar once word of the changes spreads.

And yet, in a way, The Winter Soldier probably didn't go far enough. Comic book writer Marc Bernardin, who also writes for The Hollywood Reporter, pointed out on Twitter that the movie could have easily made reference to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in an end credits scene. That the directors chose not to reinforces the notion that Marvel sees TV as a vehicle to market movies, and not much more.

Or, perhaps, it's a device to stitch together continuity. By establishing an interlocking Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tim says that Marvel and Disney are guaranteeing an endless series of crossovers and universe-threatening events that demand audiences show up for the next exciting installment. We've seen both Marvel and DC use this strategy to sell comics for years, and it usually works for a time. But it can also drive readers away and force reboot after reboot. Investors need to understand the risk when evaluating just how big this segment of Disney's business can become.

Nathan says it'll be years before this risk manifests, if it ever does. In the meantime, the shared Marvel universe is expanding Disney's opportunity by giving birth to new, monetizable properties. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already teased a Dr. Strange movie while Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is developing a resurrected and arguably more powerful Hydra, which could become a permanent antagonist in both the MCU and on Marvel TV.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you believe Marvel is taking a risk by creating an in-continuity universe where TV can impact comic book movies, and vice versa? Please watch the video to get the full story, and then leave a comment to let us know where you stand. And be sure to check back here often for more 1-Up On Wall Street segments.

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  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2014, at 3:40 PM, msorrentino wrote:

    If Marvel and Disney approached TV and movies as separate continuities the result would be angry fans that wouldn't understand why they can't share continuity.

    Marvel by having the live action movies and TV shows be set within the same continuity are telling fans that they will get the same type of crossover stories that they get in the comics. Which could be a bad thing if they let every writer with and idea run wild as they do with the comics. The comics now a days are next to impossible to follow it seems as if every character shows up in at least five comic book series. Ex. Captain America shows up currently in Uncanny Avengers, Avengers, All-New Invaders and of course his own series titled Captain America. On top of that they refuse to publish a timeline so that readers know when a story takes place with respect to another story. At least with the movies and TV universe they've got Joss Whedon heading things for the next few years, he understands that you can't squeeze a dozen major events into one years worth of story whether your talking release time or in universe time.

    In the comics it is as if the characters slide from one catastrophe into another, without any break to just get caught up in stopping a bank heist. Even within the solo books like "Iron Man", "Hulk" and "Captain America" the writers now a days can't seem to tell a story without it changing the character forever or the marvel universe forever. Come on if every characters' solo adventures have lasting repercussions on the whole world then eventually won't the world descend into chaos. Especially, when they kill a character only to continue to have the character show up in a million other books. Also, you've got writers claiming their story is set within the "main" marvel universe when five issues in and about a dozen main character deaths later, it becomes clear that the story merely begins as such before drifting into a post-apocalyptic alternate timeline version of the "main" marvel universe. Case in point the Avengers AI and Uncanny Avengers both start off in the main universe before diverting into alternate timelines/universes. In the case of both comics it seems the writers are heading for the "Steven Moffat Doctor Who-era psych it all happened in a timeline/universe that never existed, however the main characters having been the ones to prevent the events from happening are left remembering events from a universe that never was Paradox."

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