Marvel’s “Creative Differences”

Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter – there’s a damn good chance you have no idea who that is. And you couldn’t be blamed for that. Despite being a major businessman since the late 80s and worth 3.8 billion dollars, no one really knows Ike. Even Steve Jobs gave more interviews and appearances. And, as far as we know, Ike could be a brain in a jar considering the last photo anyone seems to have of him is from 1985.

Ike Perlmutter

So you can be excused for having no idea who he is and assuming his business decisions are being relayed from a screen with his face on it like Arnim Zola in Winter Soldier. But, as they like to say it, “you will know him by his deeds”, and Ike’s been pretty active on that front. Even if you have no idea who he is, you’re familiar with his work and it looks something like this.

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So when news broke not long ago that Marvel Studios was going to cut Ike and the “Creative Committee” out of decisions from here on and report only to Disney, some people were surprised. After all, Ike is a pretty damn good business man. Having come to the US with practically nothing, including no formal education, Ike managed to rise through the business world to eventually own Toy Biz. Before long, he leveraged that to become the largest shareholder of Marvel and, now, the largest private shareholder of Disney. This is a man who literally had nothing and somehow ended up with everything. Yet they’re deciding he needs to be cut out of the equation. It’d be a mystery to most, but a very simple answer lies behind it all…

Ike’s an asshole. And, frankly, miserable to work with…

Who Likes Ike?

ike-perlmutter-marvel-fox

Over the years we’ve come to know and love the Marvel brand of movies and, while not all of them are great, they’re at least entertaining. No one had really tried what they did before, creating a single universe of films and interweaving those films together to create something that sort of brought the concept of old school serials into the age of blockbuster film making. It was a crazy experiment that people weren’t sure of. And with Ike and a team of creative consultants behind Kevin Feige and the MCU, it’s worked for the most part.

I emphasize… for the most part.

Stories have run rampant for some time that the studio was hard to work with and that there was a lot of interference from on high. One of the most common complaints is that the creative committee, a team of Marvel insiders who would give notes to the productions, were meddlesome and gave notes that weren’t very appreciated. It’s also worth noting that their meddling was felt most in films like Iron Man, Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy – surprise hits that no one saw coming. So the debate has long been whether or not this committee of people was a positive or negative influence and the answer seems to be… both.

Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

But with an apparent fallout after lower than expected turnout for Age of Ultron, Disney and Feige moved Marvel Studios out from under Marvel and firmly under the house of mouse. Let’s be clear here, this was something comic fans have been afraid of since the buyout half a decade ago. And, because it’s the worst case scenario people were fearing years ago, a lot of people are pretty spooked right now in the fan community. After all, what’s next, Thor becomes a Disney Princess?

Princess-Thor
Wait… too late

So I expected some people to get pensive about the situation. The loss of the creative committee is going to cause a major change, one way or another. Either it will open up some directors to take risks that they weren’t allowed to take before, potentially a good thing, or remove the guiding hand that’s been keeping the charm the films have had for so long. If it does happen to lose that charm, we’re in for a rough ride ahead as we’re about to see just how bad Marvel movies can be. It’s easy to forget, as Marvel does its best to stay close to the source material, that these movies can fail. But look no further than Fox to see just what happens when you aren’t being kept in check.

fantastic four

There is little doubt that the future of the studio is now hanging in the balance and we’re in for some interesting times. The internet is abuzz with theorizing and opinion pieces about whether or not this was a good thing or the first sign of the end. But one article in particular happened to make me step back and do a double take. Because, after years of hearing that Ike Perlmutter is an asshole, some people are under the impression that it was all an attempt at character assassination to try to wrest control of the studio away from him.

If true, I would love to meet the genius who cooked it up, because that’s an impressive effort. After all, who could have possibly planned it for rumors of Ike’s behavior to start brewing way back in 2000 when an anonymous person posted word of it to a Savage Dragon message board? Or who could have orchestrated a very public accusation of racism leveled against him 3 years ago? And, my personal favorite, tricking Ike into revealing his attitude on women in e-mails to Sony and then hacking them later on to expose those e-mails.

I mean, I wasn’t sure Kevin Feige was an evil mastermind, but getting Ike to help with the plan is the work of a genius.

kevin-feige

I’m not saying that Isaac Perlmutter is the devil and deserved to get the boot, I’m not even saying Feige is a saint. What I am saying is that we can’t just pretend that, just because something unexpected has happened, it was some sort of conspiracy. Perlmutter has long been described by people as being controlling, intense, and concerned more about money than people. That makes for a great businessman, but not a very good person. Reports of racism, sexism, and treatment of people as disposable are rampant – and frankly his actions speak louder than words in some of these.

In the world of Isaac Perlmutter, employees only have a value if they can’t be replaced, otherwise, they’re just an expense. Let us remember that the reason why James Rhodes was recast was because Terrence Howard refused to have his pay cut in the sequel. Howard himself places the blame on Robert Downey Jr and says that the money was essentially taken from him by RDJ. But when that same RDJ later used his negotiating power to get pay increases for the rest of his Avengers castmates, it’s unlikely that RDJ was the guy tightening those purse strings. And, when later allegations made it clear that Isaac thought all black people look alike, well… clearly the guy who had the most control over the budget was the one who felt Howard was easily replaced.

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I can hardly tell the difference, IKE!

So let’s not turn around and try to make this look like Perlmutter’s been unfairly persecuted in the court of public opinion. He’s been crazy since before rumors started churning that Feige wanted to break away from the Marvel CEO’s control. No one forced his hand, no one made him say or do some of the things he’s done in the past, and certainly it didn’t help Disney any to have some of these accusations come to light just as their big experiment was picking up steam back in 2012. Because, yeah, that’s what helps people in the modern day… pissing off the internet.

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Similarly, let’s not all go flocking to Feige like he’s some sort of hero in the equation. Getting Perlmutter out of the loop was probably for the best as far as keeping talent and crew happy is concerned, there’s little question about that in rational land. The real question is why would Feige get rid of the entire Marvel Creative Committee that helped guide this thing into being such a huge success. Some rumors say the guy is a control freak himself and hates to have people tell him no or give him notes he doesn’t like. The only thing the creative committee apparently did was send suggestions in the first place – but apparently that’s a nuisance. Hell,  apparently their interference was enough to drive Edgar Wright out of the Ant-Man project he’d been pushing for a decade.

But the track record tends to say that, while Perlmutter was a pain in everyone’s ass, the MCC might have been a force for good in the MCU. Their input had led to the kind of style and tone that really set the films apart from the rest of the competition. And, while that may not have rubbed a lot of the directors right as they saw these people butt-in with opinions, they were still helpful in creating something fantastic. Their method was unique for the industry, and now that unique touch is gone. Some would think this is a good thing, that the Marvel movies have been losing some steam as of late. However, reports indicate the Committee has had less influence lately and the last movie the MCC had extensive influence on was… Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Which worked pretty well.

I prefer to not follow the narrative that we have to choose sides between Perlmutter and Feige, both of them are businessmen making business decisions. Let’s instead focus on the loss of the committee itself and what exactly that’s going to mean in the future. This marks the end of an entire methodology that has pulled off a pretty surprising result. This was an experiment that never should have worked in a million years. And now Feige has thrown it away so he can go it alone.

There’s a lot that could happen from this shift in the studio operations of Marvel. First, with Perlmutter gone, we can probably expect more female superhero representation. Perlmutter was fairly vocal on not believing in those movies and Feige has expressed otherwise more than once. With Captain Marvel coming, it’s good to know that Perlmutter won’t be running behind the scenes.

captain marvel

But, the loss of the Committee also means that we’re going to see Marvel productions starting to work a little more like the kind of productions you’d see out of other studios. Without the MCC, we’ve seen other studios turn out some colorful works. How is it that a single studio has managed to get these characters right while others have accomplished things like making Ghost Rider boring and managing to make three Fantastic Four no one wanted to watch? Two of those even featuring an actor who would later go on to prove he has the kind of presence needed for this genre.

evans

The X-Men films, also lacking this sort of direction, have been inconsistent and contradictory. We’ve seen X-Men 3 and Wolverine Origins taken completely out of continuity thanks to time travel shennanigans just to try to clear out the mess. And that’s probably good for the franchise as a whole, but it’s clear they didn’t have direction in the first place. After all, one of the things the MCC never would have allowed is the horror that is the first incarnation of Deadpool.

merc with a mouth
He’s “The Merc with the MOUTH”

So, the fact of the matter is, controversy aside, the MCC was beneficial to the direction of the Marvel movies. Their influence will be missed, and we’re not entirely sure what will happen from here on. We could see the universe turn into something a little more like the competitor’s products, or we could see everything blow wide open. There’s a chance that Edgar Wright’s version of Ant-Man would have been superior to what ended up on screen (though I still haven’t seen that one yet). Maybe, in a world without the Committee, we would have seen that version instead. But for now, all we know is: Ike is gone and Kevin has a plan for the future…

And confidence in the community isn’t that high.

(I write novels and man a twitter account. Having been doing it on my own, I wish I had a committee.)

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