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Published: Friday, 9/4/2009

A piece of the action

IN THE Marvel Entertainment universe, no one has a bigger appetite than the planet-eating alien Galactus, the "Devourer of Worlds." Well, even Galactus may have met his match.

The Walt Disney Co., home to such cosmic entities as the Little Princess and Goofy, has agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment Inc., for $4 billion in cash and stock. Sometime by the end of the year, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck will become roster mates to Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man, and 5,000 other heroes, mutants, and villains reeking of angst and radiation.

Marvel stockholders are ecstatic, of course. The price of company shares is expected to leap higher than the Hulk on a low-gravity planet. Not bad for a company that had declared bankruptcy in the early 1990s.

Still, hardcore comic-book fans who enjoy the adult-friendly orientation of stories about the Punisher and Wolverine fear the "Disneyfication" of comic book violence.

Not to worry. Disney is more interested in Marvel's lucrative film franchises than the often dark and brooding comics that inspired them. So don't look for Uncle Scrooge or Dumbo to make guest appearances in "The Uncanny X-Men" anytime soon.

While Disney's film division has fallen on hard times, Marvel has managed to have a top 10 movie almost every year of this decade, with much-anticipated sequels to Spider-Man and Iron Man on the way. For Disney, acquiring Marvel was a no-brainer.

Since declaring bankruptcy in the 1990s, Marvel now has several profitable film franchises under its belt. With film versions of Captain America, the Avengers, and Thor due out in the next two years, no one can blame Mickey for trying to get a piece of that action.

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