What does Devore think most shapes our gender roles

| June 19, 2015

Reading:  The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing, from “Clarity”: pp. 16 – 19;  Rereading America, essays by Devore and Orenstein in Chapter 4

Discussion Board:  What does Devore think most shapes our gender roles?  Would Orenstein tend to agree or disagree with him?

Marvel Enterprises, Inc. (Abridged)

Marvel May Need Heroic Help,” warned a headline in the Wall Street Iourrzal of June 29, 2004.
Yet just weeks earlier, Marvel Enterprises had topped the ]ourrzal’s index of best-performing stocks
over the past three years.1 Peter Cuneo, vice chairman and former CEO, knew his management team
had staged a rescue worthy of Spider-Man, the most popular of Marvel’s superhero characters and a
box-office phenomenon since 2002. Indeed, only six years after emerging from bankruptcy, Marvel
had amassed a market value of more than $2 billion, recorded over $300 million in sales and nearly
$170 million in operating income in 2003, and raised its share price from a low of $1 to over $20.

The property rights to Marvel’s character library offered extensive opportunities, according to
Cuneo. The company’s original comic-book publishing business was now a profitable division, and
its toy and licensing operations also generated impressive returns. In the past three years alone,
Marvel characters had starred in eight movies and graced products as diverse as toys, video games,
apparel, party items, and food. ”We work hard to find the right [licensing] partners, and we approve
the products for quality, but we don’t contribute any capital. We just collect checks,” said Allen
Lipson, president and CEO. ”It’s a gold mine,” added Isaac Perlmutter, Marvel’s other vice chairman
and biggest shareholder, noting that the company had recently redeemed all of its long-term debt.

Advance ticket sales were soaring for the Spider-Man sequel, set to open the very next day. But the
latest Ioarrzal article was suggesting that the company had ”milked the best gains from its most
prominent characters” and questioning Marvel’s ability to ”use lesser-known superheroes such as
Namor, Ghost Rider, Iron Man, Purzisher and The Fantastic Four and sequels to boost growth.” Moreover,
it asserted, Spz’der-Marz H would have to be ”one of the biggest hits on record” to contribute much
more to Marvel’s bottom line than the $10 million that Sony had paid in advance.

Avi Arad, Marvel’s chief creative officer and Marvel Studios’ chairman and CEO, conceded, ”I do
feel frustrated by all the revenue that we are just giving away.” For instance, despite Spider-Man’s
box-office gross of over $820 million worldwide (the highest of 2002 and the 1oth highest ever) and
sales of about 7 million DVDs (average retail price $20), Marvel had received only about $25 million
from Sony Pictures. ”We have been focused on activities that require minimal capital investment on
our part,” explained Cuneo. ”There are bigger bets to be placed as we move more into the production
and distribution of content-but there could be bigger rewards, too.”

Cuneo identified two sets of questions critical to Marvel’s future. First, was the company’s success
dependent on ”blockbuster” characters like Spz’der-Marz, who was by far its most lucrative property?
1 See “Marvel May Need Heroic Help,” The Wall Street Iourhal, June 29, 2004, and ”Shareholder Scoreboard: Leaders and
Laggards in the Rankings,” The Wall Street Iourhal, March 8, 2004.

Professor Anita Elberse prepared the original version of this case, ”Marvel Enterprises Inc./’ HBS No. 505-001, with assistance from Alexander
Atzberger (MBA 2005). Professor Anita Elberse prepared this abridged version with the assistance of writer Colleen Kaftan. HBS cases are
developed solely as the basis for class discussion. Cases are not intended to serve as endorsements, sources of primary data, or illustrations of
effective or ineffective management.

Copyright © 2011 President and Fellows of Harvard College. To order copies or request permission to reproduce materials, call 1-800-545-7685,
write Harvard Business School Publishing, Boston, MA 02163, or go to www.hbsp.harvard.edu/educators. This publication may not be digitized,
photocopied, or otherwise reproduced, posted, or transmitted, without the permission of Harvard Business School.


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