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FISCHER: Crazy corporate combos

By Travis Fischer,

As I sat down with my breakfast and morning coffee this morning, I checked my YouTube subscription page and saw that there is a launch trailer for a new-ish game, “MultiVerses.”

I say “newish” because the game has been in open beta since last year, but is now approaching its full release.

“MultiVersus” is a platform fighting game in the vein of “Super Smash Bros.,” featuring a roster of characters from a multitude of different franchises all brought together through their shared bond of corporate ownership.

Bugs Bunny, Velma Dinkley, the Joker, the Iron Giant, Marvin the Martian, Wonder Woman, Rick Sanchez, Jason Voorhees, and Agent Smith all feature in the launch trailer.

FISCHER: Crazy corporate combos
Travis Fischer

Other franchises represented in the game include “Adventure Time,” “Gremlins,” “Tom and Jerry,” “Steven Universe,” and “Game of Thrones.” And that is just the launch roster of characters.

While the game is hardly unique in its field, the trailer does serve as something of an unsettling reminder of the ever-expanding reach that giant media conglomerates have developed.

We’re not just talking about one company that owns a lot of franchises. We’re talking about a company that owns a lot of other companies that each individually own a lot of franchises.

The Looney Tunes and DC Comics brands alone could easily populate a roster of characters for a game like this, as could the properties from just Hanna-Barbera animation or Cartoon Network. Putting them all together provides a somewhat startling look at just how wide the corporate web has been weaved.

Of course, it’s taken more than 50 years of mergers and acquisitions to get to this point.

DC Comics, for example, has a long relationship with Warner Bros and while one may assume that Warner Bros. bought up the comic book publisher in the same way Disney would later purchase its competitor, Marvel Comics, the actual sequence of events is much weirder.

Kinney Service Corporation was a mob-affiliated parking lot company that merged with a car rental business owned by the son-in-law of the country’s largest funeral home company. The new company became successful enough to expand into entertainment, purchasing DC Comic’s publisher in 1967 and then the struggling Warner Bros.-Seven Arts in 1969. After a parking lot price fixing scandal in 1971, the company split its entertainment and non-entertainment assets, becoming Warner Communications in 1972.

And that’s why every Batman movie is a Warner Bros. picture.

At the same time, Time Inc. had just begun a new venture into cable television, creating Home Box Office, or HBO. The premium cable network joined the Warner Bros. family when Time and Warner merged in 1990.

While that was happening, Turner Broadcasting Systems was doing some acquisitions of its own, picking up Hanna-Barbera in 1991. The animation studio’s properties, including classics like “Tom & Jerry” and “Scooby-Doo,” were used to seed the launch of what would become Cartoon Network.

Both Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network would then become linked with Warner Bros. when Turner merged with Time Warner in 1995.

And it hasn’t stopped there. Now that WarnerMedia has again transformed into Warner Bros. Discovery, it not unthinkable that Mike Rowe from “Dirty Jobs” could be added to the video game line-up, complete with a special Shark Week themed level.

Of course, Warner Bros. isn’t the only giant out there.

Disney has in recent years picked up Marvel Entertainment, LucasFilm, and 20th Century Fox, meaning they could make a similar game where Daffy Duck brawls with Wolverine, Han Solo, and a Predator.

Meanwhile, Sony is in talks with Paramount for a merger, which means you could see Kratos and the Karate Kid team-up with Captain Kirk and Wednesday Addams.

I’m not saying these kind of mergers are inherently bad things, but it does kind of feel like a lot, and how much longer will it be before these mega-corporations consume each other to the point where there’s just one left standing?

This isn’t “Highlander” after all (which, surprisingly, isn’t owned by any of these companies … yet.)

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and wouldn’t say no to a Spider-Man/Star Trek crossover movie …

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