Superhero fans stop Northrop Grumman-Avengers crossover project

By Doug Cameron Features Dow Jones Newswires

A logo sign outside of an office building occupied by Northrop Grumman in Herndon, Virginia on July 5, 2015. Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (October 9, 2017).

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Marvel Entertainment dropped a planned joint venture with Northrop Grumman Corp. on Saturday after fans of its superheroes attacked the company via social media for its potential ties with the defense contractor.

The Walt Disney Co. unit, best known for franchises including Spider-Man and the Avengers, had planned to launch the venture at the New York Comic Con event with a self-produced film on space exploration featuring Northrop employees and a magazine tie-in aimed at promoting science education.

The launch was flagged in a tweet on Friday, but fans quickly attacked a online teaser promoting the first issue of a new Avengers comic featuring NGENs -- short for Northrop Grumman Elite Nexus -- that was subsequently pulled from its website. On Saturday, Marvel canceled the launch.

Northrop Grumman, the nation's fifth-largest defense company by sales, was left considering its options.

"This was part of our broader effort to reach new audiences and bring attention to the value of science and technology," Northrop Grumman said in a statement. "We are disappointed that Marvel chose not to proceed with the partnership."

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Northrop is involved in some of the most classified U.S. programs including the new B-21 Raider long-range bomber and space systems for the intelligence community.

Its products were enough for critics on social media to make comparisons with Marvel's Tony Stark character -- also known as Iron Man -- who closed his fictional family defense firm after deciding it did more harm than good.

The planned partnership between Marvel and Northrop Grumman developed rapidly over the past two months, according to people familiar with the discussions, with two more short films planned. Aerospace and defense companies have invested in activities related to science, technology, engineering and math -- or STEM -- in an effort to address a shortage of engineers and other staff.

Lockheed Martin Corp. has sponsored a school bus modified with internal video screens to recreate traveling on the surface of Mars.

Marvel said education was also its prime motivation but that "spirit" hadn't come across.

"The activation with Northrop Grumman at New York Comic Con was meant to focus on aerospace technology and exploration in a positive way," the company said in a statement. "Marvel and Northrop Grumman continue to be committed to elevating and introducing STEM to a broad audience."

Marvel and Walt Disney didn't immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

Write to Doug Cameron at doug.cameron@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 09, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)

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