Let's talk about supervillain associations and how to prevent them from falling apart.
Welcome back to Funding the Kryptonite, a blog that will take a look at comic book super villains and discuss them from a business perspective.
Today, I am going to examine the case of Marvel Comic's super villain group The Pride (found primarily in the series Runaways). This group was formed when six individual young couples, each with their own unique specialization (aliens, criminals, time travelers, magicians, mutants, and technologists) were summoned by an ancient power known as the Gibborim. In exchange for performing an annual ritual (murdering a young woman and sacrificing her soul) to empower the Gibborim, the group that became the Pride would have their powers and abilities enhanced. The downside? After 25 years, the Gibborim would wipe the Earth clean except for six members of the Pride who served them most faithfully who would then gain eternal life.
That does sound like a problem:
It is, to an extent. Then again, 25 years of dominion over the illegal activities of Los Angeles is not necessarily a bad deal. The situation improved for the Pride after one of the couples involved got pregnant, which in turn made the group realize that all of them could each have a child and offer the six saved places to their children. It would be like a good morality tale of parents having to sacrifice for the love of their children, except their parents would be horribly evil and live it up like kings in the process of ruling over LA and the West Coast in the interim. And while the Pride was effective, it also fell apart in the end because of the poor planning of this strategic alliance.
Strategic alliance is a fancy term for a partnership between two or more organizations to accomplish a mutually agreed-upon goal or goals. The reason why it is not just called a partnership is the alignment with the existing goals of the organization. This is done for the reason that any individual organization cannot accomplish the task on its own, often because of skills/talents they do not possess and cannot reasonably acquire through development or acquisition. Therefore, they come together with others who can contribute missing or desirable ingredients for success in accomplishing the goal and splitting the profits evenly. Though the original deal for the Pride allowed the Gibborim the choice of how to distribute the profits, their plan to offer one spot to each child effectively seized control of that distribution (assuming it was honored).
Sounds like a good outcome. How did it go wrong then?:
In a nutshell, power goes a long way towards overcoming failures in following process. Let's take a look at the usual steps of a strategic alliance:
-Strategy Development: This is the step where you examine what the alliance would want to accomplish, what it would need to be accomplished, and how the resources needed for it to succeed would be properly used. Individual organizations must also see if those plans sync up well to how their own organization runs, otherwise dysfunction occurs.
-Partner Assessment: Here is where you take a look at potential partners and what they would bring to the table. You take a look at their strengths and weaknesses, examine their operating style and if it is compatible with your own, and otherwise go about the business of judging. This is an important step because a strategic alliance is easily broken apart by clashes between participants.
-Contract Negotiation: This stage is where the nuts and bolts are worked out and put to a contract. You discuss who will contribute what, how the profits get split, who gets what interesting things that are developed along the way, and how poor performance gets handled.
-Alliance Operation: The meat and potatoes of the gig, where the playing out of what the first three stages prepared. The group carries out its activities, continually reassesses if they are on track and decide what changes, if any, need to be made to stay on track.
-Alliance Termination: End of the road. The goals have been met, or deemed unattainable, and the partnership breaks apart. You divvy things up according to the established contracts and agreements and everyone heads on their own way.
Now I'll touch on how the Pride handled each step:
-Strategy Development: In short, there was none. This opportunity was thrown at the members of the Pride without time or intent to engage in this enterprise. While there is a brief window to consider the goal (one of six spots on the lifeboat past the end of the world and immortality) and how it would be accomplished (yearly blood sacrifice), none of the Pride considers how this fits with their own previous goals or operations management.
-Partner Assessment: This is the point of critical failure for the Pride. Having no previous experience with each other, all they have to go on is their initial reactions at meeting each other. Given that that was a shocked encounter filled with distrust, violence, and misgivings, one would imagine they would not necessarily want to collaborate with each other. This is especially important down the line, when culture clashes between subgroups of the Pride leads to its downfall.
-Contract Negotiation: Here they are successful. The group does codify the terms of their agreement with the Gibborim, but they do not necessarily spell out the conditions of their own internal operations and contributions. That being said, each group brings their own unique specialization to the table and appears to handle their area of expertise. It would also be difficult to imagine finding a court of law willing to handle lawsuits over breaking contract conditions for super villains. Their actions in reassessing the terms of the contract once they realize how the profits could be split to a single child of each group is handled quite well.
-Alliance Operation: Total success. The Pride rules Los Angeles and the West Coast area quite handily. Other crime lords stay out, criminals in the area pay them tribute, those who do not are summarily executed. The Pride is connected and in control. They know their business and handle it extremely well. Their enhanced powers are really what allows them to be effective here, since it means no one can cross them without paying the price.
-Alliance Termination: Pretty big failure here. Rather than follow the agreed upon terms of the six spots being giving to the kids, two couples of the Pride decide to murder the other four couples (the aliens and mutants wanting to murder the human types, explaining the culture clash mentioned above) in order to save themselves and their own kids.
What is the key takeaway?:
The important thing to take away from this is that planning and analysis are paramount. While it can happen that staggering opportunities appear from nowhere, that does not remove the need for due diligence within the timeframe you have. This is especially true when it comes to a strategic alliance, because the success or failure of your enterprise does not rest solely with you. The operations can be extremely well run and the profits ultimately guaranteed by following the contract, but disputes between partners can prevent the entire alliance from meeting the conditions laid out to attain your success. This is the importance of planning. If the people you are partnering with ultimately cannot stand you, your partnership will fall.
"Well, we all know what goeth before the fall, don't we?" –Alice Hayes (Runaways, Vol. 1)
Final Rating: Bad business!
Thank you for reading and please hit me up with your comments.
Written or Contributed by: Funding The Kryptonite