The comic book geniuses whose work brought you “Kingsman” and “Kick-Ass” are now a part of Netflix. The streaming giant announced Monday that it is buying the comic company Millarworld in its first acquisition ever.
The deal, for an amount that wasn't disclosed, gives Netflix the tools to make its own interconnected universe of superheroes films and television shows — and a chance to emulate some Disney-Marvel magic.
Millarworld is a respected indie comics publisher founded by Mark Millar — a former writer for both Marvel and DC comics, whose work also provided the basis for “Logan” and “The Avengers” — nearly 15 years ago. For Netflix, that history of creating bankable stories is attractive as the firm spends heavily to make its own films and shows. The streaming giant said in a Monday blog post that the move was a natural progression as it moves to create more “compelling characters and timeless, interwoven fictional worlds.”
Several details about the deal remain unclear, including how a Netflix-owned Millarworld may or may not benefit from the royalties of properties that have already been adapted into films.
But much of the value of the deal seems to be vested in Millar himself. Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos compared Millar to a “modern day Stan Lee,” a reference to the iconic Marvel writer who helped create Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man and others.
Millar returned the compliment, saying in a post on his company's site that Netflix is “the future” and said he has plans for future movies and television shows. “This feels like joining the Justice League,” Millar said.
Netflix's deal echoes Disney's $4 billion acquisition of comics giant Marvel in 2009, which launched a cinematic universe that sparked superhero mania at the box office, grossing more than $10 billion.
The streaming giant has seen the appeal of those films firsthand, as it has the rights to stream Disney's Marvel and Pixar movies.
The announcement comes at a crucial time for Netflix's original content strategy, particularly after reports that the firm is racking up debt tied to the production of forthcoming seasons of shows and films. Netflix recently announced that it would release 40 movies by the end of the year, more than double the number of movies made last year. While investors cheered the service's continued growth, some say the firm's big spending has to hit a payoff soon. Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Securities, said that his math on what Netflix appears to be spending on content, and the money it makes back from its feature films doesn't look like enough to justify the expense.
“That’s what makes me question whether the strategy of doing expensive things is going to pay off,” Pachter said, adding that Netflix's television shows seem to be a better investment than its films.
But, Pachter said, Netflix could do much worse than Millarworld. With its catalogue of undeveloped properties, he said, and Millar on board, Netflix will be able pick and choose from a creative group with an excellent track record.