Netflix shocked Wall Street last week when it announced that its first acquisition was…a comic book publisher.
Last Monday, the streaming entertainment company announced it had bought Mark and his wife Lucy Millar’s Millarworld comic book imprint for undisclosed terms.
From there, Netflix plans to develop movies, TV shows, and children’s entertainment based on Millarworld’s original properties.
The Variety article linked above notes that:
“Since Millarworld was started in 2004, the company and its co-creators have produced 18 character worlds. Three of those — Wanted, Kick-Ass and Kingsman — have been adapted as theatrical films that together have grossed nearly $1 billion at the global box office. Other members of the Millarworld universe include Jupiter’s Legacy, MPH, Chrononauts, Reborn, Huck, Starlight, Superior, Nemesis, War Heroes, Supercrooks and American Jesus.”
Here’s the thing, though.
Mark Millar – while far from a household name, is an original intellectual property powerhouse.
Long considered just an above average comic book writer, he has slowly had more major Hollywood comic book movies made of his plotlines than anyone else.
His storylines have produced the following films:
- Kick-Ass 2
- The Kingsman
- Kingsman 2
- Captain America: Civil War
- The Fantastic Four
What’s interesting to me about the above list is it is split between films based on Millar’s original comic book creations and long-running Marvel Comics properties.
It’s the latter that impresses me most.
It’s one thing to create original content that is later adapted to the screen – quite another to have your storylines chosen (repeatedly) for $100 million+ superhero movies when the powers-that-be have literally hundreds of storylines to choose from.
Netflix has already struck superhero gold with its license to adapt Marvel superhero series like Daredevil, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones (all of whom are banding together in this week’s release of The Defenders) and the Punisher into effective season-long miniseries.
So for their next superhero licensing deal they went not with one of the bigger names in comic book writing (say…Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, or even J. Michael Straczynski).
But with Millar – a merely solid writer who has quietly built a storytelling entertainment empire.
What makes Millar different is that in a relatively short time he has crafted a group of diverse original superheroes and unique spins on stories featuring some of the most well-known superheroes out there.
More importantly, he has also proven himself an adept and capable marketer who has successfully navigated Hollywood — a feat that has largely eluded his peers among the top tier of comic book writers.
With Mark Millar, Netflix gains exclusive access not just to several existing films in perpetuity, but the ability to craft continuing stories based on dozens of original characters.
And in today’s competitive media environment, access to that kind of intellectual property is invaluable.