Netflix buys indie comics publisher

NEW YORK • The cinematic world of superheroes is set to get more crowded. Streaming giant Netflix announced on Monday that it is buying comic company Millarworld - whose works include Kingsman and Kick-Ass - in its first acquisition ever.

The deal, for an amount that was not disclosed, gives Netflix the tools to make its own interconnected universe of superhero films and television shows - and a chance to emulate some of that Disney-Marvel magic.

Millarworld is a respected indie comics publisher founded by Mark Millar nearly 15 years ago.

A former writer for both Marvel and DC comics, he produced work that also provided the basis for Logan and The Avengers.

For Netflix, that history of creating bankable stories is attractive as it spends heavily to make its own films and shows. It noted in a Monday blog post that the acquisition was a natural progression as it moved 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 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, 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 that he has plans for future movies and television shows.

"This feels like joining the Justice League," he added, in a nod to the team of DC superheroes, including Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.

Netflix's deal echoes Disney's US$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 US$10 billion.

Netflix has seen the appeal of those films first-hand, 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 it is racking up debt tied to the production of forthcoming seasons of shows and films.

It recently announced that it would release 40 movies by the end of the year, more than double the number last year.

While investors cheered the service's continued growth, some said the big spending has to hit a payoff soon. Mr Michael Pachter, analyst for Wedbush Securities, said his analysis on what Netflix appears to be spending on content and the money it makes from its feature films, does not look like enough to justify the expense.

But the purchase of Millarworld could be a game- changer. With its catalogue of undeveloped properties, he noted, and with Millar on board, Netflix will be able to pick and choose from a creative group with an excellent track record.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Netflix buys indie comics publisher'. Print Edition | Subscribe