Netflix's comic books are a preview of potential franchises

From Engadget - November 11, 2017

While video might be the goal, earlier this week, Netflix announced that it would publish its first-ever comic book, written by Millar himself. Given how difficult it is to make money in comics, it's unlikely the streaming titan is looking to become a high-volume publisher to rival Marvel and DC. Rather, Netflix is likely doing this to harness Millar's fanbase, who have bought his works throughout his career, following him from Marvel and DC to smaller publishing houses. The company is letting Millar do what he's done best: create ideas, show them off to his loyal fans in new comic books and generate interest in screen adaptations. Except in this case, all the movies and TV series go straight to Netflix.

Millar's ambitions under the deal are obvious. "I want to be Marvel rather than just work with Marvel," he told The Guardian after his company was acquired. While he confirmed in a forum post that some franchises, like Kick-Ass and Kingsman, have existing Hollywood deals that prevent them from coming to Netflix, Millarworld has plenty of properties to spare, which Millar has shrewdly retained rights to.

Marvel and DC titles rule films and TV, and those giants have, in turn, charged streaming services to host their superhero content. But Netflix gets to keep whatever income Millarworld IPs make, in whichever medium. Perhaps the company could convince other creators to publish comics under Netflix's brand, which would be even more attractive, given the wide-open pipeline to TV and film adaptations made by the streaming service. Millar himself could be a lightning rod to attract creators, given his savvy business reputation in the industry.

Netflix could be the way into the comic adaptation boom for independent creators, who are surely aware of how much more money films make than the comic books they are based on. Granted, tracking comics revenue to compare is notoriously difficult. The top three or four best-selling comics every month typically ship somewhere over 100,000 issues, and even if all of those are sold (the actual sales numbers are not shared), by napkin math they'd each be taking in about $300,000 to $500,000 a month. Compare that with Thor: Ragnarok, which made $430 million worldwide in less than a week. It's unlikely Netflix wants to beat comic publishers at their own game. Instead, it's an opportunity to showcase Millar's talent and maybe attract other creators to the fold.

Netflix's first comic, Millar's The Magic Order, follows families of world-protecting magicians who are being hunted down one by one. Crucially, it's referred to as Millar's "first franchise" for the streaming network, and he called The Magic Order his "first book" for Netflix. In short, we can expect more comics published under the Netflix aegis. The question is whether Millar's current and future work will generate enough successful material to adapt, but Netflix has gambled on a creator with an impressive volume of work that's made it to the big screen.


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