Netflix continues to aim for domination on its own terms, and this morning’s acquisition of comics creator Mark Millar’s publishing house Millarworld brings with it some intriguing implications for both the comic book world as well as Netflix’s future business model.
Netflix, of course, is deep into a deal with Marvel for comic book-themed properties, creating a sprawling TV universe which includes “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones” and the upcoming “Defenders” mini-series event.
However, Netflix has always been a company which likes to have more control over its operations, including both development and production. That’s ideologically in line with the spirit behind Millarworld’s creation.
Within the comic book world, creator-owned companies have been a popular move for over a decade, driven largely by writers who developed individual followings writing and/or drawing the Marvel and DC characters who belong fully to those corporations (a strictly work-for-hire gig). Millarworld in particular has been a platform for Millar’s independent comic book properties, and “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman” have stuck out as franchises which have been more than fruitful for Hollywood.
The idea of independently creating comic books for the purpose of selling movie ideas to studios is hardly new, the most notorious example being Platinum Comics, which was founded in 1997 and managed to get 2011’s “Cowboys and Aliens” made.
But whereas Platinum was a cynical attempt to exploit Hollywood’s weakness for comic book adaptations, Millarworld is largely driven by the critically acclaimed writing of Millar. In a statement from Netflix, chief creative officer Ted Sarandos referred to Millar as “as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee,” which is a massive statement, but not wholly inaccurate. And Millar partnered with a wide array of great artists for these series (artists who get far better financial treatment than Jack Kirby ever did, for what it’s worth).
How the Millarworld acquisition will actually serve Netflix is of course up in the air, but it does clearly indicate that Netflix sees no end to the thirst for fantastical storytelling with a rough edge — something we’ve gotten a taste of with the Marvel shows, and something that Millar has proven he can deliver in spades.