Yesterday, it was announced that Netflix had acquired Millarworld from Mark Millar. Big news in comics. Netflix's first acquisition. The acquisition of a creator owned imprint to a bigger media body. But there is a little unpacking and misreporting along the way that might benefit from a second look.
For a start, no money was mentioned. While the words "sale" and "buy" were commonplace, the word used in the official press release rather than the subsequent casual statement by Millar was "acquisition". A deal has been done but the use of that word suggests it may not have involved money. Shares? A deal on future media exploitation? A seat on the board? There are all sorts of possibilities, and "acquire" doesn't rule out money was paid but it does suggest something else was going on.
Also, plenty of reports got simple facts wrong.
A Scottish comic book company has been bought by streaming giant Netflix. Millarworld, founded by Mark Millar from Coatbridge, includes his portfolio of characters and stories such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan. – BBC Scotland
It specifically does not include Kick-Ass and Kingsman, likely due to a previous deal with Kingsman co-creator Matthew Vaughn and MARV Films and Old Man Logan is a Marvel owned comic book, which has been licensed to Fox.
Which brings in another point, these are all creator owned properties where the ownership of the property is shared with the artists, 50/50. Is there a clause that gives Millar controlling share? Or could each artist collaborator choose to scupper the deal?
There's also the claim by Mark Millar that "Warner Bros bought DC Comics in 1968. Disney bought Marvel in 2009. Today Netflix purchased Millarworld and I'm still blinking. This is only the third time in history a comic-book company purchase on this scale has ever happened" which is blatantly wrong.
A few other examples would be the purchase of Valiant Entertainment by Acclaim, the purchase of Malibu by Marvel, the purchase of WildStorm by DC Comics, the purchase of 2000AD by Rebellion, the purchase of ComiXology by Amazon and – considering that it's unsure exactly what percentage of the properties are now owned by Netflix if they were originally co-creator deals, and in some cases such as Wanted co-publisher owning deals, sharing with Top Cow, if it's comparable to Fox's buy in of Boom! Studios, or DMG with the new Valiant, or Eidos' partial purchase of Top Cow. It is very likely that one, or more of those, was at a greater scale to the Netflix/Millarworld deal. But Millar does have a tendency to ignore anything that doesn't fit a specific narrative being told. Indeed someone who mentioned this inconvenient fact on the Millarworld forums got their post swiftly deleted.
But it does raise the possibility that the big media circling companies may have fewer and fewer choices if they want a proper comic company of their own. Dark Horse, IDW, Boom (properly), Dynamite, Action Lab, Zenescope, even Bleeding Cool's own Avatar maybe a possibility for some.
And this is truly a unique venture for Netflix. Their first purchase, and the possibilities of films and shows based on Millarworld titles, and Millarworld titles based on Netflix films and shows is a reality.
But who will print the comics? Mark Millar has been moving books over to Image Comics, with Kingsman/Secret Service being the latest to jump. He has published through Icon at Marvel, usually, when the artist has an exclusive deal there. And his previous publishing deals with Avatar, Dark Horse and Top Cow seem to have been long forgotten. But would Netflix prefer Marvel? They do have an existing relationship there.
But if you are waiting for the other shoes to drop, how about this. Why would Netflix want to print comics at all? Why not distribute them via Netflix? Digitally on screens across the lands? And maybe grab a new audience in the process…
And when Hulu follow suit, and Amazon Prime – well they already have ComiXology. DC Comics have their own digital distribution streaming channel for TV films and comics on the way. But the Millarworld/Netflix tie-up may just seal the deal for the printed comic… although, you know, Netflix do still distribute DVDs by post. Maybe they could slip a printed comic in there as well?