Netflix has bought Scottish comic book publisher Millarworld in its first ever acquisition in a deal said to be worth up to £77m.
The streaming company has promised to bring founder Mark Miller’s characters - such as Kick-Ass, Kingsman, and Old Man Logan - “to life” through films, series and children’s shows as Millarworld continues to publish new stories and character franchises under the Netflix label.
Experts have said the deal, the first of its kind in Netflix's 20-year history, would be worth between $50m and $100m (£39m-£77m) according to the Wall Street Journal although financial details were not disclosed.
Netlfix, which boasts 104 million members, described Millar as a “modern day Stan Lee” and said they will create Netflix Originals from his existing franchises as well as productions from any future super-hero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories.
A Netflix spokesperson said: “The acquisition, the first ever by Netflix, is a natural progression in the company’s effort to work directly with prolific and skilled creators and to acquire intellectual property and ownership of stories featuring compelling characters and timeless, interwoven fictional worlds.”
The acquisition represents a "significant step towards the company’s goal of creating more original content and decreasing its dependence on negotiating licences", according to World Finance.
Millar's books have sold 290,691 in the UK altogether according to Nielsen BookScan amounting to £3.2m with Captain America: Civil War his bestseller at 137,346 copies sold.
Two of Millarworld's best-known comics, "Kick-Ass" and "Kingsman," are not part of the deal, according to Reuters.
“As creator and re-inventor of some of the most memorable stories and characters in recent history, ranging from Marvel’s 'The Avengers' to Millarworld’s 'Kick-Ass', 'Kingsman', 'Wanted' and 'Reborn' franchises, Mark is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We can’t wait to harness the creative power of Millarworld to Netflix and start a new era in global storytelling.”
He added: “Mark has created a next-generation comics universe, full of indelible characters living in situations people around the world can identify easily with. We look forward to creating new Netflix Originals from several existing franchises as well as new super-hero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories Mark and his team will continue to create and publish.”
Millar said: “This is only the third time in history a major comic book company has been purchased at this level. I’m so in love with what Netflix is doing and excited by their plans.
“Netflix is the future and Millarworld couldn’t have a better home.”
Millar, who runs the company with his wife Lucy, spent eight years at Marvel where he developed the comic books and story arcs that inspired the first Avengers movie, "Captain America: Civil War" (Captain America: Civil War), and "Logan" (Wolverine) . Since Millarworld was started, the company and its co-creators have given birth to 18 published character worlds, of which three, Wanted, Kick-Ass and Kingsman, have become films which have grossed nearly $1 billion in global box office sales, according to Netflix.
The acquisition comes a few months after Netflix appointed Maria B Campbell Associates UK Ltd in London and Maria B Campbell Associates Inc in New York to be its exclusive global literary scouts. The scouting company was appointed to identify adult and children’s books for adaption to film and television, as well as for translation rights in foreign markets for 23 major book publishers around the world. A number of book adaptations have been snapped up by Netflix including Europa Editions' Suburra by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo which will become a 10-part drama series for Netflix this autumn, it was announced last week.
Publishers and agents have told The Bookseller that the links between the book, TV and film industries had recently intensified with the big budgets and quick commissioning of streaming companies contributing to a "writers' market".