The recent announcement that Netflix has acquired Mark Millar's Millarworld has set us up for many new comic book adaptations in the near future, but what does it mean for the online streaming giant, the comics industry, and the future of media in general? This move could signal a drastic change in how companies bring adaptations to the screen.
Netflix Continues to Go All In on Comic Book Content
By acquiring Millarworld, Netflix didn't just support Mark Millar's brand -- the company expressed confidence in its own programming. For a powerful media company like Netflix, it says a lot that its first acquisition was not a production company or movie studio, but a comic imprint. This shows that Netflix feels confident in the company's ability to continue turning out high-quality content without the help of a traditional studio.
While we don't have viewership information on Marvel's Netflix shows, we know that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have all been massively successful for the streaming service. Luke Cage actually out performed season two of Daredevil, and despite criticism from fans and critics alike, Iron Fist saw similar viewership trends, proving that the level of interest in that sort of programming continues to grow. The company is primed to release both The Defenders crossover series and The Punisher spinoff show in 2017, and both should break records in a matter of days.
Considering how well the Marvel series have performed for both parties, you can't blame Netflix for wanting to repeat that same success without another company making money off their work. It has been Netflix's long-term goal to distance itself from licensing deals in order to create its own original content, after all. Outright owning the comics and characters allows Netflix to avoid any kind of additional cost it would take to get these adaptations to series.
We may never know the financial details of this deal, but it likely cost a pretty penny. This continues the company's trend of massive spending in the hopes of attracting new customers via better content. The strategy of spending now to make money later on has helped Netflix to accrue $20 billion worth of debt, as reported by the LA Times, and yet, it looks like Netflix is going full steam ahead.
Superheroes Aren't Dead Yet
Despite all the digital ink that has been written about the fading popularity of superhero adaptations, the genre seems to be doing alright for itself.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong, 10 years in. In fact, Marvel Studios is now prepping to unleash Phase 4 of its overarching story, and has hundreds of as-yet unseen on the big screen characters and thousands of stories from which to pull from. At this point, every Marvel movie is practically guaranteed to bring in at least $500,000,000 worldwide, and most go well beyond that number.
Even DC's critically derided fledgling universe is making Warner Bros. a boatload of money. Justice League is due out in November, and should be another massive financial success. The accolades given to Wonder Woman will only invigorate the studio to create more, and hopefully better, movies going forward.
One criticism of the superhero movie world we live in today is the dip in movie quality as studios shift focus to crafting a universe instead of self-contained stories. We saw this happen to Universal's Dark Universe, which announced additional entries to its connected continuity before the first entry even hit theaters. With The Mummy flopping, the future of the series may already be in doubt.
Netflix, however, has proven with its Marvel series that it can focus on both quality and quantity. The format of its content allows for fewer episodes and more precise storytelling that can be consumed faster than ever before.