Netflix's purchase of Millarworld, the imprint founded by writer Mark Millar, stands to radically alter the relationship between comic books and television and film. However, before we learn of what's to come, it's important to understand exactly what Netflix is getting in the deal.
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Millar is an established name in modern comics, familiar to even the most casual reader. But even if the titles he's written somehow -- from Marvel's Old Man Logan and Civil War to DC's The Authority and Superman: Red Son to his own Kick-Ass and The Secret Service -- don't ring a bell, then the movies some of them have inspired certainly will.
What is Millarworld?
Millar founded his own company in 2004 called Millarworld, which used to manage the creator-owned titles he published through other companies. His line of books began as a modest sampling, but has since grown into a library of content ripe with potential for film and television.
Millar is well known for collaborating with some of the top artists in the industry. Under the Millarworld banner, he makes it a point to give half of everything he earns from sales and movie deals to his collaborators
Despite these books being published by different companies with a multitude of collaborators, Millar's creator-owned work takes place within a shared universe of continuity. Many of his titles either connect via subtle Easter eggs or are directly referenced.
The Rise of Millarworld
Millarworld grew to prominence thanks to the success of three main titles. Wanted, a six-issue series originally published by Image's Top Cow studio between 2003 and 2004, has been described as Watchmen for villains. Together with artist J.G. Jones, Millar tells the story of Wesley Gibson as he discovers he's the heir to his father's legacy as a supervillain assassin.
Universal Pictures' 2008 film adaptation, starring James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, was only loosely based on the source material. However, it was a critical and commercial hit, earning more than $340 million worldwide, and served as Millar's introduction to Hollywood.
That was a big year for Millarworld, as it also marked the debut of Kick-Ass, the eight-issue miniseries by Millar and John Romita Jr. that tells the violent and vulgar story of a teenager who decides to become a real-life superhero. But even before the first issue went on sale, Kick-Ass was optioned for film. The popularity of the comic inspired two sequels and a Hit-Girl spinoff, while director Matthew Vaughn's 2010 adaptation was successful enough to earn its own follow-up three years later.
However, Millar's biggest splash in Hollywood to date arrived with the release in 2014 of Fox's Kingsman: The Secret Service, inspired by the 2012 spy comic he created with David Gibbons (Watchmen). Channeling James Bond and the spy genre, The Secret Service follows a super-spy as he recruits and trains his nephew to join a secret organization. Directed by Vaughn, the film starred Colin Firth, Samuel L. Jackson and Mark Strong, and launched the career of Taron Egerton. Earning $414 million worldwide, Kingsman led to a sequel, which arrives next month.
As Millar mentioned following the news of Millarworld's acquisition, the film-rights deals for Kick-Ass and Kingsman: The Secret Service remain intact, which means those properties aren't available to Netflix. Less clear is the status of Wanted, with which Fox has long flirted for a sequel.