Who's Winning Marvel & DC's Licensing War?

It can be easy to forget that superheroes have a financial life beyond comic books and Hollywood films. While box office reports and Diamond sales figures are certainly a big part of how a brand's success is measured, there's one major factor that is often overlooked: licensing. Which is why this study, published by The Hollywood Reporter is so interesting. It shows that the financial gap between Marvel and DC Comics-based products -- at least when it comes to licensing -- is incredibly wide.

THR's research details that DC's top two biggest licensing brands are Batman and Superman -- not a big surprise -- which brought in $494 million and $277 million, respectively, in 2013. By comparison, Marvel's top two biggest licensing brands in 2013 were the Avengers with $325 million and Spider-Man at a whopping $1.3 billion -- nearly doubling the global retail sales of Batman and Superman licensed products combined on its own.

When viewed from this perspective, it is understandable why Warner Bros. is currently undergoing such an ambitious film slate for the next six years. While THR listed no specific sales figures for Marvel Studios and DC-specific Warner Bros. projects, it did cite License Global placing Disney first among all licensors with $41 billion in 2013 global sales, while Warner Bros. came in seventh with $6 billion. Based on these statistics, Warner Bros. has a lot of catching up to do if they want to close that global licensing gap.

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