By Andrew A Smith
It’s a pretty dizzying time for streaming services, especially if you’re a fan of Peak Geek TV.
First, Disney announced it was removing its content from Netflix and starting its own streaming service.
Then they walked it back a little.
The day before that, Netflix announced it was buying a Scottish comics publishing company to make its own, comics-based proprietary content.
That’s the backdrop as the much-anticipated Marvel Television’s, The Defenders, drops on Netflix.
And, as if to drive home the point, two more comics-based properties will follow on Aug. 25.
Whew! But what does it all mean?
Let’s start with Netflix. In its Aug. 8 earnings report, Disney announced it was going to pull its content from Netflix and start its own streaming service. The initial CNBC.com story reported that Disney had decided to “exercise an option to move its content off” Netflix. That content included Marvel and Star Wars titles.
But according to bleedingcool.com, “moments later, the CNBC post was quietly changed to remove reference to Marvel entirely and add a blurb about Pixar.”
Fortunately, Alisha Grousa of Forbes.com came to the rescue. She explained with quiet authority that nothing will happen until after 2018, when Disney’s current contract with Netflix expires. Further, Netflix-produced Marvel shows – which at this point include Daredevil, Defenders, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and The Punisher – are under a separate contract, and are unaffected.
In other words, the change will affect only the distribution of Disney movies, and only Disney movies that arrive after 2018, and only after they’ve run in theatres.
Still, that’s quite a lot, considering that the Disney brands include not only the House of Mouse, but LucasFilm (Star Wars), Marvel Films, and Pixar. According to Forbes, Netflix stock dropped five points after the Disney announcement.
But even that is no cause for panic, as Reuters reported Aug. 11. “Netflix Inc. is in ‘active discussions’ with Walt Disney Co. about keeping Marvel and Star Wars films after 2019,” Reuters said, quoting Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger.
But what about that Netflix announcement about its content purchase? Well, the connection between the two events is unclear. (Snicker.)
Still, it’s pretty interesting on its own merit. Netflix is buying Millarworld, the company launched by Scottish writer Mark Millar and his wife Lucy in 2004 to publish Millar’s comics work. Previously, Millar had made a name for himself in both British and American comics, the latter with the Big Two, Marvel and DC Comics.
At DC, Millar wrote an acclaimed graphic novel titled Superman: Red Son, which followed a Man of Steel whose rocket landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas. He also had acclaimed runs on titles like The Authority, JLA and Swamp Thing, usually with, or following, legendary names like Grant Morrison and Warren Ellis.
Some of his work at Marvel Comics has actually made it to the silver screen, albeit in diluted form. His The Ultimates title, about an Avengers team in an alternate universe, is as much of an influence on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the actual Avengers series. His Old Man Logan story, published in Wolverine in 2008, was the inspiration for the recent movie with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart. Millar wrote the comics event story Civil War, which was adapted in part for the Captain America movie of the same name.
But Millar’s mark in movies is mainly from his own creator-owned properties. Three of his 18 published franchises have been adapted to film: Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Wanted. Other creations that seem adaptation-friendly include Chosen, Jupiter’s Legacy (in which a superhero group takes over the world, only to be challenged by their children), Nemesis (about an unstoppable supervillain and the dogged cop who pursues him) and Superior (in which a handicapped boy can transform into an adult superhero).
So why did Netflix snap up Millarworld? Well, the Disney announcement might have had something to do with it. But it’s also a good business strategy: Streaming services like Netflix need a lot of content.
The Hollywood Reporter quoted Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities as saying essentially that: “It’s an acknowledgement that Netflix is a distributor of other people’s content and if they want to be a player, they have to own more.”
Which brings us to the two new shows adapted from comics coming Aug. 25.
At Netflix, a popular Japanese property called Death Note has been adapted into a movie. It has already appeared in manga (comics) and animation (anime) form in its native land.
The premise is a student named Light Yagami finding a notebook dropped by a Shinigami. Yagami discovers that any human whose name is written in the notebook dies, and decides to use the book to rid the world of criminals. Yagami’s use of the notebook draws the attention of law enforcement, of course, but there’s a more insidious danger: By committing all this casual murder, is Yagami becoming evil himself?
Despite the popularity of Death Note in Japan, the adaptation launches with three strikes against it. One, the story is being transplanted to the US (where the protagonist will be named Light Turner), which has some purists pretty upset. Two, the original series runs 2,500 pages, or 12 volumes, but is being adapted into a 101-minute movie. And three, the track record for foreign graphic novels adapted into American film is abysmal.
Maybe being streamed instead of appearing in theatres will give Death Note a boost over its fellow adaptations that fared poorly, like Ghost in the Shell and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Meanwhile, in non-Netflix news, the first season of a new production of The Tick arrives at Amazon Aug. 25. This adaptation of creator Ben Edlund’s comic book is the third, after an animated series that ran for three seasons beginning in 1994, and a live-action show (starring Patrick Warburton) that lasted nine episodes in 2001-02.
If you haven’t enjoyed The Tick before, he is a hugely muscled, invulnerable superhero who dresses in a blue suit with insect antennae and is hilariously clueless. (He is played by Peter Serafinowicz.) The Tick is joined (reluctantly) in his protection of The City by his non-powered sidekick Arthur (Griffin Newman), who has his own ridiculous outfit and is beginning to question his sanity.
“We’re utterly hypocritical, putting forward our own very earnest hero myth, as if we’re completely oblivious idiots,” Edlund told The New York Times. “I like the meta-level of nonsense that we can be accused of.”
(Contact Captain Comics at [email protected] For more comics news, reviews and commentary, visit his website: comicsroundtable.com.) – TNS
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