Netflix’s First Comic Book Series – The Magic Order

June 13 will be a great day for comic book fans since the first Netflix published issue will appear on the shelves. Yes, that is right – Netflix became a publisher and we can’t wait to see what else they have prepared for us.

For 21 years since its founding, Netflix was firstly a DVD rental service, and since 2007 a subscription-based video streamer as well.  International expansion began in 2010 with Canada, and by 2016 Netflix was available in 190 countries worldwide.

In 2012, Netflix started its own production with Lilyhammer, a TV series starring Steven Van Zandt (The Sopranos). Today, it offers original content through its service and it had 126 original movies and series in 2016.

With the comic book The Magic Order, Netflix just stepped into the publishing industry, but it all started last year. Namely, Netflix bought Millarworld – a comic publishing company of the writer Mark Millar. This is the publishing house of Kingsman and Kick-Ass comics which Millar wrote.

The initial announcement said that Netflix plans to develop movies and TV series based on Millar’s work, while Millarworld will continue publishing new titles. However, these new issues will be published under the Netflix label now. Millarworld is not a big publishing house even though Kick-Ass and Kingsman were adapted into movies and had quite the success.

Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, called Mark Millar a “modern-day Stan Lee” and expressed on several occasions that he has high hopes for this venture.

“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,” said Sarandos after the acquisition.

A family business
Millarworld is a small family business which Mark Millar runs with his wife Lucy. It was founded in 2004, and since then they published 18 titles turned franchises. Wanted, Kingsman and Kick-Ass were all adapted into movies with Academy Awards Winners like Angelina Jolie, Colin Firth and Nicholas Cage playing in them respectively.

Millar didn’t hint anything about selling the company to Netflix, he only published on the website that he is taking a break to work on new comics and “strategize the next steps… you’ll be hearing about each fascinating turn when I’m allowed to share it.”

Acquisition of the Millarworld may be just the right move for both companies. Netflix has proven it can produce its own content and create great cinematic experiences. Just this year at Cannes Festival it was discussed whether Netflix movies should be included in the program. Although Cannes Festival refused to accept its titles, the very notion that it was even discussed gives recognition to Netflix.

The Magic Order
Comic book Magic Order is written by Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel (Thor, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man) did the art for the first volume. This will be the first franchise created after the
acquisition, and it will be six issues long. Besides the print format, the comic book will also be available for digital purchase.

The story revolves around five families of magicians who are protectors of the world. Now, they are murdered one by one and they must find the enemy before they all disappear and leave the world unprotected. During the day, they are ordinary people, but at night they take the roles of wielders of magic and fight the darkness.

“We wanted to make a splash with our first book for Netflix and this is it. I love dark fantasy and there’s an enormous gap in the market for something like this. Netflix hiring Olivier has also made me the happiest guy alive. I’ve been after him for almost ten years so to finally have our names in the same book is an absolute honor,” said Millar.

The story resembles Watchmen and Harry Potter, that is actually perfect, since this is the year both franchises are still present and refreshed. Watchmen is being developed by HBO and they already said
that it will be inspired by the original comic book by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins, and not its adaptation like Zack Snyder’s movie from 2009.

On the other hand, Harry Potter is a franchise which is beyond competition, and the audience always wants more content resembling it. With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and its sequel Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald premiering this year, The Magic Order is the perfect addition to the mix.

There were other attempts to return magic into the popular culture like SyFy’s Magicians based on the series of novels by Lev Grossman. But although intriguing, nothing was able to reach the fame of the Harry Potter magical world.

This is why comic books may just be the perfect format to tell such a story, instead of trying to present it to the audience as TV series or movies. Alternatively, that is still possible for this title, and Netflix certainly has the means and resources to produce such project. Nevertheless, starting small with a comic book, and then moving onto something bigger is an excellent way to measure the interest for
such a business move.

In the end
June 13th is close, and then we will have the chance to see for ourselves whether Netflix is onto something good with The Magic Order. If this turns into a successful investment, Netflix may be a new entertainment giant on the rise. However, that will take years and patience, as well as a lot of other titles from the Millarworld to prove this move was right for both parties.

The great thing about Netflix owning the comic book publisher, though, is that they can produce and develop their own movies and TV series. This will make them a sort of competition to Marvel and DC, but a refreshing one at that. While the superheroes of the Marvel and DC Universe are all about the dramatic effect, Netflix and its subsidiary Millarworld may give people characters that will place heroes in settings that are more down-to-earth.