Does Hasbro See Marvel in the Mirror?

Hasbro (NYSE: HAS  ) has been a Marvel (NYSE: MVL  ) play date for a few years now, so news this morning about the two companies extending their toy licensing agreement through 2017 isn't a surprise.

If there is any kind of shock, it's that the renewal came so soon. The companies are really just three years in on the original five-year deal. Toy companies like to plan out their release strategies well ahead of the telltale holidays, but there wasn't a lot of urgency behind a deal good through 2011.

The extension will feed Marvel's coffers. It guarantees between $100 million and $240 million in royalties, depending on Marvel's slate of marketable theatrical releases.

The original deal has been a winner for both companies. Marvel can concentrate on transforming its arsenal of comic book legends to the big screen, leaving toymaker Hasbro to do what it does best.

However, I keep wondering if the reason why Hasbro enjoys warming up to Marvel is that, deep down inside, it's stealing pages from the Marvel playbook.

It's a compliment, I assure you.

Transformers was a mostly nostalgic toy and entertainment property in Hasbro's portfolio, until Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) turned it into a box office blockbuster in the summer of 2007. Unless you slept through the Super Bowl commercials earlier this month, you know that the sequel is coming in four months.

It's not the only Hasbro toy line being updated at the multiplex. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra hits theaters in August, giving Hasbro cinematic bookends during the popular summer movie season.

There's plenty at stake. Many saw the 2007 flick's success as a win for more than just Viacom, as General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) provided the cars, and IMAX (Nasdaq: IMAX  ) helped drum up premium box office receipts with its larger screen version. The real winner, though, was Hasbro. It surely doesn't mind cutting royalty checks to Marvel and George Lucas' Star Wars franchise when it sells a ton of related toys, but it's better when it can cut out the middleman. Milking its own toy line -- the way Marvel has enviously done in recent years -- is the more lucrative route if patrons show up.

So, what's next Hasbro? Marvel's pipeline is rich with fresh X-Men and Iron Man installments in the works. The fan boy buzz is already building for Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers.

As long as we're not getting Mr. Potato Head as an action hero or a feel-good sport movie with Nerf footballs, I'm right behind you, Hasbro. Be the Marvel.

Let's play a game with some more recent headlines:

IMAX is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Marvel Entertainment and Hasbro are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz wonders who will have the hot toys for the 2009 holiday season. Too soon? He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy that is harmful only if it's not swallowed.


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