Marvel vs. DC: Comparing the Comic Worlds

Fool contributor Tim Beyers sits down with The Motley Fool's Rick Engdahl to talk comics, TV, movies, tech, and related geekery. Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team, as well as the real-money Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I growth portfolio.

With Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  )  pulling the strings at DC while Walt Disney owns Marvel, the two major players in the comic-book universe are being handled very differently. In this video segment, Tim explains the two approaches, and how each one seems to be working out.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Rick Engdahl: Going all the way back, who's the worst Batman ever?

Tim Beyers: The worst Batman ever?

Rick: Yes.

Tim: I can't say Adam West, because he's just too good, so I'm going to go with Clooney.

Rick: Well, good. I'm glad that we're on the same page there. I'm fairly familiar with what's happened with Marvel over the years.

Tim: Sure.

Rick: I actually bought Marvel when it was Marvel, and bought Pixar when it was Pixar, and that's the only reason I own Disney today, but I'm very happy there.

I don't understand what's happening with DC as much. Could you explain a little bit about what's happening on the business side? Who owns DC, and how they're doing these days?

Tim: Sure. OK. Time Warner owns DC Entertainment, and it's been that way for years. In fact, DC entertainment and the DC Comics publishing imprint are all under the Warner Bros. side of the Time Warner business.

Time Warner has two entities: Time Inc., magazines, and Warner Bros., entertainment -- films, but also comic books. Warner owns DC, and they control -- they sort of use that as a well for licensing comics, toys, movies, and so forth.

Rick: That was kind of the story with Marvel in the day, as well.

Tim: Yeah.

Rick: They had their big library of characters. Everybody talked about how valuable it was, even if the company was only $4 a share at the time, or whatever.

Tim: Right.

Rick: Do you feel like Time Warner is managing its properties as well as Marvel was, or has since?

Tim: No, it's not even close. In fact, if you look at the number of properties that just DC Entertainment has, how many of them have been made it into TV shows or films?

Warner owns TV networks. The CW is a Time Warner network. Now, they do have a property; Arrow is on the CW now. It is a ratings winner, and it is based on a DC Comics character -- Green Arrow, one of my personal favorites.

But you don't see that very often. In terms of DC Comics movies, how many have been about Batman or Superman? That's really it, so, no, they just haven't done a very good job of leveraging the library that they've got.

Rick: Is that an opportunity for them? Having seen what happened to Marvel, isn't somebody there raising their hand and saying, "Hey, we're really missing the boat here?"

Tim: They are. In fact, Kevin Tsujihara, who is the CEO of Warner Bros. -- not the CEO of Time Warner; remember, it's two separate businesses -- Warner Bros. has a studio head, and that guy now is Kevin Tsujihara, who just recently said that they would make the DC Entertainment properties kind of a touchstone for films in years to come.

That's a real change. We haven't seen DC Entertainment be a primary source of content for Time Warner or Warner Bros. so, yeah, I think we are seeing that change, but the proof is in the pudding. We don't have any of these films yet. We're only just starting to see what they can do on the TV side of things.

In that sense, if you're an investor, it's very early in the Warner Bros. stock story. If we know that Time Warner is going to split between its magazine business and its studio and entertainment business, it might be a very interesting time to be a Time Warner stock owner.


Read/Post Comments (4) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2013, at 11:01 AM, cubsocks wrote:

    batman and spider man are the best:)

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2013, at 1:39 PM, ZootSputnik wrote:

    Wow, this was a pretty awful article. Very one-sided and limited in scope. Otherwise they might have noticed that Disney owns both Marvel and ABC, yet Marvel has only have one show on the air as well (one that rapidly losing viewers). And yes, Marvel Studios has done well with movies... huge expensive movies that have to be very successful just to break even after all costs are factored in. Meanwhile DC chugs along with a lot more cartoon shows, direct to DVD animated movies, and video games. Marvel hasn't done even close as well in those areas. If you're gonna talk about leveraging the library you need to talk about all sources of revenue and not just the one that makes the side you like look better.

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2013, at 2:10 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @ZootSputnik,

    >>Very one-sided and limited in scope.

    OK, but probably an unfair criticism. Articles must have limits. Otherwise they become novels, or a string of run-on sentences.

    >>Otherwise they might have noticed that Disney owns both Marvel and ABC, yet Marvel has only have one show on the air as well (one that rapidly losing viewers)

    'Agents' isn't keeping as many viewers as it had in the premiere, but it's still a HUGE success drawing 8 mil plus viewers. There's really no other way to color the numbers.

    >>Meanwhile DC chugs along with a lot more cartoon shows, direct to DVD animated movies, and video games.

    Cartoon shows? No. Direct to DVD successes? Definitely. Games? Even more so.

    Agreed that all sides are worth covering. Per the links below, I've done quite a bit of that in recent months.

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/05/22/1-underrate...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/07/27/the-best-dc...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/08/03/batman-supe...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/07/28/how-arrow-j...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/10/19/arrow-misse...

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/09/22/is-the-dc-m...

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On October 20, 2013, at 6:14 PM, hrodbert696 wrote:

    Content matters. There have been attempts to spin out more DC superheroes into movies, like Green Lantern, but they fizzled because the characters are simply not as interesting as Marvel characters. Batman is interesting as a character, and Superman is iconic, but Wonder Woman is a hot potato of cultural politics and the rest of the DC universe are just not that compelling. Marvel committed itself to more 3-dimensional characters from early on, in the 60s and 70s, and now it's paying off in mass culture.

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