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Marvel vs. DC: Comparing the Comic Worlds

By Tim Beyers - Oct 20, 2013 at 9:30AM

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Contributor Tim Beyers explains who owns comic giants Marvel and DC, and some of the differences between them.

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 (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.

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.

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