Sean Howe, whose Marvel Comics: The Untold Story is out next week, looks at the transformation of Marvel from bankrupt publisher to movie studio success over at Slate:
But the final piece of the puzzle involved both math and some creative curating. The innovative deal that Marvel and Merrill Lynch slowly put together, and finally announced in April 2005, was nonrecourse financing. That meant that Marvel wouldn’t have to put up any cash, but would receive $525 million over an eight-year period to make movies from 10 characters: Ant-Man, the Avengers, Black Panther, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Power Pack, and, lastly, Shang-Chi, the Master of Kung Fu. Unless you’re a comic-book fan, chances are that you’ve never heard of half those characters. That’s because Marvel’s collateral to their financial backers, if the first four of the films failed, was simply the movie rights to the remaining six characters. (Even if Marvel lost those rights, they’d still retain merchandising revenues.) “If [the backers] wanted to make films of those characters, they still had to pay a service fee of 5 percent of the gross,” says Maisel. So even if the plan failed entirely, “we were no worse off than current situation.”
It’s a good read. If you’re not already looking forward to Howe’s book, this might convince you. And if this doesn’t, then his blog surely will.