Genius Brands International Inc GNUS will announce on Wednesday that the company is partnering with Archie Comics to publish new comic books and graphic novels based on the Stan Lee Universe.
Genius also announced Michael Uslan will be joining the company to help with movie and TV content development based on Stan Lee Universe's intellectual property.
The Next Marvel?
Genius Brands CEO Andy Heyward told Benzinga the partnership with Archie Comics is the company’s latest step in its long-term plan to build and monetize the Stan Lee Universe.
“I don’t want to say we’re building the next Marvel here, but we’re kind of building the next Marvel," he said. "We have the man who created Marvel 1.0, we’ve got all his subsequent IP, and we’ve got what I think is the best comic book publisher out there today, most certainly with the widest distribution, in Archie Comics. And then we’ve got one of the great icons in the comic book world today himself, Michael Uslan, who’s going to run the whole thing."
Uslan is best known as the originator and executive producer of Batman movies, including Tim Burton’s 1989 film, Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy,” Todd Phillips’ “Joker” and 2021’s “The Batman.”
Heyward told Benzinga fans and investors won’t be waiting long for the first Stan Lee Universe comic.
“The first one is going to be ‘Superhero Kindergarten,’ and that will be out in comic books certainly by the end of the year. And the animated series will start by the end of the year, and Michael Uslin will be putting together for us a live motion picture,” Heyward said.
‘Kartoon Channel!’ Update
The Archie Comics deal and addition of Uslan comes roughly a month after Genius launched its “Kartoon Channel!” which is available for free on the popular streaming platforms of Amazon.com, Inc. AMZN, Apple, Inc. AAPL and Comcast Corporation CMCSA.
Heyward told Benzinga the channel’s initial launch has been encouraging so far.
“I would say that it’s going very, very well. And I say this having been in this business a long time. I was there at the launch of Disney Channel, I was there at the launch of Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network… We launched covering 100 million U.S. TV households,” Heyward said.
The on-demand channel model has allowed “Kartoon Channel!” to immediately reach an audience it took Disney Channel years to build. The next step in the channel’s rollout will be the launch of a new iOS app, which Heyward said investors can expect within the next couple of weeks.
In addition to Genius’ large pipeline of content, Heyward said the company has a debt-free balance sheet and a path to profitability by the end of 2020. Genius Brands shares are up 758.1% year to date, but down from their peak of $7.93 per share.
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