NEW YORK, Nov. 3 -- Leading comic book publisher Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc. said Thursday it has acquired Malibu Comics Entertainment Inc., known for its Ultraverse Super Hero group of titles, for an undisclosed price. Marvel, which is controlled by billionaire Ronald Perelman and has been on an acquisition spree, said the move will position itself for 'a new generation of growth' in the industry. The deal comes at a time when Hollywood film studios are on the prowl for comic-book properties it can use as the basis for movies. Malibu Comics, of Calabasas, Calif., is privately held and is estimated to account for about $50 million in annual sales, or about 5 percent of the comic book industry. Its operations include the Bravura imprint, which features creator-owned characters and licensed titles, based on properties such as Star Trek, Mortal Kombat and BattleTech. Malibu, which focuses on comic readers in their late teens and 20s, will remain autonomous and free to make its own deals for film, TV and video games. Marvel has been trying to rebound from a slump in its comic books and baseball cards this year following several years of strong growth. The company has been trying to become a diversified entertainment concern that targets kids and young adults. It has also been on the acquisition trail with recent buyouts of Toy Biz, Fleer trading cards and Panini stickers. Marvel announced last month it plans to buy children's magazine publisher Welsh Publishing Group for an undisclosed price.
Marvel has a stable of comic book characters including Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. It also announced in June a wide-ranging alliance with video-game producer Acclaim Entertainment, calling for Acclaim to co-develop and publish video games based on Marvel properties and gives Acclaim exclusive rights to The Fantastic Four and Iron Man. Marvel is the nation's largest comic book publisher, and also the creator of the Fox Network's 'X-Men,' currently the top children's animated show on television. A Spider-Man movie, directed by James Cameron, is also in the works. Terry Stewart, president and chief operating officer of Marvel Comics, said Thursday, 'We believe the comicbook industry is ripe for a new generation of growth and this is one of the first of many steps we plan to take to lead the charge.' He added, 'Our market research tells us that there's tremendous interest in comic books on the part of consumers of all ages. Taking advantage of Marvel's strong position and now Malibu's, we plan to continue to aggressively expand our presence in the industry.' Marvel said it will benefit from Malibu's state of the art computerized comic book coloring operation, which will enable Marvel to expand its enhanced coloring capabilities; and Malibu's separate operations, which will facilitate the launch of other, differentiated publishing programs based on the West Coast. Malibu founder Scott Rosenberg will become senior executive vice president of Marvel upon completion of the sale.