How to Invest in Superheroes: Marvel Edition

Comic book superheroes spent the last decade-plus taking over all things pop culture and entertainment. Marvel Comics, the home to Iron Man, Captain America, and Spider-Man, is largely responsible for this takeover. The company’s sizable character roster is now everywhere from the big screen to your siblings’ lunch boxes.

Chances are you’re a huge fan of Marvel’s influence. Or, you’re one of many who find themselves fatigued by the 19 interconnected superhero movies in the last decade. Either way, Marvel’s properties could actually help you supercharge your portfolio, and not in the ways you think. After all, Marvel’s influence in the entertainment world is far-reaching, and it spills over into the business world. With enough smart investments and maybe a few gamma rays, there’s a chance you could reach Tony Stark-levels of wealth.

Who owns Marvel?

If you love only Marvel and want nothing more than to invest in the 79-year-old company…you’re kind of stuck. You can’t buy stock specifically in Marvel Comics, because it isn’t self-owned.

The Walt Disney Company bought Marvel Entertainment for $4.2 billion in 2009. Yet they didn’t get everything, as Marvel had previously sold film rights for their most popular characters to different companies to avoid insolvency years ago. That’s why Sony ($SNE) owns the film rights to Spider-Man and related characters, while the X-Men and other mutants found a home at Fox ($FOXA). (Spider-Man is now in Disney’s Marvel films due to a complicated deal with Sony.)

Though the Hulk is part of the Avengers, the character’s film rights aren’t owned by Disney. Instead, they’re co-owned by Marvel and Universal Studios, which is a subsidiary of Comcast ($CMCSA). While the Hulk is in the Avengers films, he won’t appear on his own unless Universal opts to distribute a Hulk solo movie.

The times are changing.

Disney is currently in the process of acquiring most of Fox’s assets, including their Marvel characters. If the deal goes through — which it likely will — Fox’s rights to the characters revert back to Disney, and they will eventually join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney will also pull most of their content from Netflix ($NFLX) in 2019 to make way for their own streaming service. It’s likely that Marvel’s live-action shows currently on Netflix will remain there, but Disney has yet to confirm.

If you want to invest in the majority of Marvel properties, including the comic books, animated TV shows, and the majority of their upcoming movies, consider investing in Disney ($DIS). The company, worth $156 billion as of this writing, stands to directly benefit from most of the characters’ films and merchandise, and will only further their reach in the near future.

What about Marvel products?

Marvel lets companies license (or “borrow” the rights to) their characters, which is why you’ve seen Avengers-themed everything for the past ten years. Some of the companies licensing Marvel’s creations, like LEGO, are privately owned. Hasbro ($HAS), the leading maker of the brand’s toys like action figures and playsets, sees a sizable chunk of their revenue from the comic book brand.

If cute figurines with oversized heads are your thing, take a look at Funko, Inc. ($FNKO), creator of adorable character bobbleheads. And if video games are your passion, consider Square Enix ($SQNXF). The Japanese company is currently hard at work on an Avengers game, set to be released in the next few years.

Investing in Marvel may seem more complicated than trying to stop Thanos from assembling the Infinity Stones. Yet with so many Marvel-related stocks to choose from, you can do your research and see which company is right for you. Or, you can invest in other comic book companies if you think Marvel should only be handled by Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.