Captain America, Batman, Spiderman. Superheroes are our modern mythology. They teach us right and wrong. Their stories are handed down, many written before we were born. But these American Gods and Goddesses are property — copyrighted intellectual property — owned by major corporations with legions of lawyers.
Vintage superheroes — created in the 1940s and 60s — are powering a massive economy. Movies. Merchandise. Musicals! The most important characters are owned by just two companies: Marvel and DC. These companies own thousands of characters, but just a handful are being used in movies. What about the thousands of other characters!?
In this series, Planet Money sets out to buy a real, authentic, vintage superhero. If we can just get our hands on one of the forgotten, unused characters, we can give that superhero the adventures it deserves! A new comic book! An action figure! A movie! The possibilities are endless.
Our quest begins to understand the high-stakes world of superhero intellectual property. We go inside the billion-dollar business of licensing and deal-making that turns an old, two dimensional muscle-head with a cape and underwear over his pants into a money printing franchise. We're going to build our own, mini Planet Money superhero empire. We just need a vintage superhero to start the empire.