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NEW YORK — Marvel Enterprises has inked an unprecedented licensing agreement with four major publishing houses to blast the book world with its comicbook superheroes, including a deal with HarperCollins for all movie tie-in books.

Until now, Marvel has done publishing deals largely on a book-by-book basis. Far-reaching pact with Harper, Simon & Schuster, DK Publishing and Meredith Publishing is designed to ratchet up the exposure of Marvel’s character franchises and create fans across different audiences.

“Comicbooks are our core, but now we have an alternative publishing strategy to bring our characters to life in all these different formats,” said Marvel Enterprises Worldwide Consumer Products prexy Tim Rothwell.

Per the terms of the pact, HarperCollins will be Marvel’s partner in publishing books tied to movies based on Marvel Comic characters, such as the upcoming “Fantastic Four,” as well as the third installments in the “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” franchises.

Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books will launch a series of adult paperback novels based on classic Marvel heroes, including Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Wolverine and Marvel Ultimate.

Targeting kids will be Meredith Publishing, which will develop and publish sound, coloring and picture books, among others. Like Simon & Schuster, Meredith will build its products around classic Marvel characters. In addition, Meredith will feature the pre-school franchise Spider-Man and Friends.

Brit-based company DK Publishing, which operates a U.S. arm and is known for its illustrative encyclopedia and guides, will launch a line of illustrative titles under its bestselling “Ultimate Guide” series. DK’s initial titles will feature Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, X-Men and the Avengers.

Marvel said products from the new licensees will be available in retail in the first quarter of 2005.