Will Marvel’s movie magic rub off on indie comic book publishers?
NEW YORK, Oct 5 — DC and Marvel have taken their superheroes to the big and small screens, building cinematic universes and earning billions in the process. Now, smaller comic book publishers want to get in on the action.
Reimagining themselves as entertainment companies, independent comic book publishers are creating internal divisions to work with distribution or finance partners, or are funding production themselves, with the hope of featuring their characters in movies, on television and even on Broadway.
“There is higher risk, but also higher reward,” said Ted Adams, chief executive and publisher of IDW Publishing, which started its entertainment unit two years ago.
And the reward can be great. The Batman movie franchise, for instance, has earned US$4.5 billion (RM19.8 billion) since 1989. Edging out the Dark Knight, the X-Men franchise has made US$4.6 billion at theatres since 2000.
With New York Comic Con set to open Thursday in Manhattan, independent publishers are eager to show off their new content deals to fans. IDW, for example, is hosting a panel Saturday to discuss its move into television with two series: “Brooklyn Animal Control” on the USA Network and “Wynonna Earp” on Syfy.
“We wanted to create a portfolio of properties to develop,” Adams said, adding that IDW had also developed a show based on Dirk Gently, a detective created by Douglas Adams, for BBC America.
Adams pointed to the success of “The Walking Dead,” on AMC, which is based on a comic book series published by Image Comics.
“‘Walking Dead’ is a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon,” he said. “It was a grand-slam home run; if we get a double, we are going to be happy.”
But the publishing model of smaller houses differs from that of their larger counterparts. Instead of having a monthly series that can run for years, they publish shorter series, usually about five issues. If a series is a hit, the publisher can order a second short series or make it ongoing. To bolster revenue, the series can be repackaged and sold in collections.
“We have to be a little lighter on our feet,” said Mike Richardson, the chief executive and publisher of Dark Horse Comics and Dark Horse Entertainment. “We don’t have characters that have been ingrained in the pop culture.”
Dark Horse is not new to Hollywood; it has been producing movies for about 30 years.
“The reason we go into the film business was this naive idea that we could protect the writer by being a producer,” said Richardson, whose company gives comic book creators the right to control their work.
Dark Horse had success with its first two movies — “The Mask” and “Time Cop” — but its third, “Barb Wire,” was a flop.
“After the success, you get to be a genius,” Richardson said, “until your next movie.”
But Dark Horse continued with its business model and had other hits, including two movies based on its comic “Hellboy.” Next summer, it will release its 30th movie, “Tarzan.” It also has a number of television series, including “Dark Matter” on Syfy, and plans to develop the horror comic Harrow County.
“We are not really a comics company,” Richardson said. “We are a content company, and we have a great content engine.”
Archie Comics is also mining its content to find new outlets for its characters. It had already announced a deal to bring Archie and the gang to TV in a series for the CW called “Riverdale.” And Adam McKay — the director of films such as “Anchorman” — is writing a Broadway musical based on the redheaded Romeo.
“We want to put Archie back in the zeitgeist,” said Jon Goldwater, the publisher and chief executive of Archie Comics.
But Archie Comics lacks the established superheroes that are in demand, so it dusted off a few 1940s Golden Age comic book heroes such as Black Hood and the Shield and created a new imprint called Dark Circle Comics. The plan is to build a superhero franchise that can be leveraged for television and movies.
“We want to move into film and TV and licensing and areas where we can get significant revenue streams,” Goldwater said. “We look to be competitive with Marvel and DC in that area.”
Despite their move into other mediums, comic book publishers still cling to their roots.
“At our core, we will always be a publisher,” Adams, of IDW, said. “That is in our DNA.” — The New York Times