Reinforcing once more the increasingly interconnected worlds of Hollywood and comics publishing, Image Comics has announced several new imprints with varying degrees of Hollywood connections. Making the biggest splash is Skybound, a new division by Image partner Robert Kirkman, who's funding the line with some of the profits from the upcoming AMC Walking Dead TV show based on his zombie apocalypse comic.
Unlike most comics publishers, Image is a collective among several partners who each run their own studio. The company was founded in 1992 by several artists who were unhappy with their profit participation at Marvel and DC. The central imprint allows creators to maintain full ownership of their books; they get no money upfront, while Image takes a flat fee to cover publishing services.
Kirkman's new imprint will have a slightly different model, offering a page rate up front and marketing services to creators in exchange for partnering on publishing, licensing, and other ancillary revenue. "I'm offering what I would have liked to have had fairly early in my career," Kirkman told PW. "Creators want to get their original ideas out there, but there's a risk in starting your own business and it's hard selling a new property."
Skybound is launching with two titles: Witch Doctor, a "medical horror comic" by Brandon Seifert and Lukas Ketner, and Thief of Thieves, a collaboration between Kirkman and writer Nick Spencer. It's the story of the world's greatest thief's attempt to right the greatest wrongs of his life via a daring series of thefts.
Kirkman will use his own connections and Hollywood acumen to help his creators get their works out to the right movie people; he's also hired Sina Grace as editorial director and J.J. Deed as CEO. However, he has no plans to publish more titles. "If everything works out, maybe we will expand. I'm not looking to publish dozens and dozens of books. I just want to put out books I feel strongly about so I can have an intensely focused effort on the books that we are publishing." Skybound is Kirkman's attempt to find more new ideas that can spawn future franchises. "There's always a need for new ideas," he said. "Everyone is always looking for the new Spider-Man or Fantastic Four."
Image announced two other imprints with Hollywood connections at the recently concluded San Diego Comic-Con.
Marc Guggenheim—a producer and screenwriter on television (Flash Forward) and film (he's credited as a writer on the upcoming Green Lantern movie) and a well received comics writer on such titles as Spider-Man—has launched his own mini-imprint, Collider, which is looking to develop transmedia properties with comics as the launching pad. Producer Alisa Tager (Serenity) is a partner in the venture, which starts with two titles: Utopian, a story of a world without superheroes co-written by Guggenheim and wife Tara Butters, with art by Ryan Bodenheim, and The Mission, written by Jon and Erich Hoeber with art by Werther Dell'Edera, about a man who takes orders from a mysterious angel. Guggenheim sees Collider as a way to develop ideas by fellow screenwriters, but stresses that the goal is to produce good comics first before moving them into other media.
A third new line of comics at Image is being spearheaded by producer Michael Benaroya (New York, I Love You), which will eventually release six titles, starting with Blood Merchant, which follows a man who deals blood to vampires who gets burned by a bad shipment. Industry veteran Dave Elliott is editing the line, which is being offered for multimedia development.