Walker & Co. has teamed with the Savannah College of Art & Design and the estate of famed TV writer Rod Serling to produce a series of graphic novels based on the original scripts for the classic TV show The Twilight Zone. The venture was initiated by SCAD's Industry Partnerships program directly with the Serling estate; SCAD faculty and students will produce the books and Walker Books for Young Readers will publish and distribute. The venture calls for eight graphic novels (two each season, beginning in October), with an option for four more titles. The deal coincides with the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of TheTwilight Zone, which will be celebrated in 2009.
It's the first graphic novel deal for Walker (although not for its parent Bloomsbury USA) and makes Walker the latest New York trade book publisher to establish a line of book-format comics. The deal resembles the venture between the Center for Cartoon Studies and Hyperion Books for Young Readers, which has produced a series of nonfiction comics biographies.
Anna Burgard, director of SCAD's Industry Partnerships program, worked in book publishing for both Harcourt and Time-Life trade books, and said she saw the potential for a deal when she arrived at SCAD in 2003. Burgard has a background in licensed properties and series publishing and, after contacting an original Twilight Zone writer and Carol Serling, who oversees the Serling estate, she pitched the graphic novel series to Walker at the Bologna book fair in 2004.
SCAD's sequential art (or comics) department has about 400 students, Burgard noted. “We have pencilers, inkers and letterers—all the layers of people you need to produce a graphic novel.” Students and faculty will work on the project, including department chair John Lowe and faculty member Mark Kneece, comics veterans who have worked for DC Comics, Marvel and other publishers. “Part of our mission is to prepare SCAD students to work in the marketplace,” said Burgard, adding that other SCAD departments have book deals with such publishers as Clarkson Potter, S&S and Chronicle Books.
Emily Easton, publisher of Walker Books for Young Readers, was quick to note that she is a “lifetime fan of the Twilight Zone, and said, “Zone fans are a lot like comics' fans, so it was a perfect match and a way for us to get into the graphic novel market.” The books will also be released in the U.K. through Bloomsbury, beginning with four books in January.
Easton said the house is not setting up a comics imprint and is using SCAD like a graphic novel packager. “It lets us see whether this is viable,” she said about the entry into comics. Macmillan will handle trade distribution, and Diamond will distribute to the comics shop market. Burgard added that she is in discussions with the Serling estate about cross-promoting the graphic novels during the Twilight Zone anniversary celebrations.