Whatnot, a startup ecommerce platform built around live-selling and collector communities, is expanding its reach into publishing by partnering with the celebrated science fiction/fantasy comics publisher Heavy Metal in a wide-ranging agreement announced Thursday at New York Comic Con.
According to the deal announced today, Whatnot Publishing will publish nearly a dozen upcoming Heavy Metal titles, including the flagship Heavy Metal magazine, starting in early 2023. The deal includes distribution to the direct market (aka comics shops) and the book trade.
Whatnot, founded in 2019, has attracted the attention of the investment community, raising nearly $485 million in several rounds of venture funding over the course of the pandemic. Whatnot is an online marketplace that specializes in collectibles such as trading cards and Funko Pops collectible figures, as well as comics and publications.
This summer, the company launched Whatnot Publishing to bring out original content, with announced titles from notable comics creators including Kevin Eastman, David Mack and Jim Mahfood. It’s first release, Alpha Betas, a print comics series about an elite group of gamers that enter virtual realms to fight apocalyptic forces, is also tie-in to a popular new animated series. The title was the top new comic book series in America on Diamond Distributor’s sales charts over the summer with 45,000 retailer orders.The company also announced Exiled, a new graphic novel release from action star Wesley Snipes (with art by Gabriel Eskivo) coming next year.
Matthew Medney, Heavy Metal Entertainment’s CEO, told PW the new agreement with Whatnot constitutes a significant cost savings for Heavy Metal, while providing the new publishing enterprise with a credible beachhead in the collector-oriented comics business. Medney said the deal marks a new chapter in Heavy Metal’s long history. “We see this partnership as the start of a brave new age in mainstream counterculture by Heavy Metal.”
“Not only will our ability to serve the direct market and book channels exponentially increase, gaining access to a legion of potential new fans and readers is an extraordinary opportunity,” said Heavy Metal associate publisher Kris Longo.
The first HM release under the agreement will be Crashdown, a graphic novel written by comics podcaster and influencer Tom “Comic Tom” Garcia and Ryan Sargeant with veteran comics artist Ben Templesmith (30 Days Of Night). The first wave of titles will also include Heavy Metal magazine’s 321st issue in early 2023, which will relaunch as Volume 2, #1 of the long-running magazine (effectively a monthly graphic novel book) with a worldwide cover price of $9.99, part of a tiered pricing plan for retailers and subscribers that the publisher will provide more details on in the future. Also look for the long awaited Ranx (formerly called RanXerox), a collected edition of the celebrated 1970s punk sci-fi cult comics series by Stefano Tamburini and Tanino Liberatore, and a collected edition of Medney’s Dark Wing science-fiction series, which has been in talks for a media adaptation.
Michael Calero, publisher of Whatnot Publishing, said “Heavy Metal is an institution with over 40 years of history in the comic marketplace, and we are excited to have the opportunity to become part of that storied tradition while finding new and exciting ways to reach potential readers. We envision a future where legacy readers and new fans come together to create a Heavy Metal community unlike any the brand has seen.”
Correction: The amount of investment funds raised by Whatnot was noted incorrectly as a much lower figure in an earlier version of this story.