In an interview on G4’s Attack of the Show, Jeff Katz, a studio executive who has worked on X-Men Origins: Wolverine among others, and has written for both DC and Image Comics, speaks on his announcement for a new comic company that he believes will be a better business model for creators, which he calls American Original. Since it wants to start up on me, just check it on my Vodpod page. Variety has more about it, as does Newsarama.
It sounds good in theory, but without announcement of what titles they plan to make, all they have is a business model. Giving the creators full rights to their character, as far as I know, is already done by Image and Dark Horse. Where American Original Comics plans to be…original, however, is how those creator-owned intellectual properies (IP) is marketed into other media, through the other half, American Original Entertainment.
This where my second concern comes in.
With American Original, Katz is helping geeks take advantage of their new-found power by borrowing a deal-making structure from Hollywood. In the film industry, it’s common to hear about deals called “first-dollar gross after cash break-even.” In comic books, that kind of deal is non-existent. But according to Katz, that model will be the basis of everything American Original does.
“What that means is, all I have to do is recoup my up-front nut on the print side, be that in print or through an ancillary deal, and those creative talents, once that hits break-even, their corridor kicks in for them for the next, hey, hundred years for all I care. They get to collect a piece of gross. They can sit in their underwear and make money,” he said.
“Through the life of the intellectual property, I make a toy deal, I make a video game deal, I make a movie deal, I make a toothbrush deal – through the life of the IP, they see that property; they get that gross. All I have to do is break even on my initial print run.”
This sounds good an all, but one of my gripes (and others) with DC and Marvel are that they aren’t writing for the comic, but for the IP, and want to keep them at their “marketable” state. This is why characters not only don’t advance, but take huge steps backwards. They created a character for the express purpose of knocking Wolverine back to his primal self the moment he starts not sucking finding peace and love, and not the hippie kind. (Oddly, although I saw it the recent Saga freebie, I can’t find the info anywhere. Doesn’t anyone update?)
So what happens with all this IP on the comics front? Will the series ever get to grow, or will the character be stuck in a Peanuts-style trap of never aging, and never being more than they are? It works for a comedy like Peanuts or The Simpsons, but isn’t so good for an adventure series. Some reviewers of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures even noted that the girls advanced more in six issues than some character have in six years! Barring that, will the creators and writers and whomever be making a comic or just a promo for the movie, TV series, or video game they really want to make, but haven’t had any takers? How does that benefit the comics industry if it turns into a sales pitch to Fox, Capcom, or MGM?
I agree with the principle, but will this really benefit comics as a whole, or just push IP and will the IP be worth paying attention to? It may be good for the creators, but what about the rest of us?
(Yes, I plan to be a “creator” myself, but right now I’m a “rest of us”. Even then, I’ll still be a reader/viewer wondering why the stories are bad, filled with unnecessary sex and violence, cursing, and poor writing to the point where I stop giving a fig. Show me your content, Jeff. Then I’ll decide if I’m impressed.)