About 15 years ago, Hollywood was just starting to take notice of independent comics. Sony won a bidding war for a new comic called 30 Days of Night from a new publisher called IDW. It put the IDW and the creators Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith on the map. It started the trend of every creator and publisher looking at their comics as intellectual property that could make money as television or films, justifying any money lost on printing comics.
But things continued to change with Marvel becoming their own studio then joining with Disney and DC already owned by Warner Bros. It means that any other studio that wants to get into comics has to look at Indie publishers. This year’s San Diego Comic Con was the perfect example, one that the Wall Street Journal noticed.
Michael Lovitz, an IP lawyer who we’ve interviewed here on BC before and who hosts panels at the conventions on copyright laws, spoke about how it works now.
Independent creators can typically expect option deals that initially pay less than $10,000 with the promise to deliver a five or six figure check if the project actually gets produced. The options typically last from a few months to a couple of years before lapsing. There is a caveat to the deals: rarely do they result in a major production getting made. Many producers scoop up numerous options, hoping one in a few dozen might hit.
Four of the top ten highest grossing films of the year are based on comic books and executives want to green-light movies that have a pre-existing audience in another medium.
Brett Thompson of IronKlad Studios said that IP is the prime thing being sold at Comic-Con, and he left interested in two new projects.
While Patriot Pictures’ Michael Mendelsohn told WSJ that they go to the independent publishers and left the show interested in five projects.
Years ago I was speaking with an editor at one of the big companies about the industry. He said that for a long time every new publisher wanted to be the next Dark Horse and follow their model of publishing a mix of new properties and licensed projects. Then after 30 Days of Night all the new publishers wanted to be the next IDW. I think that has changed again into a hybrid of the two… you grab some license properties to pay the bills while you put out a few new IPs that you can sell to Hollywood. The kind of thing BOOM! is doing… and what IDW is doing now.
The Wall Street Journal took a look at this because of the business angle, but from a comic fan perspective… are new indie comics nothing more than illustrated movie / television pitches now?