Ask any creator, and they’ll tell you: breaking into comics takes help.
But while who you know may be a big part of landing paying gigs as creators, the same rule can hold true for starting up a comics publisher. This week, comic shop patrons will get their first look inside Kickstart Comics – a brand new publisher of original graphic novels -Â and as anyone who’s heard about the development of the company to date knows, Kickstart is positioning itself for a splash in the comics market thanks to the help of some big names. Not only are the company’s initial wave of graphic novels edited by industry veterans Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young, but the the titles will also be distributed this month in retail giant Walmart.
The person who hooked up Kickstart on the editorial and retail end is Hollywood producer Jason Netter, who runs the comic imprint as part of his larger Kickstart Entertainment company. CBR News spoke with Netter just as his team’s efforts go public, taking a first look at the quartet of launch titles -Â “Mirror, Mirror” by Joshua Williamson and Lee Moder, “Rift Raiders” by Mark Sable and Julian Totino Tedesco, “Hero Complex” by Adam Freeman, Marc Bernardin and Javi Fernandez and “Bad Guys” by Phil Eisner and Agustin Padilla – as well as his purpose for getting into comics publishing after making multiple Hollywood comic adaptations, what Walmart means for the company and how for now the comics will take focus over any eventual movie projects.
CBR News: Jason, before we got into some of the specific titles and issues surrounding Kickstart Comics, I wanted to learn a little bit more about your history as a comics fan. What was the first comic you ever got into? What’s the first comic you went after in Hollywood for adaptation?
Jason Netter: Though I enjoyed reading comics as a kid, I didn’t fully become immersed in the comic world until I worked on the “Babylon 5” series. In one of the first seasons, Michael J. Straczynski was looking to adapt a comic property called “Grimjack.” I began reading the issues and started to really love the characters and the world. This led me to look at other titles and my love for comics began. Kickstart Productions started as an animation and visual effects company. When the company decided to expand into content development, comics were a natural fit due to the artistic nature of the content.
After successfully bringing comic properties like “Wanted” and “Painkiller Jane” to the big and small screen, why start your own publishing company?
We have longstanding relationships with some of the most talented creators in the comic industry, such as Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis. We have always stressed the importance of creator inclusion in the adaptation process. It seemed natural to take these relationships to another level and start creating new properties together. We initially dipped our toe in publishing when we released two original properties through Image: “Back To Brooklyn” by Jimmy Palmiotti and Garth Ennis and “Random Acts Of Violence” by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray. We enjoyed the process and experience and decided we wanted to publish more regularly.
Overall, what’s the guiding principal behind this endeavor on story terms? Is there something that makes an idea or a project specifically a Kickstart comic? Is adaptability into other media a factor in what you’ll be publishing or some other overriding theme?
Our main goal is to try and expand the traditional comic book market. The plan is to develop and publish ideas that will appeal to a broad audience. Our titles are diverse with a focus on expansive worlds, strong characters and interesting premises.
These days, it’s common for companies to start up entirely for the purpose of getting movies made. The impression I’ve gotten from Kickstart, however, is that while movies are a part of the plan, getting these books into consumers’ hands will also be a goal in and of itself. Can you tell me about what the company’s expectations are for comics as comics as their own stand alone medium?
Film and TV may be a natural bi-product of making a good book, but our first goal is to make a good book that stands the test of time.
An important question for the creative community with publishers like this is always whether the person their working for operates as work-for-hire or has some kind of participation in the copyright of what they produce. What can you tell us about IP ownership and participation as it will be seen through Kickstart Comics?
We feel strongly in creator participation, and our deals reflect that belief.
A big part of your launch announcement was the fact that Kickstart’s book will be distributed through Walmarts. How are you looking to leverage that opportunity into new readers?
We are excited our books at Walmart stores nationally. Walmart weekly foot traffic is massive, [so] our books will be exposed to a mass audience which we believe will lead to an expanded audience for our books and hopefully for the industry as a whole.
Getting back to the nitty gritty of the books themselves, you’ve got two well-known names in the comics game helping to put together the line. What’s the working process been like on these titles in terms of having Jimmy [Palmiotti] and Larry [Young] take the editorial reins, and what kind of directive did you give them as publisher?
We value experience and the creative expertise of individuals who personify the industry. Jimmy and Larry are the best at what they do and their mission is to deliver books that deliver creatively. We have been very fortunate to have a strong relationship with Jimmy Palmiotti and it was a natural choice to work with him to help us launch our new line. Jimmy was key in helping us find some really talented artists for our titles and has helped to ensure the quality of our product. Larry Young has also been a longtime friend. His finger is on the pulse of the independent publishing space and we benefited from his expertise on several titles.
Let’s talk about each of the four launch titles hitting in November for a moment, starting with Joshua Williamson’s “Mirror, Mirror.” I know you’d optioned Williamson’s “Dear, Dracula” comic before Kickstart Comics was a going concern. Did you two start talking back then about other ideas, and what was it about “Mirror, Mirror” that struck you as a solid launch title?
We are going to be publishing two titles by Josh, “Mirror, Mirror” and “Endangered,” due out next year. Josh has great ideas and brought us very strong concepts. “Mirror, Mirror” is a title that brought back some of the great treasure hunting adventures that we all grew up with in the Indiana Jones franchise. Anchored by a strong lead character, we see this as a fun way to re-explore the world of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The storytelling and artwork is stunning.
Mark Sable is a name well known to a lot of comic readers. What is it about his style that made him a good fit for Kickstart Comics, and what drew you guys to the sci-fi teen drama of “Rift Raiders?”
As a production company, we had approached Mark on several of his titles in the past. Mark is a great storyteller, and when we heard the concept for “Rift Raiders,” we really wanted it to be one of our first titles. Partnering Mark’s writing with Julian Totino’s artwork has proven to be a brilliant move. The book is spectacular!
There aren’t many flat-out superhero titles in the Kickstart lineup at launch, but Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin’s “Hero Complex” seems to fit that traditional genre, as did the supervillain story of Phil Eisner’s “Bad Guys.” Do you have a set of standards for superhero books you’ll publish in the generally more mainstream-focused comics line, and how did each of these titles fit that bill?
Again, our mission is to reach a wide audience, so I think you will agree our lineup is very diverse. Ranging from superhero to time travel. The appeal of these two titles you mention was the fact that they were both a twist on the superhero genre. With “Hero Complex,” the guys wrote a hilarious comedy that explores the downside of being a good guy. The old adage “Crime Doesn’t Pay” might not quite be true. In a time of self-promotion, sponsorships, press, etc., just being a good guy can lead to being broke!
Finally, Kickstart Comics will release 24 titles over the course of the next year. What would you say your broad goals are for that first year of publishing?
We couldn’t be more pleased with how the books have turned out. More importantly we believe we have established an exciting new model for publishing which is fundamentally based on collaboration with the creative community and wide exposure of their works to an expanded audience.
The four launch titles for Kickstart Comics go on sale in comic book shops this week and nationally in Walmart and other retailers this month.