A couple of weeks back word broke in the Hollywood press of a deal between Platinum Studios (the producers behind the “Men In Black” films and Showtime’s “Jeremiah”) and Gold Circle Films (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”) worth about $200 million, in which the duo would produce 10 comics based films with an estimated budget in the range of $12 – $25 million dollars each. It’s the largest production agreement of its kind for comics based properties.
The first four projects have already been chosen, all properties already held by Platinum. Beginning production as early as next year, they include the thriller “Seen” by Scott O. Brown and artist Michael Flores (himself a Comic Book Idol I finalist). A second thriller called “Casting Shadows.” The third is “The Book of Mercury” based on the Awesome Comics stories by Alan Moore about a book with the power to rewrite the future. Finally, the fourth comic soon to find its way to the big screen is “In Law & Order,” created by Rob Moran and written by Joshua Elder.
That’s only four of a potential ten feature films and Platinum is looking for more properties to bring to the big screen under this deal. CBR News caught up with Platinum Chairman Scott Rosenberg to learn more about precisely what kind of comic properties they’re looking for.
“Most of the films will be horror/thriller or high concept comedies,” Rosenberg told CBR News. “In terms of the budgets, think of almost any horror movie or comedy that doesn’t have a $50 million dollar actor in it. All of the normal teen comedies, the normal high concept broad comedies and almost any horror or thriller fall into that range. There’s a huge appetite for horror, thriller and comedy and we honestly don’t have enough to pull from.”
But why limit the selection process to just comic concepts? Couldn’t this just as easily be opened up to screen writers and the like?
“We like to base things on comics, it’s the geek in me, and I always like to see money go into the comic book industry,” said Rosenberg. “So, one of the things we really like to do is get the word out to comic creators. We still have a first look for TV animation with Disney and we’re doing things with all different sorts of budget ranges with the different studios, of course.
“We may do some with video game characters. We know [Gold Circle] wants that and we’re close with a lot of game companies, but I was born a comic geek and really want to do anything to help propel the industry. That’s why as we publish comics we don’t really want to do anything that takes market share. That’s why we release through Image or Top Cow or any publisher. At Malibu Comics [Rosenberg founded Malibu Comics in the 1990s] we did the market share games, we were successful, I was thrilled, but we don’t have any ego when it comes to that. That’s why half of what we work on isn’t even generated from us. It’s from Top Cow or from the Awesome Comics library or any comics that are out there. We especially like the indy world. If you look at our old line-up from Malibu it was always 50-75% indy stuff. Even ‘Men In Black,’ which was from a first time comics writer. If it’s a comic that’s already published that someone’s pitching us, it doesn’t matter to us if it was a strong or low seller. I mean, ‘Men In Black’ was a very low seller. What makes a difference to us is do we love the story and do we want to with the creator.”
Creators looking to pitch Platinum should check out their submissions page. And as Rosenberg has noted, published and unpublished properties alike are up for consideration. “As long as it’s going to eventually be a comic, whether we produce it or they put it out through someone else, we don’t care,” said Rosenberg.
Platinum already owns the rights to a large library of published and un-published properties. The four comics properties mentioned above and scheduled for production fit easily into that $12 – $25 million dollar budget, precisely why there were selected. And unlike some producers, Platinum is careful not to announce an option on a book until they know the concept is set-up and will go into production.
“We’re not setting up just to ‘set-up,’ which I know a lot of people do,” said Rosenberg. “We want to get them made. That’s why we want to get word out to creators of what kind of things we’re looking for. With this fund we could do a film like ‘The Punisher.’ It’s an action movie that happens to have a comic book setting. There’s nothing inherently expensive in the concept. No one fly’s, there’s just not that kind of stuff. That’s the kind of stuff we’re looking for as opposed to something like our ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ which will probably be well over $100 million at Sony.
“What we like to do is be very strategic and make sure we’re not burning properties when we’re talking with studios,” continued Rosenberg. “With Gold Circle in particular, we know the different countries that they need the projects to work in. We know the shooting issues of where production needs to be so that tax wise it works out. That’s why when you look at all the smaller studios such as New Line (which is owned by Warner Bros., but can produce things that cost less and still look as good), they have fewer layers and are more able to take advantage of all the different tax situations. They don’t have the bigger budgets, so they figure out how to work with that. We get that and that’s what Gold Circle loved about us and we loved about them.”
The question many comic fans have is, where are the comics? Platinum has lined up a number of comics projects, but most haven’t seen publication yet. Rosenberg said that starting next summer, as these projects ramp up to production, you’ll begin seeing some of their properties on comic store shelves.
“We’ve been partly waiting on some of the projects because we’d like to wait until closer to the time of release, such as books that are part of our Macroverse like ‘Unique‘ or ‘Cowboys & Aliens,'” said Rosenberg. “Then we get all the additional marketing behind it.
“What we try to do with creators is we know that comics don’t pay that well and what we care about is the story and we’re not looking to conquer the world by putting out monthly issues. We’re happy with graphic novels and mini-series. So, we go with passion and if it’s a first time writer it’s honestly going to take a lot longer to write because we’ll end up going through draft after draft with them. If it’s a pro comics writer and it’s the kind of project that we like, but not necessarily the kind that Marvel or DC would like and would pay more, we understand that sometimes we’re going to take a back seat and we’re willing to do that. We’re willing to go with a creator even if we know it’s going to be a year, year-and-a-half before it’s all written and drawn. At Malibu we were known for being on time, we had a monthly publishing schedule and we knew we had to feed that. Now, we don’t have that issue. It’s producing the stories that we love.”
Rosenberg said that most of the books will probably end up coming out through Top Cow or Image. If a creator wishes to self-publish or go with their favorite independent publisher, they’re also fine with that. “I don’t know if the Platinum logo’s even going to go on the book because to us that’s not a big deal,” explained Rosenberg. “We’ll be on the toys, the movies, we’ll be on all of that. I don’t want to do anything that takes away from another comics publisher. If there’s any reason why it would harm that publisher’s sales, it won’t happen.”
In other words, they’re not currently interestedg in jumping into the physical publishing business.
“We’re a publisher in that we’ll pay for it, but the labels don’t matter to us,” said Rosenberg. “With projects that take place in a universe that’s shared, like everything in the Macroverse, yeah there’ll be an indication that it’s intertwined, but all of them will be ones you can read without knowing that. We don’t care about saying we’re Platinum Comics, that isn’t the thing. If it helps to brand because they’re intertwined we’ll push the hell out of that, but our name on the cover to us is not a big deal.”