Crime, Horror and More: Ted Adams talks IDW Publishing

[IDW]IDW Publishing is one of those formerly little companies that slowly and methodically has turned itself into a force in the comics industry. The publishing arm is a division of a successful creative service company called Idea and Design Works, LLC. Owned and operated by Ted Adams, Alex Garner, Kris Oprisko and Robbie Robbins, the company's main focus has been advertising, with clients like Sony, CBS, Lego, Upper Deck, Degree and many others. While the early focus was on creative services, the company expanded into comics publishing about a year and a half ago when artist Ashely Wood called his friend Ted Adams to see if he'd be interested in publishing his art book "Uno Fanta: The Art of Ashley Wood." IDW decided to give it a go and things took off from there.

"Uno Fanta" did well for IDW and soon after they announced the publication of Wood's quarterly graphic novel "Popbot." Then Steve Niles came calling with "30 Days of Night," which helped put IDW on the map. The company has published a wide variety of books from names like Paul Lee and Adam Huntley ("Lurid," "Art of Armitage"), Chuck Dixon ("The Vanishers" and "Invasion '55"), Beau Smith ("Wynonna Earp"), and the WizKids licensed book "Mage Knight." Then this last August IDW made a major announcement, revealing they'd nabbed the rights to publish a comic based on the hit CBS television series "CSI." Written by "Road to Perdition" author Max Allan Collins with art provided by Ashley Wood and Gabriel Rodriguez, the announcement took most fans by surprise. The cross-promotional potential was instantly seen by the industry and IDW's profile got a bit larger.

So, who is IDW Publishing and what are the goals of the company? CBR News caught up with IDW's Ted Adams to learn more about the company and where it's headed.

The company creed is a simple one, "We want to publish high quality books done by creators that we respect," said Adams. While that brief statement may be simple, the business of running the company isn't. IDW is focused on building relationships with retailers and working hard with Diamond Comics Distributors in an effort to get the word out on their books.

"Beau Smith [IDW's VP of Marketing and Sales] and I have worked with Diamond for over 12 years," Adams told CBR News. "It's an organization filled with people who love comics and who work incredibly hard to make sure things are done right. I have nothing but respect for the gargantuan job they take on. They're worth every penny they make.

"Beau works with retailers on a store-by-store basis. We really focus on the big shops because it's very difficult to get the attention of most small retailers. We stood from the rooftops telling everyone that '30 Days Of Night' was going to be a hit and were completely ignored. We took a huge financial risk and overprinted initial orders by 100%. Now the first issue is one of Wizard's Top 10 Hot books and can only be found for silly prices on eBay. What we wanted was for the book to be ordered in reasonable quantities and for consumers to have a chance to buy it at retail price.

"The same thing is about to happen with Mage Knight: Stolen Destiny #1 and I'm sure it'll happen with our 'CSI' comic."

Not only was "30 Days of Night" a sleeper hit at comic shops, it's headed for the big screen. Last July Steve Niles told CBR News that the book had been optioned and would be Executive Produced by "Spider-Man" helmer Sam Raimi.

Adams and Smith understand the tough jobs retailers have when selecting material for their stores and do their part to help.

"We try to support retailers in a variety of ways: we produce promotional postcards for most of our titles (cards that retailers can give away to their customers), full preview copies of #1 issues, and 24" x 36" retail posters for key titles (so far 'Mage Knight' and 'CSI'). We also do targeted print advertising and build buzz via the Internet, Wizard, and within our own titles.

"The problem is retailers have to choose from thousands of items every month and everyone tells them their books are going to sell. I hope that, as we build a solid track record, more and more shops will carry our books."

IDW's big push this December will be for the five-issue "CSI" mini-series. The publisher landed the rights to the comic through an existing connection with CBS. Parent company Idea & Design Works created Upper Deck's "Survivor" trading card game and from that relationship spawned the "CSI" deal. Adams tells CBR News there are two very good reasons why his company wanted to do a comic based on "CSI."

"It's the #1 show on TV, it's intensely compelling genre-storytelling, and because I want to prove that licensed comics don't have to suck."

A "CSI" comic presents a major opportunity to promote comics in the mainstream press and IDW is not sitting idling by. Adams says we should expect to see a lot of buzz about the book in the coming months.

"CBS has been an amazing partner. CBS's marketing and promotions department is really behind the comic and there will be press all over the place. The comic has already been featured in USA Today, CNN, E! Entertainment Television, and dozens of newspaper and magazines.

"We will have a 3-page story in TV Guide that will coincide with the release of the first issue. It'll be a self-contained story written by Max Allan Collins with art by Ashley Wood. That preview story will have a blurb that drives TV Guide readers to comic shops for the first issue."

As for future editions of the comic, Adams told CBR News that it's a bit too early to say what will happens, but if the first "CSI" mini-series performs well they'll certainly be doing more comics based on the Vegas team. Currently there are no plans to do a comic based on the "CSI" spin-off, "CSI: Miami."

The licensed properties don't stop there. IDW has already released the first issue of "Mage Knight: Stolen Destiny" based on the popular WizKids game. Additionally, Adams tells us IDW has shown interest in obtaining the license to produce comics based on the upcoming "Terminator 3" movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I went to a 'T3 Summit' about a month ago and we're still interested in the comic rights. The movie's going to be huge and I think it's a great license. I'm a big fan of the movies and would love to publish comics based on the character. I honestly think they'll end up going with a bigger publisher (and probably have already made their choice). I think we'd do the best job with the property, but size does matter to some folks."

What's next for IDW? Adams spelled it out for us.

"We have a lot of exciting things planned for the first part of 2003.

"We've already discussed 'CSI,' which is a 5-issue miniseries written by Max Allan Collins and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez and Ashley Wood. Ash is doing the covers for all 5 issues and we'll be producing a secret rare photo cover for each issue. The first issue ships in January and the photo cover features Gil Grissom (William Petersen).

"January will also see the release of the '30 Days of Night' collection. This is going to have a bunch of all-new pages and an introduction by Clive Barker. We're incredibly proud of this book and I think everyone that couldn't find the comics will finally have a chance to see what the excitement is all about.

"We'll be doing a bunch of new projects with Steve Niles. Most of them are still top-secret, but I can tell you that Steve's going to be partnering up with Ash Wood on an all-new graphic novel."

Another book currently in the works coming from IDW is "The Art of Sam Keith." "This is going to be a huge book, a complete retrospective of Sam's career and will include a ton of never before seen art (including a bunch of stuff from Sam's sketchbooks). The format we've got in mind is the same as the Bernie Wrightson art book, 'A Look Back.' In addition to all the art, the book will be full of interviews with Sam and the folks who've been a part of his comic and movie career. No date yet because we want to have it completely done before we even think about soliciting it. I guarantee this is going to be a book that every comic fan will want on his bookshelf.

"We're also close to announcing projects with several top-name creators and a book with one of the most influential retailers in the business."

[Ted Adams with Sam]Finally, while not related to the business of IDW, but definitely related to the business of Ted Adams' life, something big happened four weeks ago: He's a new father. Sam joined the Adams family pre-mature at only 27 weeks, a little over 2 months early. It's been four weeks since his birth, Sam is now 31 weeks old, and as you can see he is doing well. Adams tells us that Sam is currently in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit and will spend another 9 weeks in the hospital before coming home. All of us here at CBR wish Mom, Dad and Son the very best.

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