'Wanted' producer launches comicbook co.


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After turning to comicbooks as a source for tentpoles, "Wanted" producer Jason Netter is getting into the publishing biz, launching Kickstart Comics.

The company, an imprint of film and TV production shingle Kickstart Entertainment, has already locked down a distribution pact with several major retailers, including Walmart, to produce at least 24 new books over a year. The initial plan is to release four books a month for six months starting this fall.

Naturally, the books are being eyed as potential adaptations as a TV show or film.

Comicbook vet Jimmy Palmiotti and Larry Young, owner of graphic novel-producer AIT/Planet Lar, will oversee and edit the initial run of Kickstart's books.

With marketing support from the likes of Walmart, Netter is trying to eliminate much of the nerdy stigma that still hovers over the comicbook biz. He believes the bigger stores will help get more of the titles into the hands of the masses "through a new, more expansive distribution than comicbooks have had in the past," Netter said, and not just those who visit smaller comicbook stores.

"This is a way to introduce comicbooks to a broader audience," he added.

The comicbook deal represents Walmart's latest retail expansion after spending considerable coin to remodel the electronics sections of its stores to hype its entertainment offerings and reach out to a type of consumer that may not have normally shopped at the retail giant.

At the same time, upping the exposure of Kickstart's books -- and other graphic novels -- would help turn the titles into more well-known properties when a film or TV version eventually hits the screen.

Studios have been eager to adapt comicbooks or graphic novels, believing that the books already boast a built-in fanbase along with their drawn out characters and developed plotlines.

Netter has several comicbook adaptations set up as films at studios around town, including a sequel to "Wanted" and "The Red Star" at Universal; "The Boys" and "Preacher" at Sony; "Monster Attack Network" at Disney; and "Robotech" and "Hench" at Warner Bros. "Crossed," set up with Trigger Street, also has Mike De Luca aboard as producer. The company's TV credits include "Painkiller Jane" for Syfy and the animated "Wolverine and the X-Men" for Nicktoons. It also produces the "Speed Racer" and "Voltron" toons for Nicktoons.

"Graphic novels are just great material," Netter said. "But tons of people aren't exposed to this material."

Netter is just the latest producer to become more active in deciding which books hit the market.

Sam Worthington, who recently formed his own shingle Full Clip Prods., with Michael and John Schwarz, last week announced the first series of titles to hit shelves through a publishing deal with comicbook publisher Radical Studios.

Those include "Patriots," which Worthington co-created with John Schwarz and Morgan O'Neill, about the sacrifice of one of Earth's continents in order to save the other six.

One of the first books Kickstart will launch is "Bad Guys," penned by Phil Eisner, described as a twist on the superhero genre that's told from the point of view of villains. "Rift Raiders," written by Mark Sable, is a time-travel adventure in the vein of "Goonies," while Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin's "Hero Complex" centers on a superhero who has to move back home with his parents. "Witch," from Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, is the story of a teenage girl who discovers that she is a witch.

Netter had already been experimenting with getting into the books biz, with "Random Acts of Violence" published by Image Comics in May. Palmiotti, behind issues of "Jonah Hex" and "Painkiller Jane," and Justin Gray ("Jonah Hex" and "Monolith") created the graphic novella about two comic creators whose ultimate horror character creation has gone very wrong. Last year, it published the graphic novel "Back to Brooklyn," created by Palmiotti and comicbook icon Garth Ennis ("The Boys" and "Preacher") through Image Comics.

"The financial model (of publishing comicbooks) isn't great," Netter admitted, with many books lucky to sell around 5,000 copies. The real money comes when they're turned into movies, TV shows and videogames. "Breaking even isn't even in the cards with the initial release. You definitely have to love it." 




WHAT IT'S ABOUT: Comic book creators Ezra and Todd have a critical and commercial hit on their hands in the form of "Slasherman," their first creator-owned horror series. The two embark on a signing tour to promote the book, launching a contest for readers to create their very own "Slasherman" scene.

Over the course of their trip, it becomes increasingly clear that "Slasherman" has inspired a wave of violence, one that reaches all the way to Ezra and Todd's doorsteps.

WHY IT WORKS: From start to finish, Palmiotti and Gray's "Random Acts of Violence" is a brilliantly crafted tale of horror that leaves the reader feeling thoroughly disturbed — exactly the way a horror story should. With compelling characters, realistic dialogue, shocking twists and copious amounts of gore, "Random Acts" is a great ride for any horror fan. While some have argued that the film industry is over-saturated with comic book adaptations at the moment, "Random Acts" is an interesting case in that it deals with the dangers of fiction and what these stories can inspire in their readers. For my money, "Random Acts" seems like an interesting work to put in the public conversation at this point in time.

WHY IT DOESN'T: Mainstream moviegoers have had some difficulty embracing R-rated comic book fare. "Watchmen," though mostly well-received, performed poorly at the box office, just as "Kick-Ass" failed to achieve the type of success many expected it to. "Random Acts" could meet a similar fate, if only because the hard-R nature of this story absolutely cannot be toned down without completely gutting the message. That said, "Wanted" maintained an R-rating and managed to do tremendously well at the box office. Given that, "Random Acts" could go in either direction.

HOW TO DO IT: Because it wouldn't require splashy special effects or even big name actors, a "Random Acts" adaptation would work best as a low-budget horror film along the lines of "Saw." Put the project in the hands of an up-and-coming filmmaker (Jason Eisener of "Hobo With a Shotgun" comes to mind) and "Random Acts" could find itself an instant favorite amongst horror fans — something that's more than fitting given the Slasherman character's own cult status.

FINAL WORD: There's more than enough blood, guts and gore in "Random Acts of Violence" to excite any hardcore horror fan, but at its core, this is a story about hijacking creations and twisting them into your own vision. "Random Acts" is filled with interesting, thoughtful ideas that many readers would benefit from pondering — and it certainly doesn't hurt that these ideas come wrapped in a blood-soaked package.


Random Acts Reviewed


Review by Chris Partin / THE COMIC ADDICTION

Two friends decide that they want to make a comic book.  They decide that one will write it and the other draws it.  The book is called “Slasherman” and it’s a pure gore-fest of a slasher comic.  The book becomes a sensation and the two creators hit the road to promote the book, meet their fans, and discover that sometimes life imitates art a little too much.  That is basically Random Acts of Violence in a nutshell.  Believe me, there’s much more to the book than what I’ve said, and I think I should leave it that way. 

Palmiotti and Gray have put together one crazy ride in just 70 pages.  This book hits all of those suspense beats so well it just makes you want to keep reading.  I don’t think this was a pure horror book because there wasn’t that sense of horror in it and I hope I wasn’t misreading that.  I think there are a lot of shock and awe moments where it looked like our writers were just trying to gross you out from the scene.  If that’s what they were going for – gold stars all around! 

I think one of the best things about this book isn’t the Slasherman aspect of the book, but the way the world is introduced to the character – as a comic book character.  The way this story unfolds and some of those little touches, like the Mark Waid story that is told, are great moments that really make the book enjoyable on a variety of levels.

The art in this book by Giancarlo Caracuzzo, Paul Mounts, and Bill Tortolini is something to behold!  I first saw Caracuzzo’s art in the pages of Last Resort, another Palmiotti and Gray penned book from IDW Publishing and I just wanted to see more of his work.  It’s hard to say that I like one book over the other, but I think Random Actsis such a great overall piece.  Mounts’s colors really are muddied and provide so a dark mood and then you turn the page and there’s a lot of bold and striking colors that provide such a punch to the pencils and inks.  Much like Last ResortRandom Actsmakes me want to see more from this artistic team for sure!

Overall, Random Acts of Violence is not all blood and gore.  There’s a solid story in it about two friends working hard to fulfill a dream of making comics.  They get lucky and create something that really takes a hold of the industry.  Their only problem, it takes a hold of some people a little more serious than others.  I think this is a great book and should definitely be checked out, but it is definitely a ‘mature reader only’ book due to the graphic nature of the story. 

Rating: 8 out of 10 (On Its Way to Greatness!)

Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray
Artist: Giancarlo Caracuzzo
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Bill Tortolini
Publisher: Image Comics 

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