A couple of weeks after I posted my article on comic books and the movie industry ( The Future of the Comics Business? – Part I) I received an email from Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, Chairman of Platinum Studios (I cited Platinum as a possible model for this "future") asking when Part II would be posted. My short answer is soon, but I took that opportunity to trade a few emails and was lucky enough to speak with Scott (and Dan Forcey, Platinum’s Marketing and Communications Manager) and get a better idea of what’s happening at Platinum Studios.
First some general impressions. As I wrote in the earlier post, Scott’s a guy who has had some success in Hollywood. He brought MEN IN BLACK to the big screen and JEREMIAH to HBO. He’s got a number of movies in various stages of development. He’s a Hollywood guy. Except…after my 90 minute phone conversation I didn’t come away thinking I’d been talking to a typical Hollywood guy. (And I know a few – remember I live in California, we grow “Hollywood Guys” like Nebraska grows corn, and if that’s not enough, we import a few.) Rosenberg is more of a comic book guy trying to make comic book movies in Hollywood. He also comes across as very savvy about the comic book industry and the realities of seeing a comic book from paper to film, and, despite that knowledge, is surprisingly upbeat about the whole process.
Rosenberg was on the comics-to-film bandwagon going back to his days as the founder of Malibu Comics where he was able to steer Night Man to the small screen and Prime towards a full blown movie deal. He would later sell Malibu and its bank of popular Ultraverse characters to Marvel. To this point the Marvel Universe has not been kind to Ultraverse characters as they seem to have fallen victim to some sort of internal gag order preventing the use of anything not of 100% Marvel whole clothe. (See this Rich Johnston Lying in the Gutters column for more clarification – at least as much as Rich, Scott and the Ultraverse creators could bring to it.) All of which likely leaves “Prime the Movie” perpetually orbiting some ring of development hell and a slew of promising characters and premises locked away in a Marvel filing cabinet.
With Platinum Studios Rosenberg is leveraging his combined experience as comic book publisher and film producer to create a library of properties aimed at finding their way to the big and small screen. This includes the Macroverse, a detailed, broad ranging comic book universe - conceived in a similar fashion to the Ultraverse (i.e. with a large, experienced creative team generating an extensive universe “bible”) – that already has several properties in film development despite not having actually published a book as yet.
Books are coming -- hopefully some this fall -- but I think Rosenberg and Platinum can be forgiven for placing a bit more emphasis on the film side of the equation, especially considering the relative time to market for the two products and the potential return. I assume Platinum could start putting books out any time they wanted, but in a crowded market it seems prudent to wait until they can back a book’s debut with as much external marketing as possible. As a comic book buyer are you more likely to buy COWBOYS AND ALIENS because it’s in production or in the process of filming or because it’s written by Fred Van Lente, whose ACTION PHILOSOPHERS comic you loved almost as much as I did? Be honest now, because I know just how many of you actually bought ACTION PHILOSOPHERS.
Of course not everyone is willing to cut Rosenberg the same slack I do and I think it has been a source of mild frustration for him that announced deals are quickly followed by “what happened” and “where’s the comics” commentary. Maybe some of that is deserved -- at least from the standpoint of there having been very few branded Platinum comics so far -- but I question the fairness of Heidi MacDonald referring to the company’s “oft-delayed graphic novels”. Is something that simply hasn’t come out yet “delayed”? Has Platinum made any actual promises that they’ve failed to deliver on? (I’m truly asking here since that’s a question I failed to ask Scott both on the phone and in follow up – next time around maybe.) Or is this just an expectation that since movie deals are being cut based upon presumably written comics there should be some product soon to follow?
By the end of our conversation we had covered a lot of ground and although ostensibly the idea was that I was interviewing him, there was a great deal of back and forth – so much so that I had to remind myself several times to shut up and let the man talk. But Rosenberg was a good sport about it, possibly because we share similar viewpoints regarding comics as movie properties - especially that it doesn’t take a 100 watt icon (i.e. Batman or Spiderman) to create a successful comic book movie, even in the action/adventure genre.
In any event, things seem to be happening at Platinum at a record pace, as new movie and television deals are popping up left and right, including the most recent announcement of a new picture deal with Atmosphere Entertainment to produce a movie based on the graphic novel KILLING DEMONS by Peter Siegel and Brent White. (More on this later.) In 2004 Platinum signed and exclusive deal to develop Top Cow properties and they’re doing just that with WITCHBLADE, MAGDELANA and THE DARKNESS deals now in place and in various stages of production. Platinum is also putting the finishing touches on a variety of deals surrounding Hexagon Comics, a French comic book company with a library of about 500 characters and 50 years worth of stories. As I understand the deal, Platinum has essentially acquired the multimedia rights – allowing them to do everything except publish Hexagon Comics in the US. (Which appears to be the province of Black Coat Press and isn’t something Rosenberg is too interested in anyway, feeling the European style of comic book doesn’t always translate well to the American market.)
You would kind of figure that with the Macroverse, Hexagon, Top Cow, several other internal initiatives and any number of indie comic deals, Platinum would have their plate full. And yet they’re one of handful of established companies that will listen to unsolicited comic book pitches from first time creators. In fact they encourage these type of contributions, feeling that their editorial is strong enough to help you make your great idea a viable comic. There are two hitches: first, if your idea doesn’t translate well as a potential movie pitch, Platinum probably is not interested (although they may suggest some changes) and second, no capes and tights. The Macroverse has that covered. So if you have an idea to throw around, Platinum’s transom is pretty inviting. (Ironically, Platinum does not read spec movie scripts.)
So color me impressed. Scott and Dan followed through on everything they said they would with me – plus some. They gave more of their time than this blogger really deserved and I guarantee I got more out of the conversation than whatever the value of the favorable impressions I impart to a relatively small readership. Truth is, I think they really enjoy talking comics and comic book movies even with bloggers who don't know when to shut up. And Scott, that second part to my original Future of Comics post? It’s coming soon, I promise.