SYDNEY – After nearly 12 months of talks, Aussie distribber Network Entertainment has inked a co-production and international distribution deal with the USA’s Image Comics subsid Wildstorm Prods.

It is Network’s first major equity in a feature. The pact gives Network international video, terrestrial TV and feevee distrib rights outside North America (which are owned by Disney’s Buena Vista Home Video) to “Gen 13,” an animated feature based on the bestselling comics created by popular artist Jim Lee with Brandon Choi and J. Scott Campbell.

“Gen 13,” which is the first production from Wildstorm Pictures, is produced and directed by Kevin Altieri, whose previous credits include Warner Bros.’ “Batman” animated series.

Due for delivery in August, “Gen 13″ portrays five teenagers who find they have been given superpowers as part of a government experiment. After escaping from their government captors, they become super-powered fugitives. Disney also plans to release a live action version of the story sometime in 1998-99.

In less than a year, Network has transformed itself from a medium size video sell-through distribber to a serious investor in global TV and video copyright. It raised nearly $10 million from a public share offering and listing on the Australian Stock Exchange in early December and recently scored exclusive Aussie video and DVD rights to 250 of the U.K.’s Rank Film Distributors library of classic films.

In that mid-December pact, Network also secured Aussie and New Zealand theatrical, video, feevee and terrestrial TV rights to two forthcoming Rank/Orion features, the $22 million Joe Pesci starrer “Eight Heads in a Duffel Bag” and “Independence,” the $14 million feature debut of “Lois & Clark’s” Dean Cain, which also stars Drew Barrymore.

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