Bases multiplatform shingle on comics

After shepherding installments of several high-profile franchises including “Friday the 13th,” “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “X-Men” at New Line and Fox, Jeff Katz has ventured off on his own to launch genre label American Original.

Referring to the company as a “nerd machine,” American Original will produce movies, TV shows, Web projects and graphic novels. Katz has inked a deal with Top Cow Prods. — which was behind “Wanted” and vidgame “The Darkness” — to publish the comicbooks.

Company will initially launch two divisions. American Original Press will publish up to 10 comicbook titles per year, with the goal of adapting them as films, TV shows, Web series or games; American Original Entertainment will serve as the production arm.

Ben Austin, a former New Line, Fine Line and Fox staffer, will be director of development.

Katz will own and produce all titles under the American Original label, with Top Cow’s Matt Hawkins and Marc Silvestri exec producing select books.

Company’s advisory board includes director Richard Donner, producer Ralph Winter and former New Line distribution chief David Tuckerman.

Aim is put more control in the hands of creatives by pairing up with them to publish a library of graphic novels in order to generate a fanbase around the properties, and then use that established awareness to set the projects up at studios.

Strategy isn’t that unusual from that those of other companies that have ventured into the comicbook space, but Katz’s shingle will share ownership of the properties with the creators and pay out a percentage of any coin generated by the projects across the various platforms on which they appear.

“The genre audience has been derisively labeled with a variety of names — ‘fanboys,’ ‘geeks’ and the like,” Katz said. “While the bad news is that we are only a niche, the good news is that the future of entertainment is a future built on niches. This audience is expanding and is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new entertainment model.”

Katz recently was a production executive at Fox, where he worked on “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”He ankled the studio last year to set up the new shingle.

He landed at Fox after rising up the ranks at New Line, where he began as an unpaid intern after becoming pen pals with company topper Bob Shaye. While there, he shepherded such pics as “Freddy vs. Jason,” “Snakes on a Plane” and “Shoot ‘Em Up,” also as VP of production.

Katz also has established himself as a comicbook scribe, having written “The Wicked West” for Image Comics and co-written DC Comics’ “Booster Gold” and Wildstorm & Dynamite’s “Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash.”

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