'Wanted' producer launches comicbook co.

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.”

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