Marking what could be a massive shift in how studios perceive independent comic book companies, 20th Century Fox has signed an innovative first-look deal with Boom! Studios and its recently acquired imprint, Archaia Entertainment.
Boom! is the publisher of 2 Guns, the comic that was adapted into this summer’s Denzel Washington-Mark Wahlberg action hit; Boom!’s principal Ross Richie was one of the movie’s producers.
Archaia, with editor Stephen Christy at the helm, already has several books set up at Fox, most notably Rust, a robot adventure that has Rio director Carlos Saldanha attached to make his live-action directorial debut and a script by Aline Brosh McKenna.
The pact potentially could be one of the most lucrative underlying rights deals ever made with a comic book company. According to insiders, as part of the new pact, Boom!, in an unprecedented move, will get first-dollar gross on the movies made from its properties, with those earnings being split 50-50 between the publisher and the adapted comic’s creator(s).
“In an era where Jack Kirby doesn’t get paid for The Avengers, we are bringing the Jack Kirbys into the circle,” said Richie. “They can use our expertise in the field while they focus on being creative.”
With Marvel and DC already connected to studios (Disney and Warner Bros., respectively), Fox and its divisions, such as Fox 2000 and Fox Searchlight, can now gain access to a vast library from a fast-growing publisher that, unlike the Big Two, is constantly creating new intellectual property. Marvel and DC rarely create new characters, opting instead to focus on recycling or brand-managing old favorites like Iron Man (Marvel) or Batman (DC).
And Richie and Christy won’t be passive participants. They will act as producers on the projects.
Boom! also will gain access to Fox’s back catalog, where it can pick and choose films to reboot in comic book form. The studio could then take those reconceived titles and use them to develop remakes, with Boom! acting as a producer.
“Boom!/Archaia has emerged as a publishing powerhouse devoted to original, innovative storytelling and world-class artists,” said 20th Century Fox production president Emma Watts. “Along with our recent deal with Epic, this relationship reinforces Fox’s commitment to attracting top-tier talent with smart, commercial content, as well as supporting a new breed of producer.”
The Boom! deal isn’t the first pact a studio has made with a comic company. Universal had a first-look deal with Dark Horse, but that produced only R.I.P.D. and has since expired. A problem with Dark Horse is that while it does publish creator-owned books, it only retains rights to a select few.
The incentives to partner with some other imprints are similarly unenticing. For example, while Image Comics is a powerful force in the industry (it publishes The Walking Dead, among others), the creators of its titles own their respective rights and there is no central hub to deal with, giving rights acquisitions an a la carte feel.
The Fox-Boom! deal closed Tuesday and was six weeks in the making. It was set in motion when Fox exec Mark Roybal stopped by the joint Boom!/Archaia booth at July’s Comic-Con, walking away with a stack of books. Impressed with the breadth of the publisher’s catalog, Roybal requested an initial meeting, with the idea of a first-look deal emerging from early discussions. 20th Century Fox exec Ryan Jones also had a pivotal role in bringing Boom! in.
The partnership likely would not have happened if Boom! and Archaia had not merged in late June. That deal created a stronger company with an even deeper library. And Fox seeing scribe McKenna turn to Archaia to write a graphic novel after her experience with Rust was also a plus.
The new pact is a strong indicator of creative aggressiveness from Fox, which is reestablishing its identity after the ouster of co-chairman Tom Rothman.
CAA and attorney Matt Saver repped Boom! in the deal.