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On Nov. 15, Hollywood power lawyer Skip Brittenham, senior partner of leading entertainment firm Ziffren Brittenham, publishes Anomaly: The Rubicon, an epic sci-fi graphic novel that serves as the sequel to his 2012 collaboration with partner Brian Haberlin. The years-in-the-making project features 264 pages inside a glossy hardcover book measuring 15 inches by 10 inches, paired with an app to fully explore the world that was introduced in the first installment.
At first glance, the look of the futuristic project — featuring a male and female lead navigating through space in an epic story of adventure, heroism and discovery of what it means to be human in a world overrun by technology and bureaucracy — appears most similar to the box-office dud Valerian: City of a Thousand Planets. So what does that do for Rubicon’s big-screen chances? “I think it hurts,” Brittenham explained to The Hollywood Reporter in a recent telephone interview. “But it’s a completely different story. I don’t want to comment on that movie other than to say that it didn’t resonate deeply enough.”
He adds that it’s “incredibly difficult” to compete with what Disney is doing with Star Wars and Marvel properties, though he and Haberlin aren’t intent on pushing the Anomaly franchise into movie theaters. “I am trying to do something fun, cool and entertaining. If it works in any other medium, great. If not, fine. I spend no time thinking about that. I have no big aspirations about getting this stuff up on the big screen. We do have interest in developing properties for TV.”
Brittenham seems just to enjoy flexing his creative muscles on the ambitious project. That, and his partnership with Haberlin.
Congratulations on this sequel. It’s so impressive. How long have you been working on it — and where did you find the time?
For me, it’s a fun thing to do, a challenge and a hobby. I have a day job. The second [book] took a couple of years. I wrote the storyline about two years ago and then we worked on art and dialogue. I think it turned out to be more relevant now than when I wrote it. It’s about the top, less than 1 percent, controlling society and everyone else serves as slaves with fundamentally fewer rights. The female lead is a rich shareholder who comes to the moral determination that her peers are in the wrong, so she leads a revolt against the upper class. It’s kind of like where we seem to be heading toward more and more every day. (Laughs.) She gives a speech where she talks about inequities and lack of opportunity and how the interplanetary economy is collapsing because so few people have a stake in their success. The only reason they are supported at all is because humans keep conquering and exploiting new worlds. They do it in such grotesque manners and they don’t care about what happens to those worlds. The original premise is that we’ve destroyed Earth with climate change and pollution so we have to live on other worlds in order to survive.
Take me back, when did you first realize that this is something you wanted to do?
I’ve always loved comic books. I have a vast collection of comics and graphic novels.
I don’t know, it’s pretty big. (Laughs.) Hundreds of comics and I don’t know how many graphic novels. But this got started following a discussion with my wife about creativity. She basically said if you want to do something, do it. That kernel kicked off the whole thing — to try something different. I have the attention span of a gnat. I’ve been involved in tech investing and a bunch of companies that I helped set up. This seemed like a challenge and so I did it and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m a terrible personal artist but I see things in my head. I came up with Anomaly and found Brian and got in business with him. I really like Brian, he’s a great guy and very easy to work with. We started out with one project and then built an entire comic book company.
How did you find Brian?
What happened is that you can go online and look at artists, flip through magazines and books of art to find someone that fit what I wanted to do. I saw his art and thought that it fit what I wanted to do. He’s better than any other artist that I saw. I just cold-called him, and he returned my call. But he basically told me that he was too busy because he had been offered an imprint from Marvel. He lives in Laguna Beach and he was coming to town to give a speech so we met up anyway. I think he was hoping to help out some of his out-of-work artist friends, but after seeing what I wanted to do, he decided that he really liked it. But he would’ve had to turn down this other thing. He asked for some time to sort it out, and eventually, he turned down the other opportunity to do this. Brian is really one of the most respected artists. He has a whole library of projects that he’s done. It’s a great match. To me, it’s about having fun and doing something that I find interesting. When the two of us work together, we have fun.
The fun is not cheap here. The book sells for $99. Why $99?
The quality of printing at that level is so expensive. We’re not making that much money considering the mechanics of what we’re doing, having artists working on it for three years.
You did something special for comic book lovers by releasing the book early exclusively to comic book stores. Why did you do that?
We wanted a two-month exclusive to comic book stores because we wanted to honor the comic book community and do what we can to help keep those stores in business.
What have the sales been?
I don’t know. He handles all of that.
Your first installment was acquired by Relativity and had Joe Roth on board to produce. What’s the latest with the film adaptation?
Joe is still playing with it. We are dealing with a Japanese anime company to do it as an anime series. They are working on it now, and working on some visuals.
What projects have you been a fan of recently?
I must confess I do love what Marvel has done. They have done a remarkable job with that IP. My favorite movie was Guardians of the Galaxy. Really one of the more original and brilliant movies I have seen. I watched it in my screening room and then got some friends to come over and see it again for a second viewing. Marvel and Disney have done a masterful job. Jungle Book was genius. They’ve done a brilliant job with Star Wars. They are doing great, superior stuff. I really liked Wonder Woman, too.
How do your clients or associates feel about your work on Anomaly?
Everyone is very supportive, but I’ve never asked anyone to be supportive. I’ve never used my connections to push it along. That frustrates my partner a little bit, but I won’t do it. I want [success] to come on the merits of the work without [my influence]. Ninety percent of the work is [Brian] and our group. They are the ones doing all the hard work, and I will do anything I can do support Brian because he works 24/7.
Speaking of franchises, how many more installments do you see for Anomaly?
I see at least two more, because there are three things going on at once. There is the conglomerate and there is the revolution of the underclasses and this other, much more powerful telepathic race that has come into the picture that could destroy all of humanity if we don’t satisfy them.
A version of this story first appeared in the Nov. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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