Producer Katz flips switch on nascent 'nerd machine'


Studio executive turned comic book author turned producer Jeff Katz has launched American Original, an entertainment company aimed at supplying content across multiple platforms for geek consumers while providing services to creators working within the realm.

The company, which Katz sees as a "nerd machine" and hopes will be a voice for the comic book industry within Hollywood, will consist of multiple divisions, including publishing and film/television production.

American Original hits the ground running with its publishing division, American Original Press, establishing a partnership with comic book publisher Top Cow Prods.

The goal is to put out as many as 10 titles a year with the intent of building a print library that could then be developed for film, TV, Internet and gaming platforms.

Katz will own and produce all titles, with Top Cow's Matt Hawkins and Marc Silvestri exec producing select titles. In return, creatives will be offered a percentage of the gross revenue over the life of the intellectual property, a rarity in comic book circles.

"Pre-awareness and library are the keys to everything these days, but you also need to remunerate creative talent in creative ways," Katz said.

Another division, American Original Entertainment, will focus on developing original and adapted properties to be set up at studios or networks. Katz has hired Ben Austin, an exec with stints at Fine Line, New Line and Fox, to act as director of development.

American Original also has assembled an advisory board that includes Richard Donner, Ralph Winter and former New Line distribution chief David Tuckerman.

Katz parlayed his love of horror, superheroes, video games and wrestling into a development job at New Line, where he oversaw "Freddy vs. Jason," "Snakes on a Plane" and "Shoot 'Em Up."

In 2007, he moved to Fox, overseeing "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." At the same time, he waded into comic books, penning DC Comics' "Booster Gold" with Geoff Johns, "Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash" and its sequel. He quit last year to strike out on his own.

"It's as much a movement to me as a company," Katz said. "The status quo is shifting to favor our positions, and so let's act now. We can be passive, or we can drive our futures forward." (partialdiff)