Zappa, Katleman, Beranek and Disney team for graphic novels

What the–nearly 15 years after the in-house Disney Comics imprint died an inglorious death, Disney has just announced a NEW graphic novel pact, with Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek. Zappa is a long time comics fan who’s been hanging around the scene for years. Katleman is a TV exec vet from Twentieth. Beranek is the guy behind Silent Devil Studios.

Apparently this deal includes the ability to develop properties from the Disney vault. Can we just say as one: THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH and THAT DARN CAT! Anything with Patrick McGoohan.

PR below.

The Walt Disney Studios has signed a multi-year deal with Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek to oversee the newly christened Kingdom Comics, an innovative new venture of developing graphic novels to create new film projects for the Studio as well as re-imagining and rejuvenating motion pictures from the Disney live-action Vault, it was announced today by Oren Aviv, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Production.

Kingdom Comics will soon announce some of the top graphic novelists and artists in the genre who will collaborate on upcoming projects. Disney Publishing Worldwide, the largest distributor of comic books in the world, will have the first opportunity to distribute publications created by Kingdom Comics.

Commenting on the announcement, Aviv said, “We’re very excited to be working with Harris, Ahmet and Christian in developing this new business devoted to creating stories and properties for the graphic novel audience, as well as for moviegoers. They are three of the top talents in their respective fields and together they have the knowledge, expertise and instincts to create great publications and film properties. Some of these exciting publications will be inspired by films and characters in the vast and storied Disney library, while other original graphic novels are sure to spark great ideas for future Disney classics. Our vision for Kingdom Comics is to bring a fresh, contemporary approach to Disney properties that already have a strong connection with moviegoers and readers all over the world, and to add to that storytelling legacy.”

Zappa added, “The ability to create new publications based on properties from the Disney vaults, and to develop original ideas for graphic novels and possibly future Disney films, is a dream job filled with enormous fun and potential. Being a storyteller myself, I can’t wait to work with some of today’s top writers and artists in bringing a fresh approach to graphic novels and the movies. We’re also excited to discover and develop promising new talents in this field.”

Katleman said, “I have been involved with my share of exciting projects and worked with lots of great talent over the years. Working with Ahmet and Christian in creating Kingdom Comics for Disney is as exciting as anything I’ve ever done. We’re all looking forward to working with Oren and his team in developing some fantastic new projects for the printed page and the silver screen.”

Beranek added, “Graphic novels continue to have an enormous following all over the world and we’re hoping to bring something new and different to those devoted fans. There are a lot of great stories waiting to be told, including some familiar properties residing in the Disney vaults. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and we can’t wait to get started.”

Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa, the third of four children born to the late rock musician/composer Frank Zappa and super-powered psychic witch businesswoman Gail, started out as an actor on such shows as “Roseanne” and “Growing Pains.” This led to feature film work and a run as a host on many popular reality shows. In 2006, he sold the rights to his first novel, The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless, to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. He is currently writing the second installment in that series, and executive producing “Fraggle Rock” with The Jim Henson Company.

Harris Katleman served as president and CEO of Twentieth Television from 1980 to 1992, during which time the Studio developed such landmark programs as “L.A. Law,” “The Simpsons,” “Anything But Love,” “In Living Color,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.” (in association with Steven Bochco Productions), “Civil Wars,” and “NYPD Blue.” He also oversaw production on the final four years of “M*A*S*H,” and “Trapper John,” and guided the development of “The Tracey Ullman Show,” and “Picket Fences,” among others. Following his tenure at Twentieth Television, he joined Mark Goodson Productions as Chief Operating Officer (1993-95), followed by a stint as Chief Operating Officer and Partner in Jonathan Goodson Productions. Katleman continues to be in partnership with Jonathan Goodson Productions. His recent credits include executive producing the syndicated shows “Forgive or Forget,” “House Calls” and “Dirty Rotten Cheater.”

An accomplished writer and editor, Christian Beranek formed his own publishing company, Silent Devil, in 1996, and turned it into an indie powerhouse, producing such hits as Dracula vs. King Arthur and Super Frat. He parlayed that success into consulting for companies such as Universal Music Publishing, Harley Davidson, AOL, and Mazda on graphic novels and their value as both intellectual properties and marketing devices. As a writer, he penned the origin of John Doe for the New Line/Zenescope series Se7en and scripted the creator-owned franchise Willow Creek. He recently finished the latest draft of the “Dracula vs. King Arthur” screenplay.

The deal was negotiated by Steve Katleman of Greenberg Traurig.

Tokyopop: Hey, dude, totally bad contract!


UPDATE: Check out Johanna’s list of Tokyopop’s greatest mistakes over the past two years:

The reviews are in! And Tokyopop’s online contract for the new “Manga Pilot” program has been dubbed everything from “appalling” to “vile” to “the most childish and disingenuous legal document I have ever read.

What is it? Basically, Tokyopop has started the next iteration of their “Rising Stars of Manga contest/OEL” method of developing IP and talent, with their “Manga PIlot” program:

In this new program, promising manga creators are selected and hired by our editorial team to create a 24-to-36-page “pilot”—a short-form manga that will be used to determine whether or not a full-length manga will be created. The Manga Pilot will be published online for TOKYOPOP community members to review, rate, and discuss.

The contract for this program is posted at the link above, and it drew sharp, immediate and universal condemnation, starting with Lea Hernandez, for such passages as this:

“Moral rights” is a fancy term (the French thought it up) that basically has to do with having your name attached to your creation (your credit!) and the right to approve or disapprove certain changes to your creation. Of course, we want you to get credit for your creation, and we want to work with you in case there are changes, but we want to do so under the terms in this pact instead of under fancy French idea. So, in order for us to adapt the Manga Pilot for different media, and to determine how we should include your credit in tough situations, you agree to give up any “moral rights” you might have.”

To which Lea wrote:

There you have it, folks: Moral Rights are dumb because the French thought of them, so give them up.

Normally mild-mannered Bryan Lee O’Malley then stepped in with a crushing condemnation:

I’m going to go through this piece of shit with you, because I’m sure a lot of aspiring cartoonists read my blog and I want to do my part to help you all have a future.

Read my bloggy lips: if you sign this contract, say goodbye to THE FUTURE.

I’m not going to speculate about where they’re being untruthful. I’m just going to let them say what they’re saying. It’s bad enough.

[Read more…]

2008 Manning Award nominees


Comic-Con, the nation’s largest comic book and popular arts convention, announces this year’s nominees for the Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award (or The Manning Award as it is more commonly referred).

The Manning award has been given out annually at the San Diego Comic-Con since 1982. It is presented to a comics artist who, early in his or her career, shows a superior knowledge and ability in the art of creating comics. It is named for Russ Manning, the artist best known for his work on the Tarzan and Star Wars newspaper strips and the Magnus, Robot Fighter comic book. Russ was a popular guest at the San Diego convention in the 1970s. The first recipient of the award was former Manning assistant Dave Stevens, Others to have received the award include Jan Duursema, Steve Rude, Scott McCloud, Art Adams, Eric Shanower, Dan Brereton, Jeff Smith, Gene Ha, Alexander Maleev, Goran Sudzuka, Eric Wight, R. Kikuo Johnson, and David Petersen.

The 2008 nominees are:

Fred Chao, writer/artist of Johnny Hiro (published by AdHouse)

Barry Deutsch, writer/artist of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (self-published)

Cathy Malkasian, writer/artist of Percy Gloom (published by Fantagraphics)

Mukesh Singh, artist of Shadow Hunter (published by Virgin Comics)

Christian Slade, artist of Corgi (published by Top Shelf)

The nominees were selected by a committee consisting of representatives of the West Coast Comics Club and Comic-Con International: San Diego, and the winner will be chosen by past Manning award winners and Russ Manning assistants. The recipient will be announced during the Eisner Awards ceremony on July 25 at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

More information about the Manning Awards can be found at