Somewhere in the Long Slog Of 2013’s Comic Book Movie summer, I probably suggested that 2 GUNS might end up being the most important film in terms of how Hollywood deals with comics properties (relatively low budget non superhero fare); how true that will be remains to be seen but it DEFINITELY was the most important film for BOOM! Studios. They’ve just signed a first look deal with 20th Century Fox, that, at least in the hype rollout, sounds promising in terms of how it involves comics creators:
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.”
The deal involves not only properties from BOOM! but from its recently acquired Archaia projects, with both BOOM! president Ross Richie and Archaia E-i-C Stephen Christy very involved. You should really go read the whole piece by Borys Kit, but it points out the advantages to Fox in having a deal with a relatively nimble youngish comics company: new IP is being created all the time. Archaia’s RUST is already in development at Fox, with Carlos Saldanha attached to direct. (I should note that 2 GUNS came out from Universal, in a deal that was very lucrative for both BOOM! and writer Steven Grant.)
The deal was inspired by a Fox exec’s trip to the BOOM!/Archaia booth at San Diego, where he picked up a stack of books and said, “Hey look at all these cool comics!” Okay, maybe he didn’t say that, but for sure he thought it. While Fox has the X-Men and FF franchises locked up at this point, they don’t have the synergy behind those properties that Disney does. So picking up their own comics library is the Hollywood equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses. Some recent executive turmoil at Fox also leaves it in a position to make some deals.
BOOM! also gets to go through old Fox properties and develop them as comics, which could then be used to reboot the movies franchises. (A variation on this plan was in place a few years ago when I worked at Fox Atomic, which also pacted with BOOM!, so Fox has been in this game for a while.)
The piece also includes a bit of snark at the expense of Dark Horse, whose deal with Universal is RIP after the total failure of RIPD, one of summer’s biggest bombs. Image is too much of a crazy quilt of rights, making Boom-chaia jussst right, in porridge terms.
To give this a little more of a fisking, most “creator participation” deals elsewhere do give creators a piece of the pie—I hadn’t heard of them getting first dollar gross pie via these deals, though. Most contracts call for participation in the “net”—profit after expenses, which in Hollywood accounting can be never, in many notorious examples. First dollar gross is the El Dorado of participation deals, so good for BOOM!-Archaia on going there.
From my observation deck, the Image deal is still best for people who can do it soup to nuts—you get 100% of the deal without sharing it with a publisher. However, for those who want a more structured set-up, this seems like a viable option. Even allowing for Hollywood hype, setting up a deal where creators get significant participation is a good move all around; it gives BOOM!/Archaia a good bargaining chip to bring in creators, and hopefully establishes this as an industry norm.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.