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The boom in comics periodical publishers over the last few years has a first casualty: Double Take. The division of video game company Take Two Interactive, which was headed by former Marvel publisher Bill Jemas will shut down at the end of the month. The news was first reported at Bleeding Cool and independently confirmed by The Beat.

Double Take had a very unorthodox publishing model: bundled monthly packs of 10 titles all spinning out of Night of the Living Dead, a public domain zombie tale. The books were often plotted by writers whose main experience was live storytelling (see  Storytellers From ‘The Moth’ Join Jemas and Double Take for ‘Living Dead’ Line.) The shut down appears to have been sudden, as just last week the publisher announced four new titles, and at New York Comic Con they had a huge giveaway of 10,000 free graphic novels. 

In a subsequent post, BC quoted an unnamed industry insider with a story of how the line was originally supposed to adapt Take Two games such as X-com, Civilization and BioShock, a plan that was scuttled due to personality conflicts and business concerns. This led to a hasty plan of adapting Night of the Living Dead in a series of interconnected books, according to the insider.

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Double Take tried a lot of innovative marketing and format initiatives– Jemas has always been a trailblazer and he had some intriguing ideas here.  But the material wasn’t that strong and lacked recognizable creator names. (You can read the first issues of all 10 titles here for free to see if you disagree.) Selling bundles and books outside the DM seemed like a good tactic but with other publishers putting out stellar work, competing creatively is a key to survival. Although Double Take had deep pockets, that could only go so far. Jemas as also rumored to be seeking an investor to buy the company, although that rumor was expressly denied by Jemas.

I’ve been waiting for one of the newer comics publishers to bow out for a while now, and Double Take isn’t the only one that has had hiccups…or had to look at the financing to see how long they would remain viable. The comics publishing business overall is good, but, again, it’s a highly competitive market creatively, with few sure things. I doubt that Double Take will be the only casualty over the next 12 months.

And as for Jemas? I doubt we’ve heard the last of him.   He’s got comics in his blood.

 

16 COMMENTS

  1. Was 10 titles too many out of the gate? Sounds like it could’ve been. If they started with 3 and grown slowly they might have lasted longer, but who knows?

    It’s clear that they took risks in reaching a larger market it must have burned through a lot of money.

  2. — 2015 —

    “We need someone for comics.”

    “I saved Marvel!! I wrote MARVILLE!! I’m the most famous used-peanuts dealer in the world!! I did unspeakable things I’m still hated for decades later!! People danced in the streets when I fled to South America!!”

    “Excellent. You’re hired.”

    — 2016 —

    Ding-Dong!!

  3. Those books were based on NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?

    Man. Would have been nice if the trade dress even hinted at that. Because nothing says “grisly horror” like mostly-white, clean block-letter logos and a design that looks like supermarket-brand mac and cheese.

  4. XCOM could make a great comic, but the inherent problem I see with it is that there’s no real reason its premise would *need* to be an XCOM comic. Ultimately, it’s about a bunch of military grunts trying to repel an alien invasion, making hard decisions, and dying in very large numbers. It’s a fantastic hook, but you don’t need the XCOM brand to tell that story; it might even be a liability.

  5. I mean, nothing about the line made a whole bunch of sense. It was alternate comic sequel to a several decade old movie with the intent of making it into a shared universe line WITH some fairly major genre shifts (such as adding super hero stuff) and WITHOUT having the guy (Romero) responsible for making the original.

    I mean, I get that there’s a market for some of these niches independently, but to have them all at once from a minor publisher is a bit ridiculous.

  6. Has anyone actually read any of these? I’ve never heard anyone online talking about them.

    Also, looking over various online preview, many did not look… of professional calibre.

  7. They certainly saved a lot of money on inkers…

    Having flipped through the on-line versions, I’m half curious how they formatted the print comics, though. Did they also do the weird (read: awful) lettering at the bottom of the panel? (Saves money on competent letterers when you can just typeset something at the bottom of the panel…)

  8. I read some of the books. They weren’t any worse than your average Marvel or DC comic. The bigger problem is the comic publishing business isn’t very good unless you can make it to trades and have a TV show.

  9. @Chris Hero

    “I read some of the books. They weren’t any worse than your average Marvel or DC comic.”

    This is like saying you see no difference between a Star Wars movie and a Troma film: clear evidence of an utter lack of discernment in, or understanding of, the medium. They were, without doubt, the worst comics I have ever seen a nominally professional and well funded publisher put out in the past ten years.

    The craziest part is some much of the work was in fact done by professional comics artists, but the end products all ended up having a shitty homogeneity. But then, everything wrong with them can be laid at the feet of Bill Jemas deciding he could completely reinvent the artistic process for creating comics without hiring comics professionals. Every single member of their core staff, the writers who worked with Jemas, the guys who storyboarded the books, the editors, the production designers, the guys who did the work behind the harebrained scheme of producing storyboards that would be later composited together into comic pages—literally every full time, salaried employee—had zero professional experience producing comics.

    It’s utterly unsurprising that Double Take failed. What is surprising is that someone gave Jemas the go ahead with a scheme that seems to be built almost entirely around indifference to and contempt for the medium, the industry, the professionals who work in it, and the readers who buy the product.

  10. Double Take’s books were poorly designed and badly drawn. I’m surprised they lasred this long. Jemas should have published fewer books and hired professional creators.

    Steve

  11. Double take is only.the first of several recent small publishers that will be closing over the next 18 months during the speculation correction the comic sales market will experience.

  12. http://doubletakeuniverse.com/internal/

    If you all are curious about the comics, here’s the internal site the employees use. You have access to all issues.

    It’s not all of talent’s fault. The layout artists did what they could while Jemas fucked things around because he’s better and smarter than experienced, schooled storytelling professionals…. And then he outsourced the pencils to cheap labor.

  13. I’ve read all 10 issues of all 10 titles. Nothing groundbreaking, some better than others, but none were absolutely terrible. A few were even mildly entertaining. There were some strange subplots going on in a few of the books, and some of the main plots were quite different. I suppose though, that’s why they held some mild appeal for me.

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