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.
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.
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.