New comics publisher season is in full swing now, with the reveal of Artists, Writers, & Artisans (AWA) a new company led by Bill Jemas, Axel Alonso, Jon Miller and their pals – including the return of J. Michael Straczynski. The NY Times has the reveal – although apparently thee books have writers and no artists? Come on now. As reported earlier, Jemas has raised $5 million to fund this line.

AWA is aiming for something between the two: It will have interconnected superhero comics like DC and Marvel as well as stand-alone series like Image. And all of its creators will have a financial stake.

It’s an approach reminiscent of old Hollywood. “The model here really is the old United Artists model, where people who are actually doing the creative have ownership, control and decision-making power over the work that they’re doing,” said Bill Jemas, a former vice president of Marvel who is the chief executive and publisher of AWA. Joining him at the helm are Axel Alonso, a former editor in chief at Marvel, as chief creative officer and Jonathan F. Miller as chairman. Miller helped broker a deal in 2017 between the comic book writer Mark Millar and Netflix, which bought his library of characters for development on the streaming service. Jemas and Alonso say the first of AWA’s titles will arrive some time this fall.

Jemas is the former publisher or Marvel Comics (during the Ultimates era, and where he hired Alonso as a senior editor), and was last seen in comics with the Double Take line, a publisher funded by video game company Take Two. Double Take had a very unusual distribution model – bundled comics sold in dedicated displays – which didn’t really catch on, nor did the shared universe set in the public domain world of Night of the Living Dead. AWA is a bit more traditional thus far, but has some new wrinkles on the formula, including a creative committee:

To help shape the comics, the publisher has a creative council, which includes the screenwriter and director Reginald Hudlin, the novelists Margaret Stohl and Gregg Hurwitz, the comic book writer Garth Ennisand J. Michael Straczynski, a screenwriter and co-creator of Netflix’s “Sense8.”
Straczynski took a sabbatical from comics about three years ago, but kept busy working on multiple projects: an autobiography, a novel and a screenplay, adapting his Rising Stars comic book series for MGM. “I was open to returning to comics if the project was something challenging, so when Bill and Axel approached me about creating an entirely new, cohesive, shared comic-book universe, the prospect was too much fun to resist,” he wrote in an email. Straczynski has developed the origin point of AWA’s superheroes.

Alonso is the former eic at Marvel and had a long career at Vertigo before that, so you can see some of the echoes of that era in the creative line-up which is….not what you expected.
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Peter Milligan and ACO on a tale about “highly trained operatives of huge corporations.”
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Christa Faust pens the tale of a mother searching for her daughter. Cover is by Tim Bradstreet. No interior artist announced.

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Frank Cho. Do I really need to say any more? Women with taut, muscular legs fight for the title of queen of the galaxy.

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Michael Moreci writes the story of a rogue angel. Art here by Jeff Dekal.
JMS will also be developing an interconnected superhero universe for AWA.
As mentioned in the NYT story, new publishers Ahoy Comics and TKO Comics recently debuted, and creators are having to dig deep into their desk drawers to find concepts for all the new publishers popping up.
As I write this, comics twitter is having a field day with this announcement, including some shade from current Vertigo personnel.
At any rate, Jemas, Alonso and JMS are always good for a quote, so things are about to get very colorful again.

24 COMMENTS

  1. Who decided that Frank Cho is a writer? Why won’t publishers just explain that he is not a writer, have a writer work with him, and produce content that isn’t awful?

  2. Well Zach, possibly because there are so many mid-list publishers trying to court talent with a following, that someone is bound to let Frank Cho do whatever he wants. But what am I doing bringing logic into a comments section?

  3. Bill Jemas is one of the single most worst people in comics; a man who set Marvel comics down on the path that is destroying the comics industry today. He is a bully and a thug, who did nothing but step on people, and he’s the REASON I had to sue Marvel comics for breaking their Terms of Sale (I won) because he has zero respect for any retailer. His last attempt at publishing (Double Take Comics) crashed and burned hard and if there is justice in this universe, this one will too. its a small number of people who should be run out of comics by any means necessary: Bill Jemas is at the tippity-top of that list.

  4. @Mark Milligan on Facebook, Cho said he wants to return to Liberty Meadows in three years or so. He has a ton of projects to work his way thru before returning to it but he does plan to get back to it. The guy’s work is amazing tho. If you have not seen some of his paintings… they’re incredible. (Not at all his typical beautiful girl stuff.)

  5. Mr. Hibbs, I don’t know how you can complain about Marvel flooding the Direct Market with unwanted comics when you support–in theory–many of the comics they are flooding the Direct Market with, many of whom promote diversity, which you claim is what the world wants ” as represented by Amazon and the bookstore market,” If you really believe that, your reaction to Marvel’s perverse incentive policies would be to boycott them and stock up on the comics you think would sell to a larger group of people.
    There is nothing stopping you from replacing your Marvel offerings with YA Graphic novels and the diverse offering from the smaller press comics if you think that’s what a larger more diverse audience wants.
    Marvel doesn’t hold a gun to any retailer’s head forcing them to order. Retailers can and should do business with companies that make them money.
    I’m curious what was the result of your crusade against Marvel’s policies.
    Did you win in court or did the courts find that Marvel was well within its rights to offer incentives for retailers to buy the comics they were taking a chance on, such as “Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat!”, Mockingbird , the various Black Panther spin offs, ,etc which you claim is what the “Real world” wants.
    You can’t be against Marvel’s policies and be for them.
    ” its a small number of people who should be run out of comics by any means necessary” Why can’t we let the legal authorities and the market determine who should be in comics?
    It’s a miracle this industry is still around since it is losing customers every year.
    Well, at least, the Direct Martket is.
    I hear YA comics are being read by kids across America! Why aren’t you stocking those instead of Marvel stuff?

  6. Brian Hibbs – Bill Jemas opened Marvel up at a time after bankruptcy with new creative ideas like the Ultimate line and brought in new readers. You holding a grudge after all these years when he left Marvel 2004 or 4 (don’t have the dates)? Whatever.

  7. Maybe it’s time for The Beat to do away with anonymous commenting? Or maybe I just need to NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.

  8. Kard, rebooting continuity is HARDLY “a new idea” , and for every “new customer” Jemas brought in, he chased two away because there weren’t any reorders. He set Marvel along the path where it is living today where line extensions and stunts are more important than publishing or creative fundamentals, and he did so while being a bully and insulting many of my friends. As importantly, his SECOND try at comics (Double Take) was also a horror show that didn’t even have the courtesy of making money for even a small slice of the market. The guy is flatly bad for comics, and as a person who did, does and will continue for many years to deal with the consequences of his actions, I am ecstatic to continue to “hold a grudge” against the person I believe to be one of the most horrible person to ever do business in comics.

  9. “Sounds less like a ‘grudge’ and more like letting people know what they are in for.”
    Are you really going to blame ONE MAN that no one holds in any particular esteem for reducing comics to
    ” line extensions and stunts ”
    or fostering the atmosphere where it is okay to bully and insult people
    Was everyone holding hands and singing Kumbaya before he entered comics?
    Jemas hasn’t been in comics or at a major publisher for YEARS. How and why is the industry still under his spell? This is sounds incredibly hyperbolic to put in nicely.
    “as a person who did, does and will continue for many years to deal with the consequences of his actions,as a person who did, does and will continue for many years to deal with the consequences of his actions,” Which consequences are those? You never spelled them out.
    There’s no point in telling us to watch out for a bad person and never tell us why he’s bad.
    He bullied you?
    How?
    He insulted you?
    Well, that’s pretty easy to do given how touchy you (and many commenters on here. I mean–look at Phillip Southern ) come off online.

  10. Bill Jemas opened Marvel up at a time after bankruptcy with new creative ideas like the Ultimate line and brought in new readers.
    The Ultimate line didn’t bring in many new readers. What it may have done is brought in lapsed readers who couldn’t get into the regular comics that became very convoluted due to fanboy creators constantly doing retcons and pointless changes. They were glorified storyboards for Hollywood. Once the MCU took off they stopped being important, and sales started falling.
    Besides, the kind of reader that enjoyed Mark Millar’s Ultimates is most likely not reading anything from Marvel anymore since Marvel see the future of its publishing line as falling under the banner of “Young Adult”
    Publishing and story fundamentals don’t matter in an industry that is essentially a non-profit at this point,
    At this stage, customers don’t exist and neither does the Direct Market. What matters is getting the right awards and the recommendations from critics in academia.

  11. Ah, this is disappointing. Yet ANOTHER mature readers imprint, like TKO, Black Crown, Aftershock, Image. All the same. More violence, more cussing. More Garth Ennis war/homophobic books
    I understood it when Karen Berger did Vertigo. But now, even superheroes are using violence and all adult. All the same tone
    It’s also disappointing after what Alonso did at Marvel, championing books like Ms. Marvel, Black Panther and Moon Girl
    Where are comics for kids? For young adults? For racial diversity? That’s the market today, why is no one making books for them?
    Who is AWA’s target audience anyway? Not women, judging by these horrible books. ‘Bad Mother’, are you serious?
    AWA is just another company wanting to be like Marvel, hoping to be sold to Netflix et al so its IP makes its creators money, that’s obvious. They don’t give a shit about comics, a shit about the industry, about readers. It’s so selfish and wrong

  12. “Where are comics for kids? For young adults? For racial diversity? That’s the market today, ”
    As far as we know, the comics market for women and children and DIVVVERSITY only exists at Schoolastic book fairs and in libraries.
    “Where are comics for kids? For young adults? For racial diversity? That’s the market today, why is no one making books for them?”
    I guess in you missed the announcement that black man and a woman were also creators signing up with this new company.
    African American film director/writer, Reginald Hudlin, and the YA novelists Margaret Stohl.
    They will be making “uplift black people”, comics and “ya”(girl) material.
    Why everyone isn’t making them is what bothers you. You want to dictate what should be produced.
    You want a centrally planned comic industry.
    Producers should decide what they want to make and for whom.
    Readers should buy what they want.

  13. “Where are comics for kids? For young adults?”
    They probably can’t afford to pay $4 and up for a 20-page pamphlet, just like I — as a middle-aged adult — can’t afford it.
    I have no idea who these periodicals are intended for these days. I assume the industry is kept alive by adult fans with lots of disposable income, who don’t want to let go of their childhood heroes. I have trouble believing they actually read the comics. They probably just bag them and put them in longboxes.
    And when these nostalgic fan-collectors grow old and die, who will buy these periodicals?
    I’m for anything that brings new readers to comics. If YA graphic novels aimed at teen girls are one way, so be it. Go for it, publishers.

  14. Hollywood money is more likely what is keeping the Direct Market going.
    It has been losing customers steadily despite efforts to cater to fanboys or to tell them to get lost and make room for diversity. If Marvel and DC actually relied on comics sales to stay afloat they would have folded YEARS ago.

  15. “Bill Jemas opened Marvel up at a time after bankruptcy with new creative ideas like the Ultimate line and brought in new readers.”
    I don’t know who was running Marvel in the late ’90s, but that’s when I gave up on their superhero floppies. Almost all of them had awful writing and terrible art. And that’s not even counting the ones by Rob Liefeld!

  16. It’s funny that you mention that
    Marvel is in a similar position now
    with the difference being that
    tI think the editors were trying to deliver a decent product back then and were failing miserably
    and now I think they don’t care.
    https://img.purch.com/h/1400/aHR0cDovL3d3dy5uZXdzYXJhbWEuY29tL2ltYWdlcy9pLzAwMC8yNTAvODc4L29yaWdpbmFsL0FPWE1BTlhUUkVNSVNUUzIwMTkwMDVfY292LmpwZz8xNTUzMDExMzIy
    Rob Liefield has had better comics associated with him in the last ten years than Marvel.
    Joe Keatinge’s run on “Glory”
    Brandon Graham’s Prophet
    Marvel has nothing which is exactly what the high-level executives want.
    Nothing is cheap.

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