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.
Peter Milligan and ACO on a tale about “highly trained operatives of huge corporations.”
Christa Faust pens the tale of a mother searching for her daughter. Cover is by Tim Bradstreet. No interior artist announced.
Frank Cho. Do I really need to say any more? Women with taut, muscular legs fight for the title of queen of the galaxy.
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.
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.