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Zappa, Katleman, Beranek and Disney team for graphic novels


What the–nearly 15 years after the in-house Disney Comics imprint died an inglorious death, Disney has just announced a NEW graphic novel pact, with Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek. Zappa is a long time comics fan who’s been hanging around the scene for years. Katleman is a TV exec vet from Twentieth. Beranek is the guy behind Silent Devil Studios.

Apparently this deal includes the ability to develop properties from the Disney vault. Can we just say as one: THE SCARECROW OF ROMNEY MARSH and THAT DARN CAT! Anything with Patrick McGoohan.

PR below.

The Walt Disney Studios has signed a multi-year deal with Ahmet Zappa, Harris Katleman and Christian Beranek to oversee the newly christened Kingdom Comics, an innovative new venture of developing graphic novels to create new film projects for the Studio as well as re-imagining and rejuvenating motion pictures from the Disney live-action Vault, it was announced today by Oren Aviv, president, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Production.

Kingdom Comics will soon announce some of the top graphic novelists and artists in the genre who will collaborate on upcoming projects. Disney Publishing Worldwide, the largest distributor of comic books in the world, will have the first opportunity to distribute publications created by Kingdom Comics.

Commenting on the announcement, Aviv said, “We’re very excited to be working with Harris, Ahmet and Christian in developing this new business devoted to creating stories and properties for the graphic novel audience, as well as for moviegoers. They are three of the top talents in their respective fields and together they have the knowledge, expertise and instincts to create great publications and film properties. Some of these exciting publications will be inspired by films and characters in the vast and storied Disney library, while other original graphic novels are sure to spark great ideas for future Disney classics. Our vision for Kingdom Comics is to bring a fresh, contemporary approach to Disney properties that already have a strong connection with moviegoers and readers all over the world, and to add to that storytelling legacy.”

Zappa added, “The ability to create new publications based on properties from the Disney vaults, and to develop original ideas for graphic novels and possibly future Disney films, is a dream job filled with enormous fun and potential. Being a storyteller myself, I can’t wait to work with some of today’s top writers and artists in bringing a fresh approach to graphic novels and the movies. We’re also excited to discover and develop promising new talents in this field.”

Katleman said, “I have been involved with my share of exciting projects and worked with lots of great talent over the years. Working with Ahmet and Christian in creating Kingdom Comics for Disney is as exciting as anything I’ve ever done. We’re all looking forward to working with Oren and his team in developing some fantastic new projects for the printed page and the silver screen.”

Beranek added, “Graphic novels continue to have an enormous following all over the world and we’re hoping to bring something new and different to those devoted fans. There are a lot of great stories waiting to be told, including some familiar properties residing in the Disney vaults. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and we can’t wait to get started.”

Ahmet Emuukha Rodan Zappa, the third of four children born to the late rock musician/composer Frank Zappa and super-powered psychic witch businesswoman Gail, started out as an actor on such shows as “Roseanne” and “Growing Pains.” This led to feature film work and a run as a host on many popular reality shows. In 2006, he sold the rights to his first novel, The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless, to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films. He is currently writing the second installment in that series, and executive producing “Fraggle Rock” with The Jim Henson Company.

Harris Katleman served as president and CEO of Twentieth Television from 1980 to 1992, during which time the Studio developed such landmark programs as “L.A. Law,” “The Simpsons,” “Anything But Love,” “In Living Color,” “Doogie Howser, M.D.” (in association with Steven Bochco Productions), “Civil Wars,” and “NYPD Blue.” He also oversaw production on the final four years of “M*A*S*H,” and “Trapper John,” and guided the development of “The Tracey Ullman Show,” and “Picket Fences,” among others. Following his tenure at Twentieth Television, he joined Mark Goodson Productions as Chief Operating Officer (1993-95), followed by a stint as Chief Operating Officer and Partner in Jonathan Goodson Productions. Katleman continues to be in partnership with Jonathan Goodson Productions. His recent credits include executive producing the syndicated shows “Forgive or Forget,” “House Calls” and “Dirty Rotten Cheater.”

An accomplished writer and editor, Christian Beranek formed his own publishing company, Silent Devil, in 1996, and turned it into an indie powerhouse, producing such hits as Dracula vs. King Arthur and Super Frat. He parlayed that success into consulting for companies such as Universal Music Publishing, Harley Davidson, AOL, and Mazda on graphic novels and their value as both intellectual properties and marketing devices. As a writer, he penned the origin of John Doe for the New Line/Zenescope series Se7en and scripted the creator-owned franchise Willow Creek. He recently finished the latest draft of the “Dracula vs. King Arthur” screenplay.

The deal was negotiated by Steve Katleman of Greenberg Traurig.


  1. At least they’re honest and upfront about it: “let’s make comics, ‘cus comics get made into movies”.

    I heard Disney is remaking THAT DARN CAT with Samuel L Jackson in the lead role. It’s going to be called THAT MOTHERF*CKING CAT.

  2. I’m not surprised to see something like this kick in.
    Studios have been scraping the comic book barrel for years, but instead of gambling on finding some diamond in the rough at San Diego why not make your own graphic novel house and grow the content from there?

    Perhaps they got wind that it actually takes a while to actually *make* graphic novels. This is just getting in on the basement floor and control the content – plus, give it a god push out the door once it’s out.

  3. Bret Blevins worked on a Dr. Synn alias the Scarecrow series in Disney Adventures before its demise. It was pretty cool and I think (memory fails me again) there was a crossover with some of the characters from “Pirates of the Caribbean” to help connect it with something kids today might know.

  4. Way back in the mid-90s while I was Executive Director of Image Comics, I worked with Ahmet Zappa, trying to get a comic book project of his onboard at Image Central.
    It didn’t happen, but I can say this –Ahmet knows his comic books. He understands the medium, he is fluent in the the history of the industry, and and he has a genuine passion for wanting to creat comic book stories.
    This could be quite interesting.

  5. Three words: “Walt Disney Showcase”

    Three words: “Alex Toth Zorro”

    And there’s the CrossGen properties… (Lady Sin meets Dr. Synn?)

    Not too surprising. W.I.T.C.H. is a recent example of a cartoon/comic presented as a book. And Ehapa Verlag has been printing thick Disney digests in Germany for the past … forty years?

    If Disney is REALLY smart, they would license children’s comics from overseas, like they did with cartoons like Marsupilami and Asterix, and become one of the biggest fish in the small pond of juvenile graphic novels.

    As far as producing graphic novels, Disney has published quite a few. There are the aforementioned W.I.T.C.H. volumes. Hyperion has the CCS biographies, Artemis Fowl, and Jellaby. They even published one of the best titles from the 1990s: The Amazing True Story of a Teenage Single Mom.

    It also allows Disney to protect copyrights and trademarks at low cost.

    heh… Blackbeard’s Ghost Meets Jack Sparrow?

  6. “An accomplished writer and editor, Christian Beranek formed his own publishing company, Silent Devil, in 1996, and turned it into an indie powerhouse,”

    That’s twelve years of Indie Powerhousing I completely missed!

    Was it in North America? Maybe they were an Indie Powerhouse in Guam. i admit that I know little of Guam.

  7. I know we’re all supposed to be snarky, jaded connossieurs, and I actually converted from The Church of The Mouse to Agcomic around age 20, but the combination of the two greatest loves of my life is a one-two cocktail (a mickey?) that’s really potent. So much so that I’m trying to figure out now how I can get hired by them in one capacity or another.

  8. I can get behind the idea of Disney producing lots of original graphic novels if the focus was just on telling great stories in the tradition of the original Disney films. But hedging all your bets upfront that these comics will get turned into future films seems silly.

  9. Also, should we assume this means they will no longer be doing similar projects with SLG Publishing? I thought they did a great job with the Disney properties they made comics for. Especially their Alice in Wonderland series.

  10. That was brought up in the Newsarama story, this doesn’t affect the SLG deal. This is for new content, not existing properties.

  11. Re: alex cox’s comment.

    I can’t think of many other people who have been busier or worked harder in the past twelve years than Christian Beranek. That dude is freakin’ everywhere. I’ve worked with him on several projects. He’s the kind of guy you want in your corner. Great editor. He deserves some serious credit for his efforts.

  12. David-

    I’m sure he’s a great guy and a terrific editor and the Hardest Working Man in Show Business.

    But seeing Silent Devil described as an “indie powerhouse” struck me as funny. Surely it’s evident why.

  13. FLUBBER and SON OF FLUBBER – a whacky scientist “hero” who teaches kids about science as they go on amazing adventures (but not in a magic schoolbus). Perfect thing to get into schools to get kids to A) read something and B) actually learn some real science.

    Win – win.

    (And Dexter Reilly would be one of the supporting characters)

  14. RE: Alex Cox

    At least they weren’t described as a “mainstream” powerhouse. Beranek is a great guy and editor, he is also a talented writer and now, it appears, a film producer. With Disney’s resources backing him now perhaps he can finally cut loose and break out of those “indie” confines.

    I, for one, wish him the best.

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