The image you see there is from one of the only Legendary comic ventures so far, an iPad/iPod prequel comic to "Clash Of The Titans," with art by Gonzalo Arias, an acclaimed fantasy artist with a strong "World Of Warcraft" fanbase.

Today, Legendary Pictures announced that they were kicking off a new comics label, a venture that will be headed by Bob Schreck as Editor-in-Chief.  Kinda makes sense that if you're a company called Legendary and you're starting a comics division, you're going to reach out to a guy who legitimately can be called a legend in his field. 

The entire key to the announcement can be found in one line of the press release, of course:  "[Shreck] will be working closely with Kathy Vrabeck, President of Legendary Digital, and they will, as warranted, look to bring the newly-created comic-based IP produced by the venture to other entertainment platforms such as film and television."

Well, of course they will.  This is not a breakthrough in terms of business model.  Right now, with comic properties driving such a huge percentage of the industry, it's only prudent to start a division where you can test properties and see how they work with your exact demographic target.  There are many companies that have been started in the last decade or so that I would describe as "IP farms," companies that develop material with the express idea of leveraging it across several platforms.  In many of those cases, the comic books that are produced as a result of these deals are not good comic books.  They read like placeholders.  They read like someone's pitch for the eventual movie they hope the book will become.

Here's the real question regarding today's announcement:  Do I think Legendary can publish books that are worth reading as books first, and that aren't just stepping stones to movie properties? 

A movie is typically around two hours.  That's a very specific shape for a story.  That's a very specific time frame and structure you're bound by, and in a comic book, you can tell a story that breathes, a story that works in a whole different way because it can really take its time.  Something that works as a comic won't necessarily work the same way if you try and tell it as a film, and what's encouraging is that a guy like Schreck knows that.  He's not a film guy who is dabbling.  He is someone who has a long history with some of the biggest names in the comic industry.  Neil Gaiman, Max Brooks, and Frank Miller all sing Schreck's praises in the press release, and they all voice some encouraging words about the company.  Certainly it's a good sign that those are the types of names they're talking to, and we'll see the first Legendary title in the spring of 2011 supposedly, although they didn't say which project we'd see at that point.

Thomas Tull, Chairman, CEO, and Bazillionaire Geek, comes to this stuff honestly.  One of the reasons there is a Legendary Pictures in the first place was so that Tull could play with some of the comic icons he loves.  They're in development on a "World Of Warcraft" film with Sam Raimi, something that's been in development for a while now, and it's interesting that Gonzalo Arias, aka GENZOMAN, did the "Godzilla" promo art that Legendary gave away at Comic-Con, and that he illustrated the iPod "Clash" prequel comic.  Like I wrote, my research on this guy shows him to be a huge figure in the fantasy art community, and his work on "WOW" is considered amazing.  Tull is a big "WOW" fan for real.  When he called me a few months ago looking for a good comic book store out towards the end of the San Fernando Valley where I live, I recommended Collector's Paradise Comics & Gallery, and he evidently found a ton of "WOW" high-end collectibles that he immediately snapped up, and he's got so much of this stuff that he's running out of shelf space for it.  As a fan of the imagery of "WOW," I have no doubt Tull knows Arias's art, and that's probably why he keeps showing up as a guy working for them.  I like that kind of loyalty to an artist, even before they had a comic division, and I also find it encouraging that Tull is the kind of guy who would call someone and ask for a recommendation for a comic store.

I don't think having Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman, and Max Brooks in the press release means we'll automatically see them release books for Legendary Comics, but I'm hoping (just as I'm sure Legendary is) that Schreck proves to be a draw to some amazing writers and artists, and that the books they develop and release work as books before anything else.  I'm hoping they do work with guys like Miller and Gaiman, but that they also take chances.  It's probably a lot cheaper to try something bold and innovative on a comic book page than it would be to film it.  If Legendary Comics existed four or five years ago, I wonder if "Inception" would have made a test run as a comic that established some rules and some premise.

At any rate, this is one of those announcements that certainly promises opportunity.  How they use that opportunity is something we'll only know after we've had a chance to read and really process the books that they will eventually release.  It all comes down to the writers, the artists, and the stories they tell.

Here's the full text of the press release:

Legendary Pictures has appointed veteran comic book editor Bob Schreck to the role of Editor-in-Chief of the newly-formed Legendary Comics, it was announced by Thomas Tull, Legendary’s Chairman and CEO. Schreck joins Legendary Comics from IDW Publishing, and his appointment marks the launch of the new division dedicated to publishing original graphic novels.

Headed by Schreck, Legendary Comics plans to publish four to six graphic novels a year for both digital and traditional print distribution. The books will target Legendary’s well-established and powerful fandom demographic. Schreck begins at Legendary Comics the first week of November, and plans to release the inaugural project within the first half of 2011. He will be working closely with Kathy Vrabeck, President of Legendary Digital, and they will, as warranted, look to bring the newly-created comic-based IP produced by the venture to other entertainment platforms such as film and television.

Bob is an iconic editor and one of most highly-regarded curators and editors of comic culture in our industry. He is the perfect leader with the right balance of passion and editorial skills to spearhead Legendary Comics,” said Tull. “Legendary Comics is committed to being a new home for groundbreaking artists and the characters and stories they create, in an art form we love.”

“Thomas and the Legendary team have a proven track record of cultivating talent and delivering unparalleled entertainment experiences, and I am looking forward to building Legendary Comics into a world-class label for the best writers and artists we know,” said Schreck.  “We have a real opportunity to deliver hard-hitting characters and exciting, innovative storylines to comic book aficionados.  We are in the fortunate position of already having major support from the community and collaborations lined up with world-class creators.”
Iconic comic creators Neil Gaiman, Max Brooks and Frank Miller are among those who are supportive of Legendary Comics.

Frank Miller stated, “Bob Schreck is a joy to work with. He's tough but affable, mindful of the publisher's needs but a happy warrior on the side of the artist. We've worked together to mutual satisfaction for years. Legendary has proven its 'fides all over the movie industry and I expect no less from its publishing arm. With Bob, they've made the perfect choice: the man's a talent magnet."

"To be attached to a creative engine of this magnitude is as thrilling as it is humbling," said Max Brooks.
Neil Gaiman added, "I'm thrilled that Legendary is going to be entering the world of comics. I've been amazed and delighted by their respect for creators in the movie arena, and it can only be good news for the whole world of pop culture that they are going to be encouraging creators to tell unique, smart stories while creating amazing comics for them."

Schreck comes to Legendary from IDW Publishing where he most recently served as Senior Editor. Prior to IDW Schreck spent nearly a decade working for DC comics where he started in 1990 after founding the famed Oni Press. He also worked at Dark Horse Comics, and is the recipient of numerous industry awards and acknowledgements.

About Legendary Pictures

Founded in 2004, Legendary owns, produces and delivers some of the world's most popular intellectual property, focusing on franchises targeted at mainstream audiences but with a special emphasis on the powerful fandom demographic.  With partner Warner Bros., Legendary Pictures’ productions include the recently released, critically acclaimed Inception, which has been a box office smash grossing more than $815 million worldwide, as well as global blockbuster Clash of the Titans ($491 million worldwide), The Dark Knight ($1 billion worldwide), 300 ($456 million worldwide) and The Hangover ($467 million worldwide).  The company has established itself as a trusted brand which consistently delivers high-quality, commercial entertainment, and through complete or joint ownership, Legendary is building a library of marquee media properties.  Among the film projects that Legendary is currently developing is an adaptation of the phenomenally successful interactive game universe Warcraft, to be directed by Sam Raimi (Spiderman); Godzilla, based on Toho Company’s famed character; Warren Ellis’ Gravel; and Mass Effect, based on Electronic Arts and BioWare’s hit videogame franchise. Legendary Pictures recently launched Legendary Comics, and will debut its inaugural publishing work in the first half of 2011.

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