Writers Profit as Their Comic Books Become Shows and Films

Some comic book publishers are now offering writers a greater share of revenue from comics that end up on the screen. This contrasts to larger comic book publishers that are typically the major beneficiary of published content. Some small publishers have been the source for film and TV studios creating new projects, such as “The Walking Dead” series and the film “2 Guns.” Both were comics, and both are sharing returns with the original creators.

Boom Studios, a comic book publisher, published the “2 Guns” comic book that would later be made into a movie. The company offered the writer shares in the returns of the movie, TV shows or video games.

The chances of “2 Guns” crossing over into film seemed unlikely. But due to Boom Studios’ “creator share” model, the writer for the comic, Steven Grant received money that Universal Pictures paid for the rights to film the movie.

“When print books are made into movies, it’s common for the authors to benefit from the deal. But that hasn’t necessarily been the case with comic books,” explains The New York Times. “In the early days, creators sold their rights for a pittance, not dreaming that their characters would endure for years and migrate to television, film and all manner of merchandise.”

Comic giants Marvel Entertainment and DC Entertainment give creators more control over their intellectual property within the small boutiques they run. But Marvel and DC are regarded as “corporate comics,” whose superhero lines primary benefit the publishers.

Marvel, owned by Disney, and DC, a unit of Time Warner, each hold nearly 40 percent of the total comic book market. But smaller publishers have to go beyond conventional business models in order to compete.

Image Comics (“The Walking Dead”) holds less than seven percent of the market share, and its creators have full control over their characters. Dark Horse has 1.5 percent, and is another publisher that prints creator-owned material and has licenses to create comic books from TV and film.

“We are always looking for great source material and especially something that could be developed to be a potential franchise,” said Jeffrey Kirschenbaum, co-president of production for Universal Pictures.

“As Hollywood increasingly depends on these franchises for their bottom line, Boom’s content becomes more essential and more valuable,” explains Ross Richie, CEO of Boom Studios.