Coming in 2007...
CREATING A NEW UNIVERSE: DYNAMITE AND TOP COW
There’s something brewing between Dynamite Entertainment and Top Cow that’s kind of like that, but not quite.
Instead of crossing over their universes of characters and joining them in a storyline, Dynamite and Top Cow are joining forces to create a third company, with its own, separate universe.
Four titles are planned for the yet-unnamed company: Sterling North, Ronin Detective, Cherish and The Devilers; and the launch dates of each are yet to be announced, but as Dynamite’s Nick Barrucci and Marc Silvestri told Newsarama at this weekend’s New York Comic Con, this thing is a go.
Newsarama: Let’s start with you Nick – simple terms, what’s this all about?
Nick Barrucci: Basically, you’ve got Dynamite and Marc Silvestri and Top Cow working together to create new characters that we feel are compelling – that will fit very well in the market. We decided that two are better than one – by working together and combining our strengths and resources in the market; we’d be able to come up with something that will be very unique. Marc, obviously, will visualize the ideas for us to start with – the first characters in a new universe that will pave the way for many stories to come.
Marc Silvestri: Like Nick said, we both bring a lot to the table in our own expertise. Nick’s been in the business for a long time, we’ve been in the business for a long time, we’ve been friends for a long time, and with Dynamic Forces – we’ve had a working relationship with them for fourteen years or so. That’s five times as long as most marriages. [laughs]
For us, it was a perfect mix – Nick has a reputation as a solid guy who really understand the business, and he’s a great marketer. He knows how to move what he has. He does it in a way that doesn’t offend people. There are guys out there who are basically, hucksters, and you can’t trust what they’re doing, but Nick delivers. He promises a good product, and he delivers a good product.
I’m a creative guy, and Top Cow’s a creative company, and with Nick’s expertise and what we bring creatively to the table, it’s just a perfect marriage.
NRAMA: So this is a wholly separate universe, as well as business-wise, that is, it’s a separate company as well?
NB: Yes. It’s a totally separate company that we’re building from the ground up.
NRAMA: So where are things now in regards to launching?
NB: Still a little ways off. We want to take things slowly, so we’ve been working on this for over a year, and Marc has handed in four sets of designs for the characters. Right now, we’re not looking to launch anytime soon – this isn’t something where you’re hearing about it now for the first time, and seeing it in the next issue of Previews. Our first book most likely won’t happen until the end of the year, and after that, we’re looking at releasing one new book per quarter on average – that’s the goal. The idea behind that is that we want to get used to working with each other on monthly books with the creators and both sides of editorial, to make a new, different product. By doing that, we really think the fans and retailers will be coming out ahead at the end of the day, because there’s going to be all the ideas generated that Dynamite and Top Cow brought in, the ideas that the writers and other creators will bring to the table, and then, the synthesis of all of the ideas coming together for the best comic we can produce. As a result of that approach, none of them will be solicited before they’re ready to go.
NRAMA: So let’s talk about the projects – how many are there, and what are they?
MS: First, just to reiterate what Nick said, which is another reason I enjoy being in business with him is that he’s got no interest in filling shelves with garbage. It doesn’t serve Dynamite, Top Cow, or the reader if we just want to put product out there for the hell of having something on the shelf.
But – talking about the projects themselves, for me, Ronin Detective is the one that’s probably most interesting to me, because it takes place in a future than neither one of our companies explores that much. I’m a big sci-fi fan, so I think that combining elements of Blade Runner, with classical samurai epic elements – cool idea.
And then - Sterling North – another great idea, a spy story where things just aren’t what you think they are, and we’ll be having a lot of fun with that as well.
NB: Right – back to Ronin Detective for a moment, and trying not to be too vague, which is going to be a problem with any project that you’re talking about this far out; we had the idea of mixing in Japanese and American elements together in a story about two brothers, and that’s about as much as I can go into it, aside from it’s set in the future. The writer that we have going on this is the writer for it, and Marc has a beautiful design for it. The short version is, this is probably the project that took the most time and energy to flesh out between us and Top Cow. Now the writer has it, and he’s been working it out further. That will probably be one of the first projects we launch.
Another of the four initial projects will be Cherish, and that one’s probably, visually the closest to what you’ve seen come from our companies, that is, a strong female protagonist who can kick ass. Obviously, both Dynamite and Top Cow do have characters that fit that bill – Red Sonja, Witchblade, Magdalena, for example. With this one, we’ll be starting it out with a backstory explaining why she is the way she is now, while moving things forward in the main story.
Then, as Marc mentioned, we have Sterling North, which, as he said, is all espionage that will be something that makes you think as you read it, along with action and adventure with a healthy dose of suspense.
NRAMA: Will there be any unifying theme between these books? A shared universe, or at least, history feel?
NB: If we would ever do that, it’s a long way away. Right now, we just want to get these four titles set up with the perfect creative teams and ready to go.
MS: Right – if anything, the four will share a real lack of straight-ahead stories or be predictable reads. That is, the main thing we want to infuse into these new projects is that we want to create something that people start out thinking is one thing, and then some tricks are thrown in, some rugs are pulled out from under feet, and when the dust settles, these books will be a lot more than readers originally thought. I think that way, we’re going to pull in the fan that’s expecting one level of storytelling, as they judge it from the look, and we’re also going to pull in another type of fan who wasn’t expecting it, and may be pulled in by the depth of the story and world we’re going to be going for.
NRAMA: Got it. So we’ve got Sterling North, Cherish, Ronin Detective, and…?
NB: The big one – The Devilers. Marc’s got the best pitch on this one…
MS: This one touches on a lot of things that interest me – the supernatural; everyday people getting caught up in things that are way beyond their ability of dealing with, and how they rise to the occasion; a team made up of people of many different cultures and beliefs…
NB: Right – it looks at what happens when you have the seven most powerful religious leaders join together, because there is a threat so great that only they can deal with it. And of course, they don’t see eye to eye, but they have to, to have any hope of stopping this threat. When you look at that image that Marc drew, you can see the power in the characters as well as the devil that they’re fighting.
It’s got a rich backstory, and we’ll be dealing in the modern day, but we’ll also be dealing with how this came to be, and what brings them together to stop, what literally, is the end of the world.
MS: I think that the themes of ideology have never really been explored like this before. They’re exciting, because they really propel the story foreword, without bogging it down or being preachy. They’re integral to what just happens to be an adventure story about these people who have to come together and have to overcome, in some case, violent differences in views. But unless they do, the world dies.
We’re going to have a lot of fun with it, but obviously, it’s not going to have a bow-tied ending. We’re going to treat our audience with a great deal of respect and not dumb any of this down.
NRAMA: Speaking of the “ending” there – are these four going to be ongoing series, miniseries?
NB: Right now, we’re still in the early stages, so we’re looking at each in terms of what the writer is bringing back to us. The goal is ongoing at launch, but if a writer says that they have one, finite story they want to tell, and we feel that this is best for the property, and then we may end up doing a miniseries.
The one thing that I can say that is of great benefit to us is that when we first had a meeting about this over three years ago – Marc and Matt [Hawkins, Top Cow President, COO] said no. We really didn’t have our legs under us as a publisher at Dynamite, so we held off, but kept talking about it, and kept the interest there. So when we finally got together, last year January, we decided it was time to give the idea a go. We went into it with the idea that we would do four projects, and keep it at that.
So we kept it quiet for over a year, and now, the designs are done, we have writers, and we’re moving forward, we can start talking about it – even though we’re still not really that close to launching. To be totally up front, we had originally said August of this year would be our ideal launch window, but have decided that may be too soon, so we’re going to wait and see. And of course, as I said, these were just the basics of the concepts.
NRAMA: In terms of development and taking your time, are you looking at developing these four properties on parallel paths, that is, work to produce them as comics while at the same time, have the treatments being pitched to producers and studios?
NB: I know that a lot of people do that, but if we were going to do it just to show agents, then we would’ve just hired an artist to draw something, hired some writers to write a treatment, and that would’ve been that. And honestly, either one of us could’ve done that separately.
The goal here is to build something that’s bigger than both of us, and that’s why we’re working together. At the end of the day, if all we did was build something that was equal to Dynamite and Top Cow, that would still be fun, but it’s not the goal.
MS: Right – we already do what we do on our own. We already have that, and frankly, we don’t want to start a third venture between the two of us that will just be another company producing stories and characters. This is going to be something bigger than the two of us put together, because it’s utilizing the best of both companies.
NB: And we really think we’ve got something good, and I don’t think we’ll be shopping this around at all until the books are out, at the very least. Once people see the books, we’ll be in a much better position, so it’s not he typical Hollywood game of show some designs, get the hype going, get the movie option sold, and never produce a comic book. We’re building something here.
MS: And both of us have a track record in the business. We’ve already shown, individually, that we’re in it for the long haul, and this is something that will be the same. This isn’t a short-term thing for either one of us.