Disney draws up plans for graphic novels

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Disney is getting into the graphic novel business with a plan to adapt the works into movies.

Walt Disney Studios has created Kingdom Comics, and signed a multiyear deal with writer-actor Ahmet Zappa, TV executive Harris Katleman and writer-editor Christian Beranek to oversee the division.

The aim is to create titles that will be the basis of new film projects for the studio as well as to reimagine and rejuvenate movies from Disney’s library of live-action films.

No writers or artists have been announced, though the trio is on the hunt for new and established talent to create the books. Kingdom, which will be located on the Disney lot, has a first-look deal with Disney Publishing Worldwide to distribute the publications. If Disney chooses not to publish a book, Kingdom will explore other venues. Also, there is no set number of graphic novels that are mandated to be published per year.

The studio will pluck titles, putting them into development on a case-by-case basis.

The creation of Kingdom Comics positions the studio as a player in the scorching comic book scene. Many studios have aligned themselves to the big companies -- Warner Bros. owns DC Comics, Marvel has a distribution deal with Paramount, Universal has a first-look deal with Dark Horse Comics -- leaving very few players up for grabs. It also will put the company in business with established and untapped talent in what essentially will be a R&D division.

Zappa, the younger son of late musician Frank Zappa, sold the rights to his first novel, “The Monstrous Memoirs of a Mighty McFearless,” to Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer Films in 2006. He is writing the second instalment in that series and is executive producing a feature version of “Fraggle Rock” with the Jim Henson Co.

Katleman, a former president and CEO of 20th Century Fox Television, working on such syndicated shows as “House Calls” and “Dirty Rotten Cheater.” Beranek formed his own publishing company, Silent Devil, in 1996, producing such titles as “Dracula vs. King Arthur” and “Super Frat.”

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter