Creating live-action movies and television shows featuring the characters originally found in comic books isn’t a brand new idea in Hollywood. Thanks to the late legend Adam West, Batman was featured in a live-action series as early as 1966.
And it’s no secret that production of comic book-based movies and TV shows has boomed within the past decade. Marvel Studios’ and Warner Brothers each have their respective “Big Two” cinematic universes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe, respectively.
But it doesn’t stop there. AMC created one of the highest-rated shows of all time when they purchased the live-action rights to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, a comic series that found its own as a monthly release at Image Comics.
Todd McFarlane — partner of Image Comics and the creator behind fan-favorite characters like Venom and Spawn — took a second to speak to the success of comic book properties in Hollywood at his panel at ACE
“It’s funny because everyone knows Marvel and DC but if you ask ‘What’s the third biggest comic book publisher?’ Image Comics,” McFarlane said. “That’s us. So Hollywood’s been asking that question. We can’t get Marvel, we can’t get DC, so who’s the next biggest? Image.”
McFarlane went on to explain that since Marvel and DC both are hard at work creating movies for their own properties, some of the other movie studios, networks, and streaming services are chomping at the bit to get their hands on the rights to comic book properties that already have a built-in fanbase.
“We [Image Comics] now have twenty-two of our properties that are now optioned and are in Hollywood. Twenty-two. But why?” McFarlane asked. “Because everyone needs them.”
McFarlane himself is in the midst of filming a reboot of his live-action Spawn movies, with a new movie slated for release something next year. The Image partner went on to detail some of the behind-the-scenes info in regards to how the optioning process works.
“Here’s the thing that’s cool. Image Comic Books owns none of those [rights to Image characters], right?” he explained. “The creative people own every single one of those. [Image] is the best deal in entertainment, it was created so that if you come up with an idea and we publish it, we take a little bit of a fee to publish it for you but you own everything else.
When Image was created in 1992, the seven partners at the time wanted to create a publishing house where the creators retained the rights to their characters. Unlike Marvel and DC retaining the rights to all characters created in their books, Image gave writers and artists full ownership of the characters they created, even if they happened to crossover into other Image titles.
McFarlane remained adamant about how now is the time to get into
“What I’m encouraging to each one of you if you’ve ever had a doubt [about getting into entertainment], now is the time,” he insisted.
McFarlane then went on to talk about the raging war for content between the traditional cable networks such as ABC, NBC, and CBS going up against streaming giants such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video.
“The networks and the disruptors [Netflix/Hulu] all want your ideas at the same time.
McFarlane is acting as both writer and director for the new Spawn movie. Blumhouse — the studio behind low-budget horrors with huge box office returns such as Paranormal Activity and Get Out — is on board to produce.