Video game publisher Take-Two Interactive has created some of mainstream culture’s most popular stories with Grand Theft Auto, Bioshock, and now they’re turning to comics. To help pave the way, they’ve hired the man who helped revitalize Marvel Comics in the late 1990s and early 2000s: Bill Jemas.
Double Take jumped into comics today by stealthy releasing the first chapters of three individual comic series based on the classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. Each of the series follows an individual character that appeared in the 1968 classic zombie film, chronicling their story leading up to, and following, the film. Writers on this series include Brian Clevinger, Federico Manfredi and Jeff McComsey, with Jemas offering creative direction similar to the founding of Marvel’s Ultimate line and especially Ultimate Spider-Man. Jemas calls these releases “a work-in-progress,” and looks forward to fan input and interest to gauge how these stories develop.
Double Take Publishing has a staff of eight including Jemas, and work in Manhattan offices just one block away from the historic Bryant Park. Newsarama talked with Jemas about Double Take’s mission, it’s plans, and how they came to start it all with zombies.
Newsarama: Bill, what is the mission of Double Take Publishing?
Bill Jemas: Make money, have fun.
Nrama: The start-up money for this comes courtesy of parent company Take-Two Interactive. Do you plan on doing any comics based on their video games?
Jemas: No current plans.
Nrama: What we know is your first project is three original series based in the world of the classic horror film Night of the Living Dead. When we talked with you last December you said you were focusing on original concepts, so how did you end up here?
Jemas: One of our writers was working on an original story set in New York City. A key character in that story is an aspiring actress who was auditioning for a play. To make the story feel more real, we thought the play should be realistic. We thought about a revival of a classic/public domain story – like Alice in Wonderland or Wizard of Oz – but in doing the research, we learned that the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead is in the public domain. We all love that movie and found that many of our creators do too.
Nrama: What led you to go to this public domain film to do stories as your launch titles instead of original stories?
Jemas: Honestly, our 100% home-grown stories have not been coming out as good as we hoped they would. Really, Double Take isn’t alone. Can you name two comic publishers who consistently generate significant profit from publishing their original comics?
Nrama: That’s company-owned? Most of the companies excelling now without company-owned or licensed are creator-owned, not company owned.
Getting back to Double Take, what is your timeline for publishing these new series?
Jemas: We started at noon today, Halloween. Double Take has published on Facebookthe first scenes from the first episodes of three graphic novels: Rise, Soul and Insurrection.
Right now, it’s work-in-progress - mostly in black and white. We will add color versions of those scenes, new scenes and/or new stories, pretty-much every day. Over-time, we’ll add the most to the stories fans like the best.
Nrama: What creators are involved with Double Take projects?
Jemas:We were lucky to get two top independent writers on our first series. Brian Clevenger (Atomic Robo) and Jeff McComsey (Mother Russia) are writing our first stories.
Nrama: Bill -- you've written comics before, both at Marvel and elsewhere. Do you plan to do any writing for Double Take?
Jemas:After lots of trial and lots of error, I’ve found that the stories come out better when I do more creative direction and less scripting.
Nrama: Do you have any other additional projects in the works besides these Night of the Living Dead books?
Jemas: Yes. Double Take has been work-shopping stories for months and a dozen or so are coming out good and shaping up to be published, digitally, during the next few weeks. All of our stories, whether they start the Night of the Living Dead world, or not, will be part of one Double Take universe.
Nrama: "one Double Take universe" -- will these Night of the Living Dead and everything Double Take creates co-exist of the same story verse, and could possibly crossover them?
Jemas: Yes, that’s right. It seems clear to me that a working in a common universe is the best way to make the most money and have the most fun in the long run. Of course, initially, this necessitates some extra up-front business and creative planning, but as Marvel and DC have proven, the investment pays off over time.
Nrama: So Take-Two hired you to head up Double Take, but who do you have working with you?
Jemas: Michael Coast is our story editor and Becca Anderson is our staff writer. Kurt Tiede and Julian Rowe are our artists in residence. Lillian Tan, Flinn Gillan, and Will Graves handle the business stuff.
Nrama: So these work-in-progress titles have premiered on Facebook, but do you plan on expanding out to traditional digital comics outlets and print at some point?
Jemas: To start, it seems best to start by using browser-based page-flipping software, like what you are seeing on Facebook. That way all a new reader has to do is point and click – without having to stop and download an app. Every series will start as a Digital Storyboard, distributed for free every way we can. The best stuff will be printed and sold through comic shops.