Katz's 'American Original' Announces First Titles

When American Original was launched by Jeff Katz earlier this year, everyone was talking about the innovative structure of the new comic-driven multi-media company, but there was no indication of what comics American Original would publish.

With his announcements at Wizard World Philadelphia, Katz has now added some actual titles for comic book fans to sink their teeth into, including everything from a genre action story by Brian Lynch and Gary Whitta, to a comedy anthology with work by Scott Aukerman of Mr. Show.

As Newsarama discussed with the former Booster Gold writer and film executive in May, American Original will publish as many as 10 comics this year, with the goal of adapting them as films, TV shows, web series or video games. The company inked a deal with Top Cow Productions to publish their comics, while American Original retains the license but gives the first-dollar gross to the creators after cash break-even.

This weekend, Katz announced three mini-series that will kick off the American Original library:

Vengeance Is Mine

Writer Jeff Katz, artist Thomas Nachlik.

"I figured if I was going to have time to write one of these comics, I'd better do it now before this whole thing gets too big and takes all my time. Vengeance is Mine is one of my dream comic book/movie projects and I've been wanting to do it for years," Katz said. "But the truth is, it's a tricky movie to make. So if I never get to make a movie out of this, that's fine. I got to go and write a comic and do it my way and do it in the style I want."

The writer described Vengeance of Mine as a mix of the "Payback" or "Get Carter" model and the monster world of movies like "Nightbreed."

"It's a revenge movie in the underworld itself," Katz said. "It's basically a revenge noir with a little bit of a monster twist to it. And it's done very much stylistically in a pure noir revenge style."

Katz said he discovered the artist for the series through his relationship with Top Cow, and the penciler's style matches the vision he has for Vengeance is Mine.

"Filip Sablik introduced me to this German artist named Thomas Nachlik," Katz said. "He's amazing. Even when he draws superheroes, their clothes wrinkle. There's a real world sort of build and texture to his characters, and that fits this series so well."

Daybreak

Writers Gary Whitta and Brian Lynch, artist Marco Castiello

"It's the mother of all prison break concepts, but with a pretty bad-ass twist. And with as cool an anti-hero character as I've seen," Katz said. "It's an homage to the sort of swaggering, man's-man action movies of the '80s that Kurt Russell and John Carpenter did together."

Katz said he likes the idea of teaming up two crossover writers like Whitta, who wrote the Denzel Washington movie "Book of Eli" as well as the Death Jr. comic book, and Lynch, another screenwriter/comic book writer, because they know more than one audience.

"I want guys who have played in various mediums," Katz said. "That's the appeal of guys who have written for comics but also understand writing for video games and movies."

Castiello recently worked on Secret Invasion: Front Line. "It's again a very stylistically different thing," Katz said. "This is a totally different style from, say, the style we're doing in Vengeance Is Mine, and that's fine. That's good. We want i to fit the comic. And this is a little more colorful, a bit more pop, and a little more '80s. Big action and big idea presented in a more colorful context."

Blastosaurus

Writer/artist Richard Fairgray

"This kid is going to write for the big two. It's inevitable," Katz said. "It's a name to remember. This is a kid I met when I was in Australia on the [Wolverine] movie. And Hugh Jackman's dialogue coach came up to me and said he had a friend in New Zealand who writes and publishes comics and is a huge Booster Gold fan, and he wanted to come visit the set."

That friend was Richard Fairgray, who had lunch with Katz and shared his self-published work. Katz was impressed.

"And to top it all off, he's legally blind," Katz said. "He's writing, drawing and self-publishing these things with only five percent vision in one eye. In the one eye, he sees in only two dimensions. So he sees in comic book panels, which in and of itself is interesting."

One of the properties he shared with Katz was Blastosaurus, the tale of a crime-fighting dinosaur in the future.

"I believe it is the highest selling book published out of New Zealand. It's this adorable comic. And I saw this thing, and it seemed like the sort of thing that will appeal to adults, but will also hook new readers," Katz said. "One of my biggest complaints about comics is that we don't put out new books that will attract kids.

"I'm going to bring all the New Zealand books in, and then we'll publish brand new Blastosaurus comics," Katz said. "It's well regarded and I think it's going to take some people by surprise."

Comedy Deathray Anthology

Editor Scott Aukerman

"Scott is going to run the anthology, and he's an Emmy-nominated writer for Mr. Show and writer of the recent MTV Movie Awards, and he's got a show in development for television," Katz said. "He's one of the better and more respected guys inside the world of comedy."

Katz met Aukerman when they were judging a "Tournament of Nerds." "I sit down at the judging table, and Aukerman turns to me and said, 'Great last issue,'" Katz laughed. "Boother One Million had just come out. And I said, what? Excuse me?"

It turned out that Aukerman and many of his fellow comedians are comic readers. So Katz said he and Aukerman are planning to find comedians who want to come into comics for awhile.

"Things like this will be the hallmark of the label," Katz said. "I plan to keep bringing new genres and new ideas to comics, and this is just one example of the kind of things we can do. I come from the New Line idea of thought, and the New Line mantra was always 'hit 'em where they ain't.' And comedy is someplace where most comics published aren't right now. Plus it turns out that Aukerman is a true comics nerd with friends who are dying to do this kind of thing."

Katz said the first of these comics will publish by the end of the year, although details are being nailed down for when each will be released. More details about them and other projects will be announced at San Diego Comic-Con.

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