WW PHILLY '08: Hollywood and the Graphic Novel

Ahmet Zappa and Christian Beranek, the heads of Disney’s new Kingdom Comics division, were on hand Saturday at Wizard World: Philadelphia to discuss their new venture as well as the steps necessary to translate works from graphic novels to films and back again. Experienced comic writer Tony DiGerolamo (The Simpsons) hosted the hour-long Q&A event.

When asked how the duo would deal with the use of Disney’s beloved characters, Zappa responded, “We’re not trying to make Mickey Mouse comics. The goal of Kingdom Comics is to reimagine some of the great properties they have that are not so familiar to people. The biggest idea is to create new graphic novels that hit the Disney specifics, like a PG-13 adventure or a science-fiction piece tonally like Pirates of the Caribbean or National Treasure.”

Beranek added, “We’re doing the live-action Disney movies, we’re not really doing any animated stuff. We’d like to find a really cool way to take a Battlestar Galactica-style way of updating stuff.”

In response to a question about the hiring writers for Kingdom Comics, Beranek explained, ‘The best analogy to think of is if we make your graphic novel, it’s as if it’s being pre-optioned for a film. So it’s not like those rights as a creator are being ignored, they’re being negotiated.”

Zappa added, “That means you have the might of the Disney machine behind you, which is the world’s largest comic-book publishing entity. If we’re publishing it, then Disney is making a serious commitment to make it successful.”

On the topic of how an ongoing monthly comic can be translated into a live-action format and whether or not that would be a venue Kingdom Comics would explore, Beranek said, “The Walking Dead is doing a good job, it could be a television show, but for us I don’t see that model right now. The monthly and bi-monthly format is waning, and graphic novels are picking up. There’re more people waiting for the trade.”

In response to a query about whether or not Kingdom Comics would basically become ‘storyboards on steroids,’ Beranek made it clear that it was his intention to create ‘the best graphic novels possible.”

Later, on a personal note, Zappa explained his affinity for comics saying, “I didn’t know how to read, until comics were involved. Spider-Man comics were actually what got me into reading. That was an amazing point for me.”

To wrap up the proceedings, Zappa and Beranek answered a question regarding their dream licenses.

Megaforce. Megaforce is my dream license.’ Beranek responded without blinking.

Zappa laughed as he described his choice, “Death Race 2000 to me is my favorite.”

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