LOS ANGELES — Expect to see more vampires, werewolves and the undead come to life on television.
In the latest sign of Hollywood’s growing appetite for comic book properties, San Diego comic book company IDW Publishing is launching a television division managed by an executive producer of the hit zombie series “The Walking Dead.”
IDW, also known as Idea and Design Works, already publishes a wide range of comic books and graphic novels based on film and TV titles, including “Doctor Who,” “G.I. Joe,” “Star Trek” and “Transformers.”
Some of IDW’s own comic book series also have been turned into movies, including Sony Pictures’ “30 Days of Night” in 2007.
Now, the company wants to develop and finance TV shows based on its catalog of tales that delve into dark, supernatural worlds. The move is part of an effort to capitalize on the popularity of comic-inspired TV shows such as AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which was based on Robert Kirkman’s comic book series, and “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” created for ABC by Joss Whedon.
The new TV division, called IDW Entertainment, will be headed by former Starz Media executive David Ozer and will be housed in the Los Angeles office of production and management company Circle of Confusion, one of the executive producers on “The Walking Dead.”
Circle of Confusion, IDW’s management company for the last seven years, will oversee packaging and creative development of the division and serve as an executive producer on the company’s projects.
“The success of ‘The Walking Dead’ has opened the door for all sorts of comic books to go to the small screen,” said David Alpert, a partner in Circle of Confusion. “We find the stories that are told in comic books are natural adaptations for television.”
Following a path similar to Marvel Studios’, IDW plans to develop and finance its own projects and retain the rights, thereby maintaining more creative and financial control.
“IDW is a powerhouse of creativity, and the studios recognize that potential,” said Rick Jacobs, a Circle of Confusion producer and chief creative officer of the new TV division. “By financing its own television projects, the company is now poised to become a major player across all media platforms. Our hope is that we will be able to ... move faster to get these projects from the comic books to being on the air, as opposed to getting mired down in the long development process.”
The live-action projects already in development include “Life Undead,” co-executive-produced by Chris Pollack with Paul Zbyszewski (“S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Lost”), about a New Orleans detective tracking down a new drug who gets sucked into a supernatural underworld; and “Brooklyn Animal Control,” about a unit of the New York Police Department charged with overseeing a community of werewolves, from “Hellbenders” writer-director J.T. Petty and artist Stephen Thompson.
A third project is “V Wars,” the chronicle of the first “Vampire War,” edited by bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, for which IDW is in discussions with a major network.
IDW executives said they hoped to have at least one project on the air by the end of next year.
“This is the next big step for us as a content company,” IDW Publishing Chief Executive Ted Adams said.
Movie projects in the works are “Lore,” a Warner Bros. film from writer T.P. Louise and artist Ashley Wood; “World War Robot,” also created by Wood and in development at Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer producing; and “Zombies vs. Robots,” created by Wood and IDW executive Chris Ryall. The last one is in development with Sony Pictures.
When Adams and several partners founded IDW in 1999, the company initially focused on providing artwork and graphic design for a variety of entertainment companies.
Today, it is the world’s fourth-largest comic book publisher, behind Berkeley-based Image Comics, DC Comics and No. 1-ranked Marvel Comics. IDW has 42 employees and relies on a network of about 275 freelance artists from the U.S., Chile, Australia, Britain, Japan and other countries.
IDW’s primary business is publishing comic books. This year the company expects to sell 5 million comic books, which typically retail for about $3.99 each, and more than 1 million graphic novels, which often sell for as much as $19.99.
Demand for comic books and graphic novels has been brisk in part because of the proliferation of new digital outlets. IDW’s sales, which exceed $20 million annually, are up 35 percent this year over last, Adams said.
“Unlike most print media that has been savaged by digital versions of content, our digital distribution is up and our print (business) is up as well,” Adams said. “People are discovering comics on their digital devices.”
(Photo: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT)