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Marvel: New ICON Imprint Launched
Reported 09/04/2003
Source ComicsContinuum & ComicBookResources

Marvel Comics on Friday announced the launch of ICON, a new publishing imprint that will produce projects utilizing properties outside of the Marvel Universe.

ICON will launch with two titles currently published at Image Comics: Brian Bendis' Powers and David Mack's Kabuki. According to Marvel, the ICON imprint has been created with "a mandate to pursue both these creator and licensed projects, while maintaining the highest level of talent and the brands that readers have come to expect from Marvel."

Dan Buckley, Publisher, said, "We had been considering this kind of imprint for a while before talking to Brian and David. But once we did, everything fell into place. Starting with Brian and David on Powers and Kabuki really sets the standard for the whole line. We are very excited about this initiative, and are thrilled that Powers and Kabuki are launching it." Said Bendis: "We have always said that we have benefited so much from the generations of comic creators before us who worked so hard to pave the way for creator rights. We have had it so good and we are stunned that we get to help take it to the next level... Marvel's first true creator-owned imprint."

Read fuller account here
Reported 21/04/2004
Source Newsarama

[Image: icon_Logo.jpg]With the dust of the initial announcement just starting to settle, it’s time to look at the Marvel side of Icon. We spoke with Marvel President of Publishing Gui Karyo for the inner workings of the new imprint at Marvel, which will see the return of 100% creator-owned titles at the company.

The presence of creator-owned works at Marvel is something that hasn’t been seen at the company since its original Epic line folded. The line’s first version began with the launch of Epic Illustrated in 1980, a magazine that was aiming to take some of Heavy Metal’s audience with stories and art in a similar vein. To supply the caliber of material needed, Marvel let the creators hold on to all the rights to their creations. Headed by the late Archie Goodwin, Epic Illustrated was the first home to Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar, which was later launched as the first ongoing series under the Epic Comics imprint, thanks to the success of Epic Illustrated.

Newsarama Note: It’s because of the retention of all rights that Starlin was recently able to oversee the reprint and release of a newly remastered Dreadstar trade paperback from Dynamic Forces. Starlin, and Starlin alone controls the rights to the property, and thus can say where, when and how the characters and former material will be used.

Epic Comics launched with the first issue of Dreadstar in late 1982 and was shipped only to direct market comic shops, which were a growing force in the marketplace at that time, and were starting to nibble away at the dominance of newsstands as the major outlet of comic books. The launch of the Epic line at Marvel was in large part, the brainchild of Jim Shooter, and, along with successive moves by DC was responsible for much, if not all of the paradigm shifts of the comics creator landscape seen through the ‘80s, such as royalties, varied partial ownership deals, higher page rates, first-refusal rights, and the opening of the door to new creators – specifically from an island in the Atlantic known for knights, castles, and James Bond.

With the growth of the direct market and independent publishing, Epic soon found itself, rather than alone, one of a growing field of outlets for creators interested in publishing their own work and retaining the rights to it as well. The official line quietly went away in early ‘90s, amid countless other bodies falling.

Ten or so years later, with much hullabaloo, Marvel brought Epic back in 2003, with the promise that it would again publish creator-owned comics, with the promise that anyone, as long as their work met the Epic standards, could be published. Creator ownership remained a promised aspect as the line chugged to life last summer, but fell to the wayside as other problems soon overtook the Epic's most recent incarnation. The latest version of Epic officially ended earlier this year. Which made the announcement of Icon something of a surprise coming from Marvel. Throughout the industry, reports persisted that Epic Take Two didn’t do creator-owned because Marvel corporate didn’t want anything to do with publishing properties it couldn’t fully exploit in other media - a reasonable rumor, if true, as Marvel is in business to make money. However, with the Icon announcement, the relationship was made clear – Brian Bendis, Mike Oeming (creators of Powers) and David Mack (creator of Kabuki) will see their series published under the new Marvel imprint with a reported zero input from Marvel in terms of editorial, and the creators would retain 100% ownership of their respective properties. To many, it echoed of the original Epic – acclaimed creators producing popular projects while retaining the rights. Interesting times, interesting times.

Newsarama: First off, what brought the Icon deal about? Did Brian, Mike, and David approach you, or had this been a possibility – something that was in discussion for a while, but needed an oomph to get rolling?
Gui Karyo: There has been a long, continuous discussion at Marvel about how we might publish things outside of the Marvel Brand and Properties. Then, as with many good things, a lot of disparate pieces came together at once. I will say that Brian, Mike and David do provide oomph, and the occasional bit of chutzpah.

NRAMA: When did this all go down, and how long did it take to get the i ’s dotted and t’s crossed?
GK: The basic deal came together very quickly, I think because our ideas for how we could work together were already very much on the same page.

NRAMA: Did anyone in particular at Marvel have to be convinced that this was a good idea? Were there concerns that it might not be the best thing for the company?
GK: We‘re always concerned about whether something new will be successful, and just as importantly, good. Internally we all had equal levels of concern, but at the end of the day there was a unanimous team decision. We as a group recognized that the potential rewards in building a sandbox for great creators and brands was worthy of the risks.

NRAMA: Well then, bluntly...what changed at Marvel? Epic, for various reported reasons didn't work, with several creators left with the impression that "creator-owned" wasn't an avenue Marvel was looking to go down at that time. What's different between now and then?
GK: While I understand the tendency to make this comparison between Epic and Icon, it is really comparing apples to oranges. Epic was an experiment with classic Marvel imprint brought back to bring new talent and new stories to Marvel under a new business model. Under Epic, while the question of creator owned was discussed, it was not really addressed. Icon, on the other hand, is a new imprint created separate from the traditional Marvel Imprints specifically mandated to work with top properties and creators outside of Marvel's core properties and imprints.

NRAMA: How much did the stature and "sure thing"-edness of both the creators and the properties have to do with getting Icon up and running?
GK: It sure helped things come together.

NRAMA: Can you discuss a little about Marvel’s benefits in something like Icon? Business-wise, for a big company to publish and expend resources in something it doesn’t own at the end of the day doesn't seem very prudent. Marvel won't own anything, you'll only get a small fee per book, no matter if the book is a through the roof seller, the creators can pack up and walk. Where's the benefit here for Marvel?
GK: Well, first, since the economics of the deals with our creators are confidential, and will remain so, I don't believe your assessment of the fiscal value of this venture is accurate, and we do expect, in the full course of time, for Icon to make a healthy contribution to Marvel.
However, I will be the first to admit that this was not our only motivation. We believe that experimentation is healthy, particularly when you are working with good partners. We feel that this new tool for building partnerships on projects that we believe, which do not fit into the traditional Marvel publishing mold, will have unexpected returns for everyone involved.

NRAMA: Functionally, how will Icon be set up within the Marvel offices? This is just really a trafficking issue, with no stopovers in editorial, right?
GK: Every Icon project is going to be a unique partnership. The answers to all of these questions are that it very much depends on the project. This is not a cookie cutter process.

NRAMA: Will Marvel's same "no-overprint" and publishing policies apply to the Icon titles? That is, will say, Powers #3 have any sizable overprint, or will it follow usual Marvel guidelines in print run size?
GK: Actually, Marvel doesn't have a 'no-overprint' policy. While it is true that we tend to be very conservatoire, at the end of the day we simply do what we think is most intelligent for each book.

NRAMA: Does Marvel have any ownership stake in the properties under the Icon imprint?
GK: I’ll go back to what I said earlier, that every Icon project is going to be a unique partnership, and that it very much depends on the project.

NRAMA: Well, likewise, as movies have become an integral part of Marvel's business plan and income, does Marvel have any first look deal on optioning the properties for other media?
GK: Again, it’s what I just said - every Icon project is going to be a unique partnership.

NRAMA: Alright, from your side of the fence, what's the benefit of these creators bringing their projects to Icon?
GK: Icon is built to be a place for the best of our best. We’re not pitching the world, just one person at a time.

NRAMA: Will there be cross-promotion between the Marvel Universe or Ultimate/MAX/Marvel Knights lines and Icon?
GK: No. Our intention is to continue to build Icon as a brand separate and apart from Marvel. We believe the quality of the creators and the projects will do more for the growth of this brand that Marvel cross promotion.

NRAMA: Speaking to the specifics of the first properties to come over, it’s a pretty safe estimate that both Powers and Kabuki do good numbers with their backlist. Why not bring them over as well, and instantly make Icon an imprint with two series and a sizable backlist?
GK: It wasn't and hasn't been discussed.

NRAMA: Is Marvel actively pursuing other creators and/or projects of the caliber/stature of Powers and Kabuki to bring into Icon?
GK: We’re taking things on step at a time.

NRAMA: So then, to fully clarify, Icon is by invitation only?
GK: It is, in a sense, invitation only, although I doubt we will print cards.

NRAMA: In terms of expanding Icon, are you looking to open it to similar "sure things," that is, books with a solid readership, a possible backlist and that are established? Or is Icon equipped to be a "nursery" of sorts for new titles and concepts for new or up and coming creators?
GK: Hardly anything is a 'sure thing,' and I imagine not everything Icon publishes will be as well vetted as Powers and Kabuki. However, as I said, we are taking these projects one at a time.

NRAMA: The initial release mentioned licensed properties as possible Icon additions. Under Bill Jemas, it had been mentioned on a few occasions that Marvel weren't thrilled with the idea of licenses, with Jemas putting it along the lines of "why have a great selling licensed book where I have to pay a licensing fee to the property owner, when we can create the Ultimates, and keep it all..." Is Marvel courting licenses as well?
GK: Just as with creator-owned projects, while licensing properties is not core to our business, from time to time opportunities have come up that we would like to foster. Icon gives us a place to do this.

NRAMA: What kind of licenses would Marvel be looking at for Icon? Is it time to put J.K Rowling on speed dial again?
GK: I think we would love a Harry Potter comic. We could really do something amazing with that world and have a lot of fun with it. I don't think, though, that we could afford it. However, if J.K. Rowling is reading this, please call!

NRAMA: Given the “invitation only” status of the imprint, are there any properties or creators that you're actively chasing down for Icon?
GK: I think everyone has an idea of something they would like to see in Icon, but we are not chasing things down. As it stands we have a whole lot on our plate minding the home front.

NRAMA: So the imprint could be the home to things as wide and varied as say, Ash, Millarworld Phase 2, Ellis' Ministry of Space, Rex Mundi, Frank Cho's Liberty Meadows, or even…Miracleman?
GK: Anything is possible.

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