With two new movies based on their graphic novels coming out—including next week’s Oblivion—Radical Studios is poised to make a return to publishing, after a year in which they concentrated on their film properties and developing new digital models. New projects include a third Hercules graphic novel and an entrance into the digital world with a new app, called Radical Universe.
Founded in 2007 as Radical Studios, the company put out action heavy slate of comics with an emphasis on transmedia properties and movie development, including their revamp of Hercules, which will become a motion picture starring the Rock next year. Radical has already published two Hercules graphic novels, The Thracian WarsandThe Knives of Kush by writer Steve Mooreand artist Cris Bolsin. However, in recent years, publishing wasn’t at the top of their program, says executive v-p Jesse Berger, who founded the company along with Barry Levine.
Although the company hit the ground running in 2007, Berger admits that the market crash in 2008 and the rise of digital comics dealt some setbacks to their original business plan. Although the company was fully funded in 2009, when other companies were struggling, “what we didn’t see coming was the iPad,” he told PWCW. “That was the game changer and not necessarily to our advantage.” Radical has been retooling its business model to operate in the newly digital world. “A lot of our competitors and fellow retailers have gone out of business in the face of this revolution,” says Berger, so they are entering cautiously.
Radical’s publishing slate of all-new comics properties—many launched with an eye to media development—was also a challenge in the comics market. “We had to rethink how we could work on that level, and we had to scale back to almost zero.”
Luckily, Radical will not really have that problem over the next year or so, with several high profile movies launching based on books they’ve published—and they’ve raised a new round of capital in January to take advantage of it.
Although the Oblivion movie comes out next week—starring Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman and directed by Joseph Kosinski—the graphic novel, which is based on Kosinski’s original story about an ordinary guy who fights an alien invasion—won’t be published until the end of next year. This is due to a variety of very unique factors.
The idea for the story began during the writer’s strike of 2007, Berger explains, when Kosinski began developing it. After the strike Kosinski became a hot property due to his stylish advertising work and was quickly recruited to direct the Tron Uprising films for Disney, which kept him busy for the next few years. However, along the way, he and Radical began developing his Oblivion story as a sort of hybrid graphic novel—the finished product is a 30,000 word novella by Arvid Nelson (Rex Mundi) with widescreen paintings art by Andree Wallin that resembles high end concept art.
The hybrid format was chosen for a reason, bearing in mind the different channel for graphic novels, comics shops and bookstores says Berger. “We wanted to come up with a format that allowed us to come up with a certain style of art, creating a cinematic rendering more conducive to the story of this scope and scale.”
At the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, Radical put together an “ashcan” of the material—a low-end copy of the book meant to preview the contents—and showed it to various production companies. The result was a bidding war for the story, says Berger. “We had every intention of releasing the book, but the movie went into production very quickly.”
Although Kosinski has been saying in interviews that he didn’t feel the graphic novel treatment would be published, as he felt it was a version of the story he wasn’t that connected to, Radical, obviously, feels differently. “I think he’s leaving out the fact that movies and books don’t need to be exactly the same. They are called source material for a reason,” says Berger. However, because of various marketing factors, including keeping some of the surprises in the film secret, Radical will not release the graphic novel version until later in 2014.
In the more immediate future, Radical is launching Radical Universe, an app-based experience that will bring them into the digital era. “It’s an immersive platform to interact with the content—not just the books but a much more social and dynamic experience around the IP and the character,” says Berger. The program will be launching within the month and will allow Radical to restart their publishing program. “Although well have a cross-market platform, we still have a legacy commitment to print,” says Berger. The app will launch for both iOS and Android platforms.
Beyond that there’s the Hercules movie starring Duane Johnson, which lands in theaters in July 2014. Its heavily based on the Radical take on the character, and they are working on a third graphic novel which will be created in the illustrated novel format. The new Hercules GN will be out in early spring or summer 2014, but there will be more announcements before then. “It’s amazing what’s happening for us with Hercules and Oblivion, but we have two more films going into production this summer that Radical is independently producing,” says Berger.