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DIE HARD Director Explodes Radical's SHRAPNEL

Chatting with Barry Levine and Jesse Berger at Comic-Con

By Rob M. Worley     July 24, 2009


SHRAPNEL: ARISTEIA RISING
© Mania

The name of the company is Radical Publishing and in talking with company chiefs Barry Levine and Jesse Berger on the floor of Comic-Con International, we learned that there's more to the name than just hype.

The fledgling comics publisher is enjoying its third showing at San Diego after about 18 months of publishing innovative comics.

So what's so Radical? Sometimes its something small, like publishing comics with a fleixble page count. The standard issue in comics is 22 pages but Radical is more than willing to launch a title like Nick Simmons' Incarnate' with the first issue containing over 50 pages of story. That's, in part, about telling the best story possible rather than being hidebound to an arbitrary number.

"If a writer comes to me and says, 'I need another 10 pages,' I'll say, 'tell me why' and if it makes sense I'll give him the 10 pages," Levine said.

Berger points out that there are other advantages to the expanded page count. In the age of writing for the trade a larger issue size lets readers become more immersed in the story after one issue.

"Most comics see a fifty percent drop off between issue 1 and issue 2," Berger said. "We only saw a 20% drop-off on City of Dust."

Jesse Berger and Barry Levine of RADICAL PUBLISHING at Comic-Con in San Diego 2009

The larger size comics with the square binding also make them suitable for the book store market where Radical to reach an expanded readership, which Radical sees as an important audience to reach. The company is on the brink of announcing a new deal with Random House as well as an innovative new illustrated book from Tron 2 director Joseph Kosinski.

In spite of all the Hollywood connection and multi-market approach Radical is taking, Berger is emphatic about one thing:

"The reality factor is, a lot of independent publishers have trouble sustaining themselves with just publishing, mostly because the publishing business is not a very large business," Berger told us. "The output of publishers in the Diamond Catalog is only about a half-billion dollars. You look at Marvel and DC controlling 80 percent of that, you wonder how the independent publishers are going to subsist."

Like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse, Radical is part of a larger entertainment platform with tent poles that support one another: comics, toys, games and, of course, film.

"Who benefits from it? The creators," says Levine. Radical boasts a plan that allows the creators of the comics to participate both creatively and financially in the exploitation of their intellectual property. "We don't screw the. We make them money."

"We do a 50/50 model across all platforms," Berger added. "It's not just publishing."

The financial participation extends to work-for-hire creators. However, the real lure for creators is the creative involvement in the life of the concept beyond comics.

"If we're doing a movie, we allow the writers of the comic the opportunity to write the first draft of the screenplay," Levine said. "If they catch lightning in a bottle: great. We'll shoot that script. If not, a least they've provided more information for the screenwriter to work off of as opposed to only have a specific amount of information that's contained in the six-issue series."

Cover art to SHRAPNEL: ARISTEIA RISING from Radical Publishing

So far the move seems to be paying off. The company announced a number of film deals last year involving the likes of John Woo and Bryan Singer.

This year at Comic-Con they revealed that 'Underworld' and 'Live Free or Die Hard' director Len Wiseman is now developing the Radical title Shrapnel as a motion picture. That deal represents another Radical first. With previous deals they sought out directors to attach them to properties. With the Shrapnel deal, Wiseman discovered the comic on his own and sought out Radical for the film.

Another newly announced project is from Darren Bouseman, director of 'Saw II, III and IV' and its called 'Abattoir'. It's about a mysterious character who obtains pieces of architecture with tragic histories: a chandelier that a suicide hung himself from. A wall that someone blew their brains out against. This strange antagonist is collecting these pieces building towards something very ominous.

In spite of all the Hollywood connection and multi-market approach Radical is taking, Berger is emphatic about one thing:

"We wanted to be a publishing company first and the reason we started with comics is to show people we have a genuine interest in comics as a whole."

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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1 
todd890 7/31/2009 8:31:45 AM

Sounds better than the Publishing company I'm with.

fallensbane@yahoo.com_home 7/31/2009 8:48:20 AM

I can't wait to she Shrapnel, Calibur and Hotwire as films. Aladdin looks like it will be another great offering by the guys at Radical. I am sure someone will snatch that up fast after it hits shelves.

I like the way radical does stuff, hope they will be around for a long time yet.

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