Zestworld Will Give Comic Book Creators a Greater Stake
Zestworld, which counts Alexis Ohanian as a supporter, will allow comic book writers and artists to present new work and reap the benefits.,
Many comic book characters anchor global franchises, but their creators — or the writers and artists who helped make them popular — have not always shared in that success. Zestworld, a new subscription-based platform that is set to be introduced in early 2022, is hoping to change that.
Zestworld will allow comic book writers and artists to present new work and reap the benefits — and help monetize their creations if they are made into collectibles or adapted for TV, movies or other media. The creators will be stockholders in the company.
“In setting out to build this, we started with the problem statement that this industry is broken for creators; and it’s broken in publishing and TV and film; it’s also broken in events and collectibles,” Chris Giliberti, the founder and chief executive officer of Zestworld, said during a recent telephone interview. “We wanted to build something that’s useful across all areas of their business — anywhere they generate income.”
One investor in Zestworld is the venture capitalist firm Seven Seven Six, which was founded by Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. “I’m a lifelong comics fan, so much so that I didn’t read an actual book for pleasure until college,” he said in an email interview. “This investment started from a place of personal passion, but it’s also a perfect fit with my investing history in the creator economy.” Ohanian was one of the first investors in Patreon, a platform founded in 2013 where people can pay musicians, podcasters, comic book artists and others for access to premium content.
Zestworld’s initial roster of comic book creators includes Eric Canete, Amanda Conner, Phil Jimenez, Jimmy Palmiotti, Alex Segura and Peter Tomasi, all of whom have been given advances to develop original stories for the platform. “The Awakened,” for example, is a superhero murder mystery told by Segura, who is writing it with Michael Moreci, with art by Dean Kotz.
Palmiotti and Conner, who worked on several Harley Quinn comics for DC Comics, are working on a couple of projects for Zestworld, including a story about Booty Powpow, an immortal woman from ancient times who wakes up in the present day. Palmiotti is also writing “Found,” with art by Juan Santacruz, about the discovery of a spaceship on Earth.
From the early days of comics, characters were typically owned by and benefited the publishers, not the creative team who dreamed them up. (Famously, for example, Superman’s creators sold their rights to the character for $130.)
Palmiotti said he and Conner were excited about Zestworld’s offer. “They put their money where their mouth was,” he said during a recent telephone interview. “They came to us and said, ‘You guys can do whatever you want. We want you to create some comics and characters. You guys own them, you guys control them.'”
With Zestworld, he said, “Nothing’s being done without sitting with us and talking to us and nothing is being made without it benefiting us. It’s the kind of transparency all creators need.”