A new venture from two former Amazon executives offers creators the opportunity to retain ownership over their stories and characters.
Comic company DSTLRY was announced yesterday (April 13) by its co-founders David Steinberger and Chip Mosher, the respective former CEO and head of content at comic distribution platform Comixology, which was purchased by Amazon in 2014.
DSTLRY’s founding creators include a long list of comic artists and authors including Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Becky Cloonan and Joelle Jones, all of whom will have an equity stake in the company and own the concepts they create. Will Dennis, a former editor at Vertigo/DC Entertainment, will be its “founding editor.”
The company has additionally set aside 3 percent of company equity to be distributed amongst creators who join DSTLRY and release projects in the next three years.
Steinberger and Mosher said they’ve been planning the new venture since they left Comixology in the summer of 2022.
“We found a lot of gaps in the past few years we weren’t in the position to create,” said Steinberger. One of these gaps included “creators more and more not getting their fair share once their characters get on the big screen.”
“In comics, there’s always been a weird adversarial relationship between artists and publishers, going back to Superman being sold for $130,” said Mosher, referring to when the creators of Superman sold the rights to their character to DC Comics in 1938.
A new approach to secondary-market sales
On one end of the comic spectrum are publishers like Marvel and DC, where creators are freelancers who don’t own the material, he said. Mosher recalled attending the red carpet premiere of Captain America: Winter Soldier, where Ed Brubaker, who created the Winter Soldier character for Marvel alongside artist Steve Epting, was initially denied entry.
“I will never forget the look of his horror on his face,” said Mosher.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum are publishers who may give rights ownership to creators but subsequently require artists to handle all the additional work and public relations.
At DSTLRY, pronounced “distillery,” creators will own the company alongside Steinberger and Mosher. “If you make our Winter Soldier, you’ll be part of the company and you’ll see part of the upside,” said Steinberger.
Oversized, premium format physical comics will be available for purchase at comic shops, in addition to limited digital issues which will be available for sale one week after their release. Digital issues will also be available to sell and purchase on a DSTLRY marketplace, which the company describes as a “Stub Hub for digital comics.”
Notably, creators will receive royalties from these secondary-market digital sales, said Mosher. Despite the rise in prices buyers are willing to pay for their work, creators often don’t reap the benefits of these sales. “Some of their books go for tens of thousands of dollars,” said Mosher.
Investors in DSTLRY include publishers Kodansha USA and Groupe Delcourt, alongside producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, tech strategist Mike Vorhaus and John Schappert, CEO of gaming studio Shiver Entertainment. All of DSTLRY’s founding creators will participate in the company’s first comic The Devil’s Cut, which will be released in time for the San Diego Comic-Con International convention in July.
Correction: In one instance DSTLRY was misspelled.