Ex-Amazon Execs Announce New Comics and Collectibles Business DSTLRY

by The Insights

Two pioneers of digital comics, David Steinberger, co-founder/CEO of comiXology and former global director of digital comics at Amazon
, and former comiXology chief content officer, Chip Mosher, today announced a new comic book and collectibles publishing company called DSTLRY. The company will release original content from some of the biggest names in mainstream comics and include intriguing features that enable a collection experience for both physical and digital products.

The company will launch with a diverse roster of “founding creators”, with each of them receiving an equity stake. According to the announcement, these creators include Scott Snyder (Batman, Wytchs), Toula Lotay (Barnstormers), James Tynion IV (Something is killing children, the joker war), Junko Mizuno (Pure trance, Ravina the witch?), Aries V (Detective Comics, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr), Mirka Andolfo (Sweet Paprika, Mercy), Joelle Jones (Lady Killer, Catwoman), Jock (Batman: A Dark Knight, Wytchs), Becky Cloonan (Wonder Woman, Batgirls), Brian Azzarello (100 bullets, joker), Elsa Carter (Eternal Love, November), Stephanie Phillips (Grim, Harley Quinn), Lee Garbet (Spider-Man, skyward), Marc Bernardin (Adora and the Distance, Star Trek: Picard), and founding publisher Will Dennis (Y: The Last Man, Snow Angels), with more founding creators, creative teams, and a publishing rollout to be announced later this year.

DSTLRY has yet to announce any titles, but Mosher says to expect “a lot of genre content in terms of sci-fi, horror, fantasy” and other types of material similar to what comiXology Originals has produced in recent years. For now, superheroes and shared universes aren’t on the menu, but the founders said that’s ultimately up to the creators.

While the comic book publishing industry has seen plenty of new entrants over the past decade as the market has grown to over $2 billion in North America, Steinberger says DSTLRY brings something something new to the party with a focus on ethics, creator empowerment, and fairness. In addition to the initial participation of founding creators, DSTLRY has set aside an additional 3% of the company’s equity to be split among all creators who exit projects within the first three years, split based on performance.

“One of the most important things that made comiXology successful is our understanding of industry pain points,” Steinberger said. “We obviously want to fix the rights situation for creators by giving them real equity and ownership. If they contribute to the success of our brand, they benefit from it. When you align the interests of creator and publisher, we all share the rewards. »

Two characteristics immediately set DSTLRY apart from other comic book startups. First, the books will be released in an oversized deluxe format, leaving more room for creators to develop the story and the art. Although pricing was not announced, Mosher said they would cost more than typical comics (currently $4+), prompting retailers to stock and promote them. “A higher price means higher margins for stores,” he explained.

As you’d expect from two pioneers of digital comics, there’s also a strong digital component, but with an unusual twist. The digital broadcasts will be fully owned and resalable in DSTLRY’s “vertical trusted market,” which the co-founders say does not involve a cryptocurrency component.

“We want to avoid all scams and issues associated with crypto, so there are no wallets, no NFTs, no cryptocurrency components,” Steinberger said. “At the same time, we recognize that collecting is a fundamental part of the comic book community. When we were doing pure digital distribution, we could only get about 15% of the total market. With DSTLRY, rather than fighting against the collector aspect, we play it.

The digital issues will go on sale for a week for fans to purchase directly from the company. After that, owners can buy and sell on a secondary marketplace that Mosher describes as a “StubHub for Digital Comics” that also offers a royalty on secondary sales for creators, plus additional perks like discounts, drops and encounters for loyal fans.

Steinberger said retail editions of the comics will also be available both digitally and in print on all mainstream platforms once the series is collected in book form, usually several months after the series ends. Mosher has confirmed that periodic direct market and commercial distribution agreements are in place to get the DSTLRY books into the hands of “every comic book store in North America at launch,” but those terms have yet to be announced. .

DSTLRY hits the market with an international roster of early-stage investors, including publishing giant investors Kodansha USA and Groupe Delcourt, as well as video game industry heavyweight John Schappert, technology strategist Mike Vorhaus and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura. The latter three make up DSTLRY’s advisory board. Mosher said he sees the diversity of backers as a signal of the company’s broader global ambitions.

Despite having leaders in entertainment, technology and games at the start, Mosher says the company is focused on publishing and content first. “The media angle is sauce for us,” he said. “We’ve made deals with creators to participate in media that’s very fair to all parties, but we’re focused on publishing and digital profitability.”

DSLRY has been fermenting in barrels since Mosher and Steinberger left Amazon last summer. The co-founders say they expect the first batch of titles through San Diego Comic-Con, July 21-24, 2023.

Update 4/13: A portion of this story relating to DSTLRY’s Digital Collectibles Strategy has been edited to correct transcription errors.

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