Dubious Beginnings for New Comic Publisher DSTLRY


The New York Times reported there’s a new publisher called DSTLRY that may be taking a respectable path with contributors, but the “talent” hired is not exactly the most exciting news themselves.



Creators of comic books are “famous for being mistreated by publishers,” said David Steinberger, a co-founder and the chief executive of DSTLRY, a new company that wants to give writers and artists a greater stake for their creative efforts.

Comic book characters can be lucrative intellectual properties, particularly when they make the leap from the printed page to the silver screen, but they primarily benefit the companies that own them. It is a rueful tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the industry. The creators of Superman sold their rights to the Man of Steel for $130 in 1938, the year he debuted, not knowing the global recognition and longevity he would gain.

Unlike the creators of Superman, the founding creators of DSTLRY will retain ownership of their characters and concepts, as well as have an equity stake in the company. DSTLRY will produce oversize print comics as well as collectibles, including vinyl figures and posters. The publisher will also offer comics digitally — but only for a limited time. Once the sales window closes, the digital copies will be available only in a virtual marketplace for collectors. The seller will set the price, and a portion of resales will go to the creators.

“The main drive here is to create a more sustainable and equitable future for creators,” said Chip Mosher, the other co-founder of DSTLRY and its chief creative officer. “That’s our macro goal — benefiting the creators, and in turn benefiting readers and retailers.”



On the surface, that would sound like an impressive arrangement. But here’s where the problem comes in:


The initial comic book creators for DSTLRY are a murderers’ row of talent. They include the writers Brian Azzarello, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV and Ram V and the artists Mirka Andolfo, Elsa Charretier, Lee Garbett, Jock and Jamie McKelvie. (The full list of founding creators is online.)

Another creator recruited for the company is Tula Lotay, the founder of the Thought Bubble Comic Art Festival in Yorkshire, a county in northern England. Ms. Lotay, who will draw and write stories for DSTLRY, said the opportunity excited her.

“We literally co-own the publishing company, which is amazing,” she said. “Aside from that, I know Chip and David know my body of work and trust what I’m doing, and so it feels like I have absolute freedom to be as creative as I want to be.”



Wow, not only is one of the managers of a woke convention in the UK involved (one which dumped Frank Miller for all the wrong reasons), so are some of the same woke creators who’ve brought down the Big Two, and likely a few independent companies along the way. What’s so special here? A real challenge would be to bring up the case of right-wing creators who were short-changed in any particular way. Why, how do we know the folks behind this venture are even willing to work with any and defend their creative freedom? This is lazy. 


According to the Observer, the main founders are former overseers of the Comixology platform, which has since closed down:


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.

DSTRLY’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.”


I won’t be a surprise if he’s just as pretentious. They do mention an incident from a decade ago that’s interesting:


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.


That is admittedly very dismaying, and just goes to show even left-wing creators aren’t immune to being thrown under the bus by their equally left-wing counterparts in mainstream company management. A problem that’s surely gotten worse the more commoditized these famous creations became as they fell under corporate ownership. But if right-wing creators are shunned, does that make the guy feel dismayed? It’s unclear. At the end of the article, they also include what more investors from outside the company are involved:


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 DSTRLY’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.


It won’t be shocking if their debut comic is as dark and grisly as the title suggests, so they’ve done little to offer encouragement this is going anywhere. Why, what if it turns out to be yet another excuse for developing movie adaptations, and even video games? Exactly why this venture, coupled as it is with a pretentious convention director, sounds awfully overhyped. I’m sure you wouldn’t see this kind of fuss made if somebody founded a right-leaning publisher.


Originally published here.

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Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1