One of the bigger trends in entertainment today is transmedia, where a single intellectual property is presented in various formats that may include comics, TV, movies, and video games. The 451 Media Group, which was co-founded by Hollywood super producer, Michael Bay, is a technology focused company that publishes graphic novels and hopes to develop those properties into different platforms to continue and enhance the stories. This past Saturday, at Stan Lee’s LA Comic Con, 451 held a panel to showcase some of their current slate of graphic novels as well as preview titles to be released in 2018.
The first title discussed was NVRLND written by Stephanie Salyers and Dylan Mulick with art by Leila Liez. It is described as the sex, drugs, and rock and roll version of Peter Pan. The story follows teenager, Wendy Darling, as she navigates life through Hollywood High. There she becomes friends with Tiger Lilly and becomes involved in the local rave scene where she meets and falls for rocker Peter Pan, the lead singer of the band the Lost Boys. All the while, Wendy’s dad, the new district attorney, is investigating the drug epidemic of Pixie Dust, which causes its users to want to fly. Elements from the series were even incorporated into a music video by the band The Ravonettes that was released to accompany the launch of the comic. Mulick directed the video while Salyers co-wrote the song with the band.
Comic veteran, David Baron, presented his creator owned series, Stained. The story is set in the future, after an extinction-level event has occurred and has caused the survivors to at least be part cyborg. There is a distinct caste system where the rich are able to afford cybernetics that closely resemble normal human aesthetics. In this world you follow Emma London, a bounty hunter as she goes on a sci-fi action adventure and tries to retrieve a priceless painting. Most known for his work as a colorist, Baron has taken a different role as the writer and the art is by Yusuf Idris.
Writers Grant Myers, Matthew Garland, and Gavin Hignight previewed their title, Alien Race, due out in 2018. The series is an alien adventure invasion story, however instead of using brute force to overpower and conquer earth, the aliens use a subtler method of assimilation and integrating their own ways into human culture. The title refers to an intergalactic competition where a participant is selected from each continent to race against other aliens. The preferred methods of transportation are custom-made creatures that are genetically engineered, incorporating the attributes and DNA of animals past and present. The creators wanted to follow the human competitors and dive into the characters’ choices, and show how their previous life and experiences motivated their decisions. The series was inspired by a design book of visuals and the writers created a whole world and story based off of the illustrations.
The final series teased was SAFEHAVEN, written and created by James Seale. The comic is about a troubled youth named Jenna, who has turned her life around through drawing. Things begin to get weird when Jenna notices her art coming to life and she’s brought into a parallel universe. Seale described it as a supernatural Wizard of Oz. Coming from a screen writing background, Seale was excited to explore a new format to tell his stories. In parallel with the creation of SAFEHAVEN, an augmented reality second hand experience is being developed to allow the reader to travel the same alternate dimension that Jenna is seeing. This series has a little history with this convention, as 451 discovered Seale’s story at the same con one year ago.
Though a fairly new company, 451 has a good variety of current and future titles. In addition, it is interesting to see the different avenues they are incorporating their intellectual property. Some, like the music video, are outlets I would never have considered, while others, like augmented reality, seem to have great potential in elevating the comics experience.