Comic book publisher Oni Press and online entertainment distributor 60Frames are joining forces to create original properties that will launch simultaneous on the Web and as “traditional, digest-size comics.”  This strategic partnership, the first between an independent graphic novel publisher and new media financiers, will also extend to creating Web series based on existing titles in the Oni library.  The first two new properties in development under this agreement are Ark and Men With Guns: Assassin.


Ark, which is scheduled to debut both in print and on the Web in early 2009, is a science fiction saga conceived by Robbie Thompson and developed by TV showrunners Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah, who are currently working on the revival/spin-off of Beverly Hills, 90210 slated for the CW network’s fall schedule.  The heroine of Ark wakes up in a coffin-like box, discovers she is on a giant spacecraft, and has to find out how and why she got there and if she can ever get back home.  The Web version of Ark will feature both CGI animation and live action.


Men With Guns: Assassin is the first chapter in a Men With Guns anthology.  Emmy Award-winning producer/writer Tom Fontana (Oz, Homicide) created this gritty drama about a cat-and-mouse struggle between a hired killer and the cop who is out to get him—a conflict that is complicated by a Romeo and Juliet affair between their children.


While this deal has its innovative aspects, especially in terms of the media platforms involved, it also continues several well-established trends, notably the continued flow of talent from the realm of movies and television into the comics’ arena, as well as Oni’s particular gift for placing its properties in other media.  Oni has The Damned, Courtney Crumrin, and The Return of King Doug set up at Dreamworks, Scott Pilgrim, Leading Man and Resurrection at Universal, as well as Maintenance and Whiteout, which is due to be released in October, at Warners.