Interview: Scott Rosenberg on Platinum Studios, Cowboys & Aliens, and the Future of the Comic Book Industry
As producer of Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and the upcoming Cowboys & Aliens, and CEO of Platinum Studios, Scott Rosenberg is one of the few people who will significantly shape the future of the comic book industry and related properties. A graduate of The University of Denver, Rosenberg has been part of the comic book industry for over two decades. In this time he founded Malibu Comics and was its President, has worked at Marvel Comics as a Senior Executive Vice President, he has helped DrunkDuck.com become the epicenter of the webcomics community, and, most importantly, Rosenberg has been the Chairman & CEO of Platinum Studios since 2008.
Unlike other companies involved in comic books, Platinum Studios is quickly and skillfully adapting this century-old industry to the 21st century market place by making it a priority to get great ideas into film and digital formats. Currently, Platinum Studios is bringing Dylan Dog (to be released April 29, 2011), Cowboys & Aliens (to be released July 29, 2011), Nightfall, Unique, and Meet the Haunteds to the movies.
To learn more about Cowboys & Aliens, visit the movie’s homepage here.
To learn more about Platinum Studios, click here to go their homepage.
Nicholas Yanes: You’ve been in the comic book and entertainment industry for over two decades. How did you first get into the industry? Considering what majors you graduated with, would you recommend that people who want to make a career in comic books major in a business field or in the humanities?
Scott Rosenberg: I collected comics as a kid, and when I was thirteen, I realized the only way I could keep buying comics was to start selling them, so I started taking a booth at comic book conventions and started a mail order business when I was thirteen—but I never thought I’d actually be in comics. When I got in college…I needed to eat. And I didn’t have my comic collection to sell, so my roommate and I started a mail-order business, were we started buying tons of individual issues of new comics, figuring that comic book stores would sell out of them, and we’d sell them at higher prices.
I got started publishing when these comic creators flew out, met with me, showed me a comic, and asked if I’d publish it. At first I said “No, I don’t know how to publish a comic.” But one of the things I was known for at the time was marketing, and they pushed me to market the comic. That comic was Ex-Mutants. Turned out to be a hit—all on a $400 marketing budget. And we just started building the comic business around that model. I eventually stumbled across this thing called Men In Black, knew it would really work well as a movie, and after hooking up with a producer, we shopped it around to different studios and eventually sold it to Sony.
For degrees, I hate to say it kind of doesn’t matter—but I think everyone takes away from school different things. I think what’s important about school is learning and meeting a whole new group of people. In terms of this industry, someone may take classes that pertain to exactly what they want to do, but I had no idea what I wanted to do, and did Business and Marketing.
Yanes: You’ve had your hands in establishing Malibu Comics and Platinum Studios Comics. Since you established these companies in the 80s and 90s, how do you think the comic book industry has changed?
Rosenberg: I think in ’86, the world changed when there were a great bunch of distributors shipping directly to comic stores, allowing for a ton of new comic publishers, which meant the bar for getting into the industry was lower, and tons of new storytellers came to be. Jumping ahead to today, the industry’s changed again because of webcomics. The webcomic audience is probably 90% people who’d ordinarily never go into a comic store, so the demographics are entirely different, so instead of being all superhero, its fantasy, sci-fi, adventure, etc.
Yanes: When Platinum Studios was established in 1997, it was pretty evident that DC and Marvel were going to remain the big two comics producers for some time. What were some of the innovative characteristics of Platinum Studios that you felt helped your company stand out?
Rosenberg: Platinum studios has lots of fantastic superhero characters like DC and Marvel, but we focused on are Sci-Fi, adventure, or horror for the movies like Cowboys and Aliens—pretty different than anything Marvel or D.C would do.
Yanes: One of the many things I think Platinum Studios is doing brilliantly is how well you use facebook and other social media sites. For instance, Dylan Dog’s main movie home page is its facebook fan page. (I’d argue that Platinum is easily doing a better job of using social media when compared to other entertainment companies.) Could you discus why this approach was taken? And how you think social media will influence the way movies & comics are marketed from now on?
Rosenberg: Just like with webcomics, the world’s changed. With social media, you get to talk quickly and in a more fun way with tons of different people, and the whole friend approach works well. It gives you a way to talk to people personally and get their responses personally—though you’re open to positive or negative. But if what you’re doing is good and cool, people are going to like it and talk to their friends about it.
Yanes: Despite not having the billions of dollars that Marvel and DC have at their disposal, Platinum Studios has been able to get some incredible talents for its films. You have Brandon Routh for Dylan Dog, and Cowboys & Aliens is starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, and Iron Man’s Jon Favreau for directing. What do you think Platinum Studios is doing right to get such great talent?
Rosenberg: When you don’t have billions of dollars, that’s when you hope you have good, long-lasting relationships with people who’ve made billion dollar franchises. It all comes down to having a fantastic story and a shared vision. And then everything just unfolds—at least for us—as we’d like to. We just disregard the obstacles and go for passion.
Yanes: You created Cowboys & Aliens, what’s it like for you to see characters you’ve created being brought to life by such amazing film stars? Have there been any moments in which you thought you were dreaming?
Rosenberg: It’s incredible. Sometimes it’s like seeing exactly what was going through my head when I first had that spark in my head as a kid. Jon Favreau’s bringing his own talent and vision with the adaptation, but at the same time it remains true to what I was really trying to get at in the original story.
Yanes: Though I’ll always love paper books, I know that digital publishing is the way of the future for the comics industry. A problem I have with it is that with so much being published online, I have a hard time finding quality stories. What are your thoughts about digital publishing? And what do you think can be done to help good stories get more attention?
Rosenberg: Good stories are always going to get more attention. For the creators, it just comes down to getting the word out, which isn’t necessarily about budget, its skill, getting other people to like it and talk about it. Print’s not necessarily going away—digital is already as far as I’m concerned, the new mass format.
Yanes: Finally, if you wanted your fans to add false information to one Wikipedia entry, what entry would you want edited and how would you want it changed?
Rosenberg: I love how things are right now, I certainly wouldn’t want to rewrite anything—either the past or a Wikipedia page.