Steven Paul’s SP Media Group is acquiring a majority stake in the Atlas Comics library and has signed a first-look deal with Paramount Pictures to develop, finance, produce and distribute superhero and other films based on the comic books. SP Media has also signed up screenwriter Akiva Goldsman (“Batman Forever”) and his Weed Road Pictures to oversee a writers’ room to develop stories and characters.
The Atlas library is being acquired debt free from current owner Nemesis Group and its principal Jason Goodman. He is the grandson of Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics, which was later run by cousin Stan Lee.
Atlas’ history is tied up with Timely Comics and Marvel. In the 1950s, it ceased publishing superhero stories and expanded into other genres, including horror, crime and humor. Leading characters and stories today include Wulf, Iron Jaw, Son of Dracula, Brute, Texas Kid and Dopey Duck. It later restarted with superheroes.
Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. The deal took several years to negotiate.
Paul said that the writers room will prepare ten story outlines from which the first projects will be selected for development and production. “We don’t yet know what our flagship character will be. We aim to generate material that will attract top talent,” said Scott Karol, SP Media Group’s president.
The plan is to put the first film into production in 2020, for delivery in 2021. Thereafter at least one film per year is intended to flow from the deal.
Budgets will start at $60 million and could reach “superhero level.” SP and Paramount will both contribute financing. Paramount is expected to own rights in North America and SP hold international, though the film rights will be jointly exploited worldwide, Paul told Variety.
“Intellectual property of this kind is hard to come by in this day and age,” said Andrew Gumpert, COO at Paramount Pictures. “We are excited to be working with Steven Paul and SP Media Group to bring the iconic Atlas comic book library to the big screen.”
Production on the first project is anticipated to begin during the second quarter of 2020, with a release in 2021. The companies intend to produce and release at least one superhero project each year thereafter. The films will be produced by Paul, Goldsman and Atlas’ president of production, Spike Seldin (“The A-Team”). Development for Atlas will be supervised by Seldin. Greg Lessans will supervise for Weed Road.
Goodman will maintain a financial interest in the new Atlas company. He will be head of publishing, and involved in all future film and television productions, serving as executive producer on all films. Karol will also executive produce.