Devil’s Due Entertainment and 1First Comics have merged to form Devil’s Due / 1First Comics LLC, the first mini-major comics publishing company of its size emphasizing creator-owned work since the establishment of Image in 1991. The merger combines each company’s comics libraries and business infrastructure, with implications for both the comics industry and film/television. The merger brings together 1First co-founder Ken Levin’s film and TV development team and the marketing and convention expertise of Devil’s Due. The details concerning development of properties owned individually by either Devil’s Due or 1First prior to the merger will be worked out in the coming months.

Founded by Levin and Mike Gold in 1983, 1First Comics was a pioneering publisher of independent comics through 1992. One of the earliest major outfits to feature creator-owned titles, the company opted out of the now-defunct Comics Code Authority, subsequently helping to establish the market in the U.S. for comics with adult themes and plots. Among the company’s successes are the political satire American Flagg, and the influential Mike Baron and Steve Rude science fiction series Nexus.

Levin previously was involved in rights negotiations for the film versions of comics such as Road To Perdition, Hellboy, and Wanted. On TV, he was involved in rights negotiations for the Syfy series Painkiller Jane, based on Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti’s indie comic series. He has also worked in a similar capacity with Marvel and DC/Vertigo talent regarding their titles. He was a producer on the 2013 adaptation of Daniel Schaffer’s graphic novel The Scribbler, and executive produces the currently in-production HBO/Cinemax show Quarry, based on Road To Perdition author Max Allan Collin’s series of novels. Levin also set up the development of, and is exec producing the pilot for, the upcoming AMC series Preacher, based on the long-running DC/Vertigo title.

Founded by Josh Blaylock in 1999 and relaunched in 2012, Devil’s Due has published an array of independent and creator-owned titles, and spearheaded the boom in licensed titles that continues to drive comics sales. Among titles the company is currently publishing include the hit Squarriors, Yumiko: Curse of the Merch-Girl (a collaboration published with Strange Music label rapper MURS), and Tales of Mr. Rhee. Devil’s Due has established several options and development deals, including with Twentieth Century Fox Television, New Line Cinema, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Michael DeLuca Productions, and Trigger Street Productions. The action-horror title Hack/Slash was acquired by Relativity Media, and most recently sci-fi Drafted was optioned by Benderspink Productions.

After the merger, the constituent halves of Devil’s Due and 1First will continue to exercise relative autonomy in publishing decisions; the new company will continue to emphasize creator-owned comics. Through the end of 2015, Devil’s Due / 1First Comics LLC will release six original graphic novels and launch five new ongoing comic series, as well as reissue trade collections of previously published titles. These titles will begin shipping under the new imprint in September.