BREAKING: Comic book fans rejoice: the superhero scene could be getting even busier. Steven Paul’s SP Media Group (SPMG) has entered into an agreement to acquire a majority interest in the Atlas Comics library, it was announced this morning in Cannes, with Paramount aboard for a first-look deal.
The Atlas Comics trove is owned by Nemesis Group Inc. and its principal Jason Goodman, grandson of publisher Martin Goodman, founder of Marvel Comics, which was later run by Martin’s cousin Stan Lee.
SPMG has signed a co-production and co-financing first look deal with Paramount Pictures to develop, produce and distribute superhero films based on the comic books. Ghost In The Shell and Ghost Rider producer Paul has also signed a deal with Oscar-winner and A-list scribe Akiva Goldsman – writer on I Am Legend, The Da Vinci Code and multiple Batman movies – and his Weed Road Pictures to oversee a writers’ room in connection with developing out the universe of the characters from the Atlas comic book library.
According to the team, production on the first project is due to begin during the second quarter of 2020 with a release expected to take place 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, Atlas’s President of Production Spike Seldin (The A-Team), and Paramount. The studio will jointly finance with SPMG and Paramount will handle domestic distribution. SPMG will handle international distribution.
This is a developing story so it’s unclear at this stage which characters exactly will be in the mix. The picture may be complicated by the fact that Atlas went on to become Marvel Comics, which dominates the superhero scene thanks to its Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Spider-Man properties. According to imagery sent to us by those involved in the deal, characters could potentially include Phoenix, Tarantula, Tiger-Man, Cougar, Destructor, Grim Ghost, Morlock, Iron Jaw, Scorpion, The Brute and Wulf The Barbarian. The comics spanned different genres including sci-fi, fantasy, action, supernatural, and horror.
Development for Atlas will be supervised by Seldin and Greg Lessans will supervise for Weed Road. Jason Goodman will maintain an interest in the new Atlas company, serving as executive producer on all films. Scott Karol, SPMG’s President, will also executive produce.
“Intellectual Property of this kind is hard to come by in this day and age, and 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,” explained Andrew Gumpert, COO at Paramount Pictures, which is in Cannes with Elton John biopic Rocketman.
“Steven Paul, Akiva Goldsman and the whole team at the singularly iconic Paramount Pictures bring a level of talent and enthusiasm to this venture that carries my family’s body of work in the comic book industry into filmed entertainment,” said Goodman.
Paul added, “What an opportunity that we have with the Atlas universe, which spans so many genres: superheroes, sci-fi, fantasy, supernatural, horror, creatures, vampires, cops, cowboys, soldiers… The breadth of this material is extraordinary. I am looking forward to this adventure with Atlas for many years to come.”
“Atlas Comics is a treasure chest of classic art characters and storylines. I am more than excited by the prospect of joining Jason Goodman, Steven Paul, Scott Karol, and Spike Seldin in opening it up for the world. We will do our sincere best to satisfy fans old and new,” noted Goldsman.
The reason this trove of material has remained undiscovered until today partly lies in Atlas Comics’s history. In late 1939, publishing magnate Martin Goodman founded Timely Publications.
Timely formed the division then named Atlas Comics in the 1950s and became the home to Spiderman, Fantastic Four and Captain America. Goodman assembled a team of comic book icons including Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Bill Everett and his cousin Stan Leiber (who changed his name to Stan Lee). In the 1960s the name was changed again, this time to Marvel Comics and Stan Lee was promoted to editor. In the 1970s Martin Goodman sold his publishing holdings with the understanding that Martin’s son, Charles “Chip” Goodman, would stay on at Marvel. This never came to pass. In 1974, Martin and Chip Goodman once again pulled together the top talent in the industry and re-entered the comic book business, re-launching Atlas Comics under the creative direction of young comic book innovators Jeff Rovin and Ric Meyers, with the sole intent of competing with Marvel and DC. They hired Steve Ditko, Neal Adams, Ernie Colon, and other icons of the comic book genre and added Stan Lee’s younger brother, Larry Leiber, to the staff as an editor. Upon Martin’s death, Atlas became frozen in his estate and remained untouched until 2010 when Martin’s grandson, Jason Goodman, took possession.
The Paramount-SPMG deal was negotiated by Paramount’s COO, Andrew Gumpert and SPMG’s President, Scott Karol. The deal to acquire the majority interest in the Atlas Comics library was negotiated by Stephen R. Stern (counsel to Nemesis/Jason Goodman) and Scott Karol (on behalf of SPMG).