Above: The new Blastosaurus series by Richard Fairgray & Terry Jones. Copyright Richard Fairgray 2011.
Back in 2008, local comics creator Richard Fairgray talked his way into the deal of a lifetime: one of his ideas for a comic-book series was to be picked up for American publication by rising media mogul/movie producer Jeff Katz.
Above: Richard Fairgray, with his Blastosaurus comics.
Katz and Fairgray met by chance through a mutual friend during the filming of X-Men Origins: Wolverine in Sydney, which Katz was over-seeing as a production executive for Twentieth Century Fox. Sharing a 'gift for the gab' they immediately hit it off, and Katz was impressed enough by Richard's diverse output of comics to offer him a development deal with his soon to be announced media company, the ironically titled American Original.
Above: Jeff Katz, head of American Original.
Katz had left his position at Fox to capitalise on what he saw as an opportunity to licence new characters and properties across a range of multi-media platforms: including comics, movies, animation and games. Fairgray's Blastosaurus - a high concept of a gun-toting mutant dinosaur, was a perfect fit for this business plan, with the promise of potential Ninja Turtles level licencing deals down the line. No stranger to marketing hype, Katz also had an angle on how to sell Fairgray's personal story too (referring to his legal blindness - Richard has 5% vision in one eye). As Katz told The NZ Herald in September 2008:
"Once people get to know Richard, his talent and his back-story - and that's an incredible human interest story - they'll find out just how unique he is. I'm just thrilled to hear he's getting some recognition. I've got plans for him, I'm going to take his work and grow them across a wide spectrum of media. You know, I told him a month ago that my goal was to make him into a local New Zealand hero, that'll really be fun to watch."
That same year at San Diego Comic Con, Katz made his presence known, announcing a comics publishing partnership with Marc Silvestri's Top Cow Comics (ever the calculating deal-maker, this was no doubt a payback for Katz securing Silvestri an executive producer credit on Fox's A-Team movie). While a raft of upcoming comics and film deals were announced at that convention for American Original's production slate, a year later product had yet to materialised. For his part however, Fairgray had never stopped producing. While Katz's other hollywood partners dragged their feet on producing their promised comics, Fairgray was grinding out Blastosaurus monthly in New Zealand for over two years, while also prepping the promised American comic edition.
Above: The American Original logo.
Back in 2009 I gave my own impression of how I saw the American Original deal playing out (you can read the full report HERE). Given Richard's indie approach and all-ages tone, I felt Blastosaurus would be an ill-fit at Top Cow, a company built primarily on comics featuring large breasted woman. Ultimately this was Katz's business plan, and Richard appeared to accommodate these strange bed-fellows as best he could: turning down a potentially lucrative first issue cover by Silvestri in favour of a more appropriate one by Transmetropolitan artist Darick Robertson (who Richard recruited himself). As for Katz, I made the following observation: '...