Two Comixology vets return to comics with DSTLRY

The new publisher will offer creators an ownership stake in the company.

If you’ve been wondering what comiXology co-founder David Steinberger and former comiXology Originals head Chip Mosher have been doing lately, wonder no more. Today the duo have launched DSTLRY [pronounced “distillery”], a “next-generation comics publisher that redefines creator-owned comic books and collectibles.”

The new company will offer “limited physical and digital item drops, available online or in-store at local comic shops, while providing creators with fairer deals alongside company ownership.” There’s a lot to unpack from their press release, so let’s jump in … but first, here’s an image of DSTLRY’s founders drawn by Tula Lotay:

Chip Mosher and David Steinberger

Lotay is one of many creators who have signed on as a “founding creator,” so let’s start with that — company ownership. Steinberger and Mosher are working with several investors on this new initiative, including Japanese and French publishers Kodansha USA and Groupe Delcourt. In addition, three investors/entertainment heavy-hitters will make up their advisory board:

  • Video game luminary John Schappert, who is currently CEO of Shiver Entertainment and has previously worked at Zynga, Electronic Arts, Microsoft and more.
  • Tech strategist Mike Vorhaus, currently CEO of Vorhaus Advisors; he has a pretty deep background in tech and video games himself, as well as politics.
  • Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who has produced films like the Transformers movies, Red, Salt, The Meg, the G.I. Joe films, Plane and many more.

Here’s where things get interesting. Each founding creator, per the press release, holds an equity stake in the company. They’ve set aside an additional 3% of company equity to be distributed among all creators who release projects during the first three years of their publishing slate, with allocations being based on title performance. Noting that creators are “too often under-recognized and under-compensated,” DSTLRY seems to want to change that.

“Comic creators have historically received the short end of the stick when they create great characters and storylines for traditional publishers,” the co-founders said in a joint statement. “DSTLRY is truly a creator-owned endeavor, with creators co-owning the company their creations fuel. It just makes sense that as creators help build the brand, they receive equity.”

So who is on board as a founding creator?

  • Scott Snyder (Batman, Wytches),
  • Tula Lotay (Barnstormers),
  • James Tynion IV (Something Is Killing the Children, The Joker War),
  • Junko Mizuno (Pure Trance, Ravina the Witch?),
  • Ram V (Detective Comics, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr),
  • Mirka Andolfo (Sweet Paprika, Mercy),
  • Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer, Catwoman),
  • Jock (Batman: One Dark Knight, Wytches),
  • Becky Cloonan (Wonder Woman, Batgirls),
  • Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets, Joker),
  • Elsa Charretier (Love Everlasting, November),
  • Stephanie Phillips (Grim, Harley Quinn),
  • Lee Garbett (Spider-Man, Skyward),
  • Marc Bernardin (Adora and the Distance, Star Trek: Picard),
  • Jamie McKelvie (The Wicked + The Divine, Captain Carter), and
  • Founding Editor Will Dennis (Y: The Last Man, Snow Angels).

That’s an impressive list, with a lot of names that shouldn’t be surprises if you followed Mosher’s work at Comixology Originals.

“I’m truly thrilled and honored to be a part of the launch of DSTLRY,” Snyder said. “I’ve been in comics for a decade and a half and I’ve never been more excited about an opportunity than this one. DSTLRY’s commitment to creators is unparalleled, from the creative to the fiscal, which is why they’ve attracted such an inspiring murderer’s row of talent. Bottom line, this is the best new space in comics for creators, and I can’t wait for you all to see the books we’re all making for you.”

While no specific titles were mentioned, the press release does say that DSTLRY will release “oversized, premium-format single-issues” in print at local comic shops — which sounds similar to the European-influenced format of Mosher’s Blacking Out from a few years ago.

“What excited me most about my conversations with Chip and David was their creative ambition,” Tynion said. “I had a whole line of titles in my head that I knew I couldn’t do alone, and now I can do them bigger and better than I had ever imagined, alongside a truly stellar roster of creators. I’m very excited about what the future holds for DSTLRY, and more than that, I’m excited to bring these new titles to life.”

And you’d expect two former comiXology guys to have a digital plan, right? They’ll be selling digital comics directly rather than through a service like comiXology, and they plan to somehow make them collectible and resellable “with no crypto or NFT-hassle.”

According to the release, digital single-issues will be available for purchase for up to one week after release on their website. The buyer will then fully own them and can resell them at a price of their choosing on DSTLRY’s marketplace—a “Stub Hub for digital comics,” they call it. Interestingly, the creators will get a percentage of the sale.

Collected editions of single-issue comics in both print and digital formats will be widely available, so they seem to be aiming their stuff at the collectible market, both physical and digital, as well as individual readers.

“I’m hugely excited to be working with a publisher as aggressive and progressive as DSTLRY,” Jock said. “It’s no surprise that the team that heralded comiXology is approaching digital collectibles ethically and smartly in a way that should grow the comics market, while still embracing our local comic stores. Chip and David have created something special here and I can’t wait to share what we have coming up!”

According to the New York Times article from this morning, the first comic from DSTLRY is The Devil’s Cut, an anthology of stories by most of the founding creators. It will be available at comic book stores around the country and in time for Comic-Con International in July. More details on individual titles will be forthcoming.