At San Diego Comic Con, I had the opportunity to chat with Brett Erwin and David Hedgecock, the founders of Ape Entertainment.
Ape has a varied line that includes comics for both children and adults and a wide array of licensed properties. They have produced licensed comics based on popular films such as Shrek, Penguins of Madagascar, and Megamind, and they recently started publishing Dreamworks Magazine, which contains comics and other activities. They also publish Richie Rich, Strawberry Shortcake, and Casper comics and graphic novels, and they will soon add Sesame Street comics to their lineup as well.
Just this week, Ape announced a new series, Dragons: Riders of Berk, based on the characters in the DreamWorks film How to Train Your Dragon. (Creators James Silvani and Aaron Sparrow discussed their work on the comic in a recent interview at Animation World Network.)
Also in the works: Rise of the Guardians, a 40-page prequel to the DreamWorks film that will be released later this year; the movie is based on William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood books.
Among their most successful properties are comics based on popular games, including Pocket God, which has done phenomenally well as a digital comic—Hedgecock said they have 700,000 paid downloads, at 99 cents each, and the first issue alone has sold over 250,000 units. They followed that up with Cut the Rope, and they are currently developing a Fruit Ninja comic as well; they announced two more game-based comics, Temple Run and Squids, at San Diego. Temple Run has over 90 million users, while Squids, Hedgecock said, is “a game with incredibly high quality—we are gambling it is so good it will be the next hit.”
“We are always looking for what apps will translate well,” said Erwin.
Hedgecock said that Ape markets its comics via comics shops, bookstores, and digitally. “Between the three of them we make it work,” he said. In addition, their DreamWorks magazine is available through newsstands and in some grocery stores. “We have to get comics like DreamWorks out to market so people can find them,” Erwin said.
Hedgecock and Erwin said that they are very interested in the direct market as well. “Whether they want it or not, I am determined to get comics shops on our side,” said Hedgecock. “We can help build a young readers’ section for stores. If we don’t bring in young readers, we won’t have a market,” added Erwin.