DC Thomson Media and Beano Studios have teamed up for the launch of Emanata Studios, to develop the company’s wide-ranging portfolio of comic characters, stretching back to the 1920s, for TV and film.
The word Emanata was coined by the American cartoonist Mort Walker, to describe the dots and lines which emanate from cartoon characters and was chosen to reflect the huge publishing archive being developed by the studio.
We got a hint of DC Thomson’s media plans last year, with reports then that updated versions of several DC Thomson Media characters to the small screen were in the offing, including a teenage version of the Beano’s Dennis (aka Dennis the Menace), Hotspur’s Nick Jolly The Flying Highwayman and Marina, a young girl who could see into the future, from girls comic Spellbound.
Now, Emanata Studios has confirmed a deal with Westbrook Studios, run by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith, for a drama based on the early adventure hero, “The Amazing Mr X“, one of Britain’s earliest superheroes, who first appeared in Issue 272 of The Dandy in 1944, continuing into 1945, drawn by Jack Glass, and reappeared, drawn by Dudley Watkins in the 1962 Dandy Book.
Back in 2012, entrants of the Dundee Comics Prize were asked to create Amazing Mr X stories, a competition won by Steve Marchant, with his humorous tale of an 88-year-old Mr X still attempting to fight the good fight.
The strips were subsequently published by the University of Dundee under their UniVerse imprint, which Jeremy Briggs reviewed here for downthetubes.
DC Thomson also brought the character back later that year for the digital relaunch of The Dandy, as part of a new story called Retro Active.
Emanata Studios has also confirmed a deal with Jerry Bruckheimer TV and CBS Studios for a live-action dramedy based on Dennis the Menace, or as we know him today, simply Dennis, to avoid any confusion with the American comic character of the same name.
Fox Entertainment has also picked up the rights for Bananaman, who first appeared in Nutty comic, today featuring in the BEANO, and are developing an adult animation series with Bento Box (Bob’s Burgers and Central Park).
Emanata Studios also has a range of projects in the works in the UK across drama, comedy and animation for adults and YA in the UK which include a UKTV comedy live action pilot script has been commissioned based on an iconic comic character from The Dandy.
Screen Scotland, backed by the Scottish Government and The National Lottery, has funded a drama, written by Rae Brunton, based on character “Nick Jolly the Flying Highwayman” who featured in The Hotspur, drawn by 2000AD‘s Ron Smith. A live action drama is in development with each of Sky Studios and Drama Republic, and two adult animations with MTV Entertainment Group.
Emanata Studios website also notes a King Cobra drama series, based on The Hotspur superhero also drawn by Ron Smith, is in development. The character was revived briefly in STRIP Magazine.
Also in the works is Bunty, A Girl Like You, a comedy series in development written by Emma Moran; Blitz Boy, a drama series in development written by Omari McCarthy, based on The Dandy character; Dread, another drama series based on The Dandy’s Dreadlock Holmes; Valda, based on the Mandy character, a drama series in development with Drama Republic; and another drama series Jackie, inspired by the eponymous magazine.
In addition to the Bananaman animated series, other animation projects mentioned are Rocket Academy, based on “Boys of Rocket Academy” from The Hotspur; and Fireball, based on the action hero from Bullet.
Film projects in the works include Steelhead Sam, an “action Sci-Fi” project, based on the action hero from The Victor in a series published in 1980. The victim of a terrorist attack, Sergeant Sam Baxter is rebuilt to battle Britain’s enemies at the behest of British Intelligence, a strip drawn by Denis McLoughlin.
Chief Creative Officer Mark Talbot, who joined Beano Studios from Episodes and Flack producer Hat Trick in 2019, will lead Emanata Studios, which will have offices in Dundee and London, with a team of producers working alongside him, and he will continue to report into James Clayton, Chairman and David Guppy, CEO of Beano Studios.
“This is an incredibly unique place to be,” says Talbot of the role. “This one-of-a-kind archive has preserved more than 2000 stories and characters and Emanata is the perfect studio to reawaken them.
“For those who already know them, and new audiences ready to be entertained, we can’t wait to reintroduce the world to Bunty, ‘The Supercats’, ‘Nick Jolly, The Flying Highwayman’, alongside the incredible Beano IP at our disposal.”
Last year, when rumours first began to fly about the revival of classic characters, he told entertainment site Deadline that “Some writers come to the IP and remember it from their childhood and others come to us and say they’ve never heard of ‘Nick Jolly The Flying Highwayman’, but they’ll take a look,” noting considerable excitement from potential US partners in DC Thomson’s back catalogue of characters.
“Think about how many incarnations there have been of Batman from the 1960s with Adam West all the way through to Batman Lego, and at the same time me and my wife can sit down and watch Christian Bale and Tom Hardy going at it for two years.
“It’s the same IP but it can serve two different audiences and that’s the same beauty with the Beano,” he added.
Beano Studios Chairman James Clayton added: “With sole ownership of the UK’s largest comic book archive and ever-increasing demand for premium content, it’s the perfect time for Emanata to renew these treasured stories and characters for modern audiences.”
Emanata Studios is also launching its 2022 New Writers’ Bursary. Submissions will open in January, via the Emanata website, for a bursary of £30,000, which will be awarded to three writers from underrepresented groups to write a pilot script based on IP from the DC Thomson archive.
Previous recipients include Adjani Salmon, Ameir Brown, Lara Peake and Leila Navabi, with one project in development with a UK broadcaster.
Which DC Thomson characters would you live to see on the small screen, from Beano, Hotspur, Starblazer, Bunty and more? Brassneck? The Supercats? Spoofer McGraw? Q-Bikes? King Cobra? Let us know – comment below!
With thanks to Dave Jackson