Siezing the “creator economy” moment, Zestworld, a digital comics publishing platform, is bounding into the $1.27 billion comics market with a new slate of titles from top creators, fueled by a $9.37 million Series-A raise. This follows a similar move by content subscription service Substack, which got into comics in a big way over the summer and just announced its move to an app-based format, and announcements from the longtime digital comics leader ComiXology around its “ComiXology Originals” lineup.
Zestworld made a splash around the holidays with its kickoff announcement, highlighting co-founder/CEO Chris Giliberti’s focus on securing greater creator equity and participation in IP that has formed the foundation of the top entertainment franchises of the 21st century.
“In recent years, the comic book industry has boomed, producing global hits on a scale unprecedented in the history of entertainment,” said Giliberti. “Contrast this enormous popularity and franchise value with the livelihood of the creators who invented the beloved characters that dominate our culture. It’s time we equip this community with its own dedicated platform specifically tailored to the comics medium and its fans.”
After a months’-long effort to put money behind this vision, Zestworld announced it has closed a Series-A funding round of nearly $10 million led by General Catalyst, with participation from Alexis Ohanian’s Seven Seven Six, Polygon Technology, former TaskRabbit CEO Stacy Brown Philpot, Shari Redstone’s Advancit Capital and Twitch founder Kevin Lin.
Zestworld says it will use the money to build “the ultimate platform for creators to build their business and manage their community.” Built on a monthly subscription plan similar to Substack or Patreon, Zestworld promises “comic-optimized digital newsletters” on “creators’ own schedules, without having to work against everchanging algorithms or potential shadowbanning that creators often face on other platforms.” “Shadowbanning” is a term some use to allege discrimination against conservative-leaning content by making it less visible and depress engagement on platforms like Twitter.
Zestworld has announced the participation of many fan-favorite comics creators including Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Peter J. Tomasi, Eric Canete, Phil Jimenez and Alex Segura. According to the company, upcoming titles include:
- ARC ATHENA by Eric Canete – “Neon Gods” to their adoring public, ARC ATHENA is the super powered team that the world is desperate for. Curated by the global tech and entertainment giant known as ARC, each member represents the most aspirational hero that public polling data can provide. Athena’s roster consists of characters whose powers are bombastically perfect for their obsessed audience but yield very low stopping force- everything is for “The Show.”
- THE AWAKENED by Alex Segura, Michael Moreci, Dean Kotz, Jason Wordie – A dark, noir-ish superhero murder mystery that explores what the true definition of power is, and who should wield it.
- BLOOD TREE by Peter J. Tomasi, Maxim Šimić, John Kalisz, Rob Leigh – Follows two obsessed NYPD detectives on the hunt for a vicious butcher called the Angel Killer, a sociopath who preys on the innocent family members of known murderers in order to “purify” the rest of society.
- BOOM POW! by Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti – An immortal is awakened from her eons-long slumber by the doughnut-slinging daughter of a nuclear physicist. Together, BOOTY POW POW and KAY BOOM take on the modern world in their own unique and special way.
- FOUND by Jimmy Palmiotti, Juan Santacruz, Alex Sinclair – On a deserted island in the middle of the pacific, a volcano erupts and expels an alien object that has potential to change the world. When this event is shared live by the family of scientists already on the scene, global governments see the potential of owning the technology and scramble to see who can get to the object first.
- OTHERWORLDS by Phil Jimenez – A reimagining of the Eisner-nominated Otherworld series, a sci-fi/fantasy epic about a war in another dimension, OTHERWORLDS tackles themes of family, identity, faith, and purpose, exploring whose voices will rise to shape the future and create the Earth anew, and how we all navigate a world where being “great” so rarely means being “good.”
One of the more intriguing aspects of the platform is the mechanism for enhanced social engagement between fans and creators, including private livestreams, exclusive discord communities, access to behind-the-scenes opportunities and the ability to commission art from their favorite artist directly. Harnessing the best aspects of social engagement and content publishing appears to be a popular business strategy as the landscape evolves in the 2020s.