King Features announced earlier this year that it will grow its global publishing program. Tell us about the role classic intellectual properties will play in that strategy?
Our publishing business has historically been re-print books and comics. But we’ve recently changed course to seek out opportunities to develop new original content that will appeal to younger audiences.
Classic properties present unique opportunities for success in the publishing space because not only do they have well-established, passionate fan bases eager for content, but their stories are ripe for creative reimagining. If we remain true to the core attributes that make the brands unique, we can repeatedly modernize their narratives in ways that appeal to classic fans while engaging new readers. Exploring new publishing formats and aligning with the right partners who respect and understand the brand’s origin are extremely important to this process.
Who will King Features partner with to help bring this strategy to life?
From a publishing perspective, we have expanded our roster of publishers. In the last few years, we’ve added new formats and partners, including Little Brown Young Readers; Penguin Random House, Running Press, First Second (div of Macmillan), Leap Year, and many more. We are also growing our international publishing programs to tap into emerging markets, including India, Brazil, and Latin America while empowering our agents to seek partners that will shine new light on our characters.
We’ve also been aggressively pitching and securing entertainment deals on behalf of our brands — further expanding their worlds and audiences. King Features is currently producing The Cuphead Show with Netflix, a new Flash Gordon film is in development with Fox/Disney and being written by Taika Waititi, and a new TV series for The Phantom is also in the works. With such a deep portfolio of brands, there is a lot to work with.
And, all these efforts are supported by King Features’ incredible merchandising programs for our brands around the globe.
What are some of the considerations for the team when adapting classic characters such as Popeye, Olive Oyl, Blondie, and Flash Gordon for today’s audience?
Adjusting the positioning of our brands to ensure they resonate with today’s audience is necessary to ensure they remain relevant. However, it is essential that these adjustments are always done with authenticity and remain true to the core brand attributes. Releases of new character art and fashion trend guides are also important to ensuring our products are always in sync with the marketplace. Using social medial platforms to help ensure consistent brand messaging across the globe is also critical in engaging with and expanding our fan base.
Why do these characters live in our hearts and minds after all this time?
Our classic characters trigger nostalgia and help make associations with places, people, and moments that have a special place in our minds and connections to others. To keep a classic brand fresh and relevant in a crowded market, it must be relatable. We are continually uncovering ways to genuinely connect with new audiences through fresh and engaging content — whether that be through social media, consumer products, or new entertainment. It’s essential that audiences identify with the brand’s attributes and messaging so they continue to support it over time.
What can fans of these iconic properties look forward to in the lead-up to Christmas and the new year?
We have so much to look forward to in 2022. We just reintroduced Olive Oyl with new brand positioning and art. Fans will be thrilled to see new Olive Oyl branded products starting next spring. In addition, Cuphead fans will be fueled by the upcoming releases of the TV series, supported by new publishing and product releases throughout next year, as well as the highly anticipated launch of the next installment of the video game.
King Features Syndicate is a member of Hearst Entertainment and Syndication Group.
Five questions, one fascinating person (or team!) – look into the minds of movers and shakers in the nostalgia, game, play, or toy industry.