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‘Black Sails’ Star Luke Arnold Launches Graphic Novel With New Publisher The Lab Press | Exclusive

Actor and writer Luke Arnold, who starred as Long John Silver on Starz series “Black Sails,” is launching his first graphic novel, “Essentials.” The science-fiction project will be the first from The Lab Press, a new upstart publisher looking to join the comic book world as the format continues to be a popular place for both storytelling and piloting ideas to launch into other media, including TV and film.

“’Essentials’ was born out of impossible questions,” Arnold said in a statement. “What matters most in a well-lived life? Is joy more valuable than truth? Does mortality give meaning to our existence? At what point do our perceptions become our reality?”

Arnold, who released his first novel in 2020, is cowriting the project with Emmy-nominated animation writer Chris “Doc” Wyatt (Marvel’s “Rocket and Groot”), who also served as a producer on “Napoleon Dynamite.” The publisher teased future graphic novels with other notable comic creators including writer Cecil Castellucci, artist/writer Gene Ha and artist José Villarrubia, as well as artist and filmmaker Nihaarika Negi.

Creative executive Mike Zagari was announced as joining the Lab Press team earlier this week. Zagari, who will serve as chief creative officer and partner, has a long history of working in consumer products and developing intellectual property for use outside of comics. He’s also self-published his own comic books.

“It’s no secret that the comics industry is in a period of tremendous, transformative change,” Zagari said in a statement, before promising that the new publisher “is prepared to meet those challenges and opportunities head-on. We’re dedicated to publishing fearless storytelling, with unique styles and perspectives.”

He added that the label would focus on making “high-end, original graphic novels with stories that challenge, surprise, and engage readers.”

As an upstart project, the company is looking to pre-sell Arnold and Wyatt’s book via a Kickstarter campaign launching this spring. While Kickstarter has faced headwinds recently as interest in the crowdfunding platform has dimmed, it’s continued to be a popular launching place for new comic book projects, including those from midsized publishers such as Boom Studios. Despite sales challenges, the world of comic books as upscale prestige story venues targeted toward a small but passionate audience has continued to spread, both through crowdfunding as well as direct appeals through platforms such as high-profile newsletter service Substack.

“We’ve managed to assemble a staggeringly talented group of artists to explore these ideas with us, creating a story that traverses a post-apocalyptic reality, multiple subjective projections, an interdimensional collective consciousness, and the kaleidoscopic labyrinth of our own minds,” Arnold said in a statement. “We wanted to tell a story that could only be fully realized in this medium, and this incredible team has taken it beyond our wildest dreams.”

The artists working on the book include DaNi (“Sandman”), Glenn Fabry (“Preacher”), Jason Howard (“Transformers”), Vince Locke (“A History of Violence”), Brendan McCarthy (“Spider-Man: Fever”),  Andrea Mutti (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) and M.K. Perker (“Air”). The project also features a cover from legendary comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz (“New Mutants”).

You can see the full cover, exclusive to TheWrap, below:

The painted cover to the graphic novel "Essentials."
The cover to “Essentials,” art by Bill Sienkiewicz

“Essentials” will be using the large number of artists to deliver a 140-page story that hops between realities. Wyatt praised the new publisher, describing the Lab Press in a statement as “a company that has given us total creative freedom and total support, even when we say things like – ‘our vision is to switch between seven different artists on this book to do the different realities, and you have to coordinate everything.’”

The story is described by the publisher as one in which “the world you see around you is not real. It’s a fabrication created for you, by you; built from your fears, your hopes, your miseries and your memories. This subjective reality will soon consume you completely and then all humanity will be lost. But don’t give up! Disgraced mathematician Harris Pax has teamed up with Buttons (an interdimensional being possessing his niece’s favorite toy) and they are here to set you free.”

Four people stand outside in front of a stone statue. They are four people with light-toned skin, including three men and one woman.
The Lab Press executive team Nicholas Kalikow, Diane Richey, Dagen Walker and Mike Zagari. (Courtesy The Lab Press)

The Lab Press’ executive team also includes founder and CEO Nicholas Kalikow, editor-in-chief Dagen Walker and vice president of business development Diane Richey. Walker previously wrote the series “Nice” at American Gothic Press, while Kalikow has written, directed and produced a variety of film projects. He has a background in media and has also been a real estate investor.

“We search the world for creators, writers, and artists who are looking for a space to be audacious with their wildest ideas, subversive stories and compelling art,” editor-in-chief Walker said in a statement. “We love human moments in unhinged worlds; tales that entertain while illuminating some experiential truth. As our first book to market, ‘Essentials’ will capture readers with its wild sci-fi adventure themes and compelling characters.”

Colorists on the book include Jordie Bellaire, widely considered one of the top names in comic book coloring, alongside Brad Simpson and Wesley Wong. DC Hopkins will provide lettering, while Emma Price designed the book and its logo.

“I want to create books that surprise at every turn – whether you’re a die-hard comic aficionado or just dipping your toes into this wild world,” business development VP Richey said in a statement.

Cowriter Wyatt’s extensive animation work also includes “Ultimate Spider-Man,” “Legends of Vox Machina,” “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble,” “Star Wars: Resistance,” “Batman Unlimited,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Transformers: Botbots” and “Lego Ninjago: Dragons Rising.”

While the graphic novel is expected to be available elsewhere later, the Kickstarter campaign features exclusives that aren’t set to be released outside the campaign.

You can find out more about the Kickstarter campaign for “Essentials” from the Lab Press at this link.

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