Amazon is going into the comics business.
It has become increasingly common in Hollywood for writers and producers who want to sell an original idea to a studio to first create a comic book.
That gives them a piece of illustrated material to use while pitching and, if sales are decent, evidence that audiences are already interested in the concept. It also allows risk-averse studio executives to option a property rather than feel that they are taking a gamble on a total unknown.
Now Amazon Studios, the fledgling division of the online retail giant that develops movies and television shows from online submissions and crowd-sourced feedback, is following that route too.
The company is today releasing a digital comic titled "Blackburn Burrow," a supernatural tale set in the Civil War-era United States. It is based on a feature film screenplay submitted to Amazon Studios by a writer named Jay Levy.
As four issues are released over the next four months, Amazon plans to gauge reader reaction to test the viability of the project to turn into a movie.
"Beyond entertaining comics fans, we see value in digital comics as a new way to test screenplays and learn more about fan engagement," Amazon Studios Director Roy Price said in a statement.
The comic is currently available for free online and on Amazon's Kindle e-reader devices. The company is also running an online survey to evaluate readers' thoughts. Those who take the survey receive a $5 Amazon.com gift card.
Started in late 2010, Amazon Studios has received more than 10,000 feature screenplay submissions and 1,800 television pilots, of which it has put 17 films and nine television series into active development. None have yet gone into production, however.