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Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels once co-owned a comic company

Live, from New York, it's.... Saturday night comics?

Broadway Comics
Image credit: Broadway Comics

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In the mid-90s, Saturday Night Live co-creator Lorne Michaels was in his latest wave of success with the hit NBC late-night show with then up-and-coming stars such as Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Chris Farley, and Phil Hartman, and producing two hit movies in the Wayne's World franchise. At the same time, comics were at a crescendo with Marvel's launch of Spider-Man, X-Men, and X-Force, the Image Comics revolution, and the Death of Superman.

So what better time for Lorne Michaels to start a comic company?

Broadway Comics
Image credit: Broadway Comics

In 1994, Michaels and his production company Broadway Video were looking to expand into comics. It had already acquired the rights to much of the Rankin/Bass animated movies as well as the Lassie TV show, so seeing comics as its next area of growth isn't out of the question. Michaels' company found its man in Jim Shooter - former editor-in-chief of Marvel in its '80s heights, and the man who led the revival of the Gold Key characters (with some of their own) with Valiant Comics in the '90s.

Shooter, for his part, was removed from both of those positions, and by 1994 had tried and failed at launching a second new company, Defiant, and was looking for his next job. That's when Shooter was approached by one of Michael's Broadway Video executives asking if he'd lead up their plans to get into comics publishing.

"I formed Broadway Comics in partnership with Broadway Video Entertainment, a division of Broadway Video, Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels’ company," Shooter writes in 2011. "Our purpose was to make great and successful comics, of course, but with an eye towards properties that had potential for TV and film."

Shooter describes Broadway Comics as a 50/50 split between himself and Broadway Video, with the latter being in the lead position to make the final decision on anything. And what they wanted is comics that could be developed into TV series and movies.

Broadway received interested from TV - but from not the place you'd expect. The wrestling company WWE (then known as WWF) became interested in the Broadway Comics' character Fatale for a possible tie-in with its characters, but ultimately the talks never led to a deal.

Michaels' clout did get Broadway Comics a meeting with Paramount Pictures, but what started as a pitch to get Broadway Comics characters in TV and film turned into Paramount trying to get Broadway to license its animated properties such as Beavis & Butthead and Aeon Flux to be made into comics.

Broadway Comics
Image credit: Broadway Comics

Michaels' daliance with comic books didn't last long, however. In 1996, Michaels sold off the Broadway Video Entertainment division - which included Broadway Comics - to Golden Books Family Entertainment in 1996. Just months later, Golden Books shut down Broadway Comics.

"Once Broadway Comics was part of GBFE, they soon pulled the plug and closed us down," says Shooter. "Early 1997, as I recall. As I said yesterday, Dick Snyder, CEO and Chairman of GBFE apparently had no interest in publishing comics.

If you're thinking 'why didn't SNL plug Lorne's comic book company?,' Shooter had a cogent and realistic answer.

"Lorne Michaels/SNL would no sooner run a plug for Broadway Comics or trump up some way to do a mention of us than they would do the same for one of their kids' lemonade stands," Shooter wrote in 2012. "Plugs and such mentions are usually considered tacky and unprofessional at best. Plugging or publicizing a struggling little start up that Lorne owned a piece of would have been seen as outrageous and amateursville."


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Chris Arrant avatar

Chris Arrant

Editor-in-Chief

Chris Arrant is the Popverse's Editor-in-Chief. He has written about pop culture for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel, Newsarama, CBR, and more. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. (He/him)
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