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Comic Genius

Pow! He sold his comic online. Bang! He made $100,000 a week.

Back in 1996, few had experienced the Internet, let alone purchased from it-but that didn't stop Marc Silvestri, owner of Top Cow Productions Inc. in Los Angeles, from diving headfirst into e-commerce and offering his hot new comic on the Web. The move certainly paid off-he made $400,000 in just four weeks.

With publishing rights to the character Lara Croft from the wildly popular Tomb Raider video game released earlier that year, Silvestri arranged for a special-edition comic. Forgoing the comic-book-store route, he risked selling it exclusively on his Web site. "Even back then, we knew our core audience wasn't only into comics and video games; they were also very computer-savvy," says Silvestri, 42. With most of his ads appearing in the industry trade magazine Wizard, Silvestri expected to move about 70,000 comics. Instead, 150,000 copies sold out.

Top Cow has since caught Hollywood's eye. A film and TV division has been launched, nine movies are in development, and the company's Witchblade comic is enjoying a second season as a TV series on TNT. Sure, sales for 2001 were about $15 million, but that doesn't mean Silvestri has forgotten the risk that started it all. "We'll do more experimenting," he says, "and see how far we can stretch this whole e-commerce thing."

This story appears in the February 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »