! Studios is an online marketplace for original comic books and graphic novels that uses social networks like MySpace to promote its artists’ works. The company’s big plan is to be an alternate way for the most promising graphic storytellers to create hits that eventually make it to lucrative mediums like movies and video games.

It wants to give independent creators a chance to see a larger upside than they might with traditionally dominant comic book companies like Marvel, through negotiating so that creators get a share of proceeds from all sales. It lets artists upload their own comics to display to readers, and includes an option where comics can be bought and sold for a fee.

We’ve covered a number of online video companies that are trying to make similar propositions to video creators.

The Los Angeles company, officially known as Boom Entertainment, has just taken a $600,000 investment from DFJ Frontier and the Gideon Hixon Fund, following a particularly successful January. At the beginning of the month, it featured the first printing of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi fantasy novel called North Wind, on MySpace. The comic, a five-part mini-series that takes place in a futuristic, frozen-over LA, sold out in ten days at brick-and-mortar retailers and has since gone through a second printing. Note: North Wind was available for free online, through the MySpace promotion — people were willing to go out and buy the print version, anyway.

The company credits its success to the tens of thousands of fans who found out about the release on MySpace, and its inside understanding of the comic book industry. North Wind, for example, is written by veteran scriptwriter David DiGilio, who wrote feature film Eight Below and the ABC show Traveler. The site also hired an editor-in-chief to focus on the best content: Mark Waid, a veteran of the comic book industry.

Budding artists tend to swamp the company’s booth at comic book trade shows, DFJ investor Scott Lenet told me — something he expects to happen at the Wondercon conference in San Francisco that starts later this week.

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