BOOM! Studios’ founder Ross Richie and Vice President of Publishing & Marketing Filip Sablik both took time from their busy schedules to talk to ICv2. In Part 1 of the interview they talk about the history and culture of BOOM! Studios as well as their plans to exploit a major motion picture based on one of their books (Steven Grant’s 2 Guns), and new publishing initiatives that include new comic book series from Mike Carey and Clive Barker. In Part 2 they talk about their successful kids’ imprint Kaboom, their popular Cartoon Network-based comics for Adventure Time and The Regular Show as well as the return of Herobear to the direct market.
Comic brands are often linked to content--creators, characters and storylines. How does your new branding tie to what’s between the covers?
Richie: A big piece of what we do is we believe in classic voices. We have a big spotlight on Steven Grant. It’s a big year for Steven. There’s a big feature coming out August 2nd with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington with 2 Guns. That was a foundational belief that I had. I’ve known Steven 20 years. I worked at Malibu Comics and he did a book with Gil Kane there called Edge. The formation of BOOM! can be tracked back to Keith Giffen and the friendship and encouragement that he gave me that I could do, it was something that I had a talent for. He wanted to have a home for material he could do outside of Marvel and DC.
It’s something different. This business is driven by trends and these are hot trends happening right now. Who is the new emergent talent who goes from nobody to overnight sensation? That’s exciting and a big part of the business, but within that context, remembering that there are careers that span decades and that originates from a place with real talent, a real voice and something to say and finding those guys is part of BOOM!'s brand.
Filip: I would add that if you look at the campaign that we recently unveiled at Emerald City Comic Con and to the retailers at Comics Pro. The campaign is "We are BOOM!" was meant to evoke one of the core values of the company which us accessibility. When we say "We are BOOM!" it’s us the company, our creators and our fans. When you look at all three of those groups they’re incredibly diverse and come from all walks of life. They have a lot of different viewpoints which informs the variety of books that we do.
As far as comics publishers in the Top 10, the only other publisher that competes with us on the wide breadth they do is Image, which is entirely creator driven. What we do is curate it so the variety is very intentional and measured. And half of that is a call to action for our fans and retailers to innovate with us. If you look at the history of the company, back to the days when Ross was publishing out of the spare bedroom at his house, there’s been a line of innovation throughout.
When Ross started out, creators like Keith Giffen weren’t doing a lot of work at Marvel and DC. If you look at Keith’s career after doing Hero Squared and Jeremiah Harm and some of these other projects, editors at those companies woke up and said, "This guy’s had great longevity for a really good reason," and he was heavily involved with both companies after that.
If you flash forward and look at the anthologies that Ross did. Conventional wisdom says that anthologies don’t do well in the direct market but he made Zombie Tales, Cthulhu Tales and Ninja Tales all very successful. It continues with the license work we do. Conventional wisdom says that licensed works are not typically shining examples of quality comic book work. They tend to be quick cash grabs taking advantage of the existing audience of the property. Our licensed properties are not only commercially and critically successful, it’s been nominated for Eisner Awards, it’s won Harvey awards, which I think really turned the concept of what a licensed book could be on its head.
The final piece I always love to touch on is when BOOM! started to do the Disney comics in 2009, there wasn’t really space for all ages comics. Conventional wisdom said they just didn’t sell and retailers racked them accordingly and there wasn’t a lot of real estate given to all ages publishing. Now it’s no secret that you walk into a comics shop and most of the good ones have a prominent all ages section up front and it’s filled with product from not just BOOM! but from other publishers. We helped create that space. That’s where the innovation component comes from.
You mentioned 2 Guns. Are you doing a special publishing program tied to that?
Sablik: We’re putting out a new edition of 2 Guns called The Second Shot Deluxe Edition. It’s in Previews right now. It’s a nice tricked out new edition. The previous version was 6" x 9", which was a smaller size for a graphic novel trade paperback so this is full regular size. It’s the first time it’ll be in that format and it has some new content from Steven in it. We’ve got some other plans that we’re keeping under wraps that we’re excited about. The great thing with Steven is he has a catalog of material; he has a history and I think it’s going to be a very big year for him. We’re going to make a lot of waves with him.
Are you going to publish new 2 Guns stories?
Sablik: There’s nothing we can reveal right now.
Can you tell us more about your other major editorial initiatives this year and what you’re looking forward to?
Sablik: One of the things we’ve been doing to help kick off the "We are BOOM!" initiative is sharing some of the exciting new creators we’re working with. Thus far, Paul Jenkins has come out and said that in addition to Deathmatch and Fairy Quest, which we’ve already done earlier this year that he’s going to be doing some additional projects with us. Mike Carey is launching a new ongoing series with us in May, which is his first original series with an independent publisher called Suicide Risk. It’s a terrific concept about a world where people have suddenly begun to get super powers and inexplicably everyone with superpowers seems to turn bad. Our main character is a beat cop that decides enough is enough and he’s going to take a stand against an army of super villains. We’re really excited about that.
We also announced a new Clive Barker series launching in May. This is the first time Clive has created and written an original series that launched as a comic book first. It’s a real honor to be working with someone of Clive’s caliber to begin with, but to have him trust us with launching a new property is really exciting. That one’s called New Genesis.
That launches in May. In June, we’re going to follow up with Herobear and the Kid, coming back to the comics industry.
Click here for Part 2.
Click here for Part 2.