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.
Adventure Time is one of your top sellers. Who owns that license?
Richie: It’s owned by Cartoon Network.
Is your continued publishing of that property affected by the IDW Publishing deal?
Richie: No. We have that and Regular Show. The IDW deal I think is specific to a certain number of properties that they listed at ComicsPro.
Can you talk about what you’re doing with Adventure Time?
Richie: One of the things that I think is unique with Adventure Time is that the audience for that comic book isn’t just kids. It’s a property and breathes and lives very well online and has a tremendous number of adult fans that play their interest out online.
At the core of it we hired Ryan North who is an extremely successful Web cartoonist and has a long lived Web cartoon called Dinosaur Comics. Ryan turned in really terrific scripts, a brilliant writer and that really drove a lot of interest from people who were not necessarily regular direct market store customers that were coming in and picking up the comic book. We also got a bunch of variant covers that were very imaginative executed by other Web comic luminaries. On top of it, we decided to do back-up short stories from a variety of cartoonists who also had Web comic backgrounds or direct market cartoonists but more in the alt-comic scene.
The result was something that was really fresh and fun. Each issue had a different back-up, different cartoonists doing the different covers. There was something different with each issue and what we saw was a real response from that fan community that we were doing it in a really authentic way that was something you could give to a six year-old, but as an adult you can laugh and have fun with it. One of my favorite examples is we did a tribute to "Choose your Own Adventure" in issue #10 and the result was this really complex and smart storyline that hop, skipped and jumped all over the place. It was a blast for kids and there’s a complexity that [adults] really appreciate.
What’s key to having all ages publishing succeed in the marketplace is that it’s actually all ages. It’s not material just for kids. The traditional successes in the category are things like Bone that we all love. Herobear and the Kid, which just came over. Herobear was a book that really worked in the direct market. Adults and parents and people who don’t have kids were buying it as well as kids.
You’ve been talking about regular series. What about collections?
Sablik: We’ve got the main, regular series and beginning last summer we launched one spin-off, which is Marceline and the Scream Queens, a six-issue limited series. We followed that up in January with Fiona and Cake. What you’ll see is the one main series and then a limited series that will follow.
This year in April we’ll be launching the first original graphic novel and that’s going to be at a 6"x9" digest size with black and white interiors.
One of the things we’re concerned about as a publisher with any license that when we finish with the license, it’s as healthy as when we got it. That means being very respectful and authentic with how the material we put out there.
It’s really those three lines. The single issues are being collected in trade paperback. The first one came out in November and it launched at #3 on The New York Times bestseller list. I think some book called The Walking Dead beat it out that week, but not a bad showing. Our initial print run on the first volume that we had projected to be four-to-six months of inventory sold out in three weeks.
Richie: So big sales velocity. And going back to the OGN, one of the things that I think retailers would appreciate it is a similar size and specs to OGNs like Scott Pilgrim. When we put these books out, one of the things we want to be cognizant of is we change the trim size, is that it’s going to sit well on the shelf next to other successful programs. You don’t want to penalize the retailers where they have to buy new shelves to be able to shelve your book. It’s a part of our look before you leap philosophy and be mindful of what retailers need to make things work.
Do you have any newsstand single issue distribution for Adventure Time?
Richie: Not currently.
Is the book channel or direct market doing better with it?
Sablik: It’s actually been fairly even. It depends on the month, but so far the sales velocity has been fairly consistent in both channels. There’s a real hunger on both sides.
So you’re doing an ongoing series all the time, one miniseries at a time and then you collect them up?
Richie: Yes and then the OGNs we have slated to come out twice a year.
Have you announced what OGN is coming out later this year?
In unison: Nope.
Sablik: Yes, Mike Kunkel self-published that in the early 2000s under Astonish Factory. Both Ross and I have known Mike for years. I was his Diamond rep when he started Astonish Factory. We’re going to launch in June with a one-shot. It will be all new material and it will be teased with a six page original story in our Free Comic Book Day issue.
Richie: And our plans for the series past that is going to be pretty exciting.
So that’ll be an ongoing series after that?
Richie: There’s definitely more Herobear coming.
What’s your Free Comic Book Day comic?
Sablik: It’s Kaboom! Summer Blast. It’s a 48-page sampler of what KaBoom! does. There’s Adventure Time in there, Regular Show, Peanuts, Garfield, and it will be the first place people can get Herobear.
Richie: Part of that for retailers is that we’ll be doing sales through Diamond on those particular titles so that retailers can stock up on them. What we see on Free Comic Book Day are lots of kids and families that come into the comic book store that might not necessarily come frequently. We’re hoping that giving them excerpts of these series will drive them to pick up the backlist in the trades and the front list and singles that are in the store. We’ll be giving retailers an opportunity to stock up on all those titles with a sale we’re doing through Diamond.
Anything else you wanted to tell us about?
Sablik: One of the other creators we announced recently is Brian Stelfreeze is coming over to BOOM! to do a new series. He’s doing an original on-going series. And the surprise for fans will be that it’s a Brian Stelfreeze interior series. [He’s drawing the interior.] And we’re very excited about it. That’s coming out later in the summer.