We recently interviewed BOOM! Studios President of Publishing and Marketing Filip Sablik to get his views on the market and BOOM!’s place in it.  In Part 1, we talked about market conditions, why BOOM! is with Diamond, direct-to-consumer sales, and channel mix.  In Part 2, we talked about BOOM!’s publishing profile and plans for the year, including BOOM! Box, their new Jeff Lemire ongoing, ongoing series in general, variants, and top 2024 releases.

Let's talk a little bit about your publishing output. In number of titles, what are your plans for this year versus last year?  How has it changed over the last five years?
We've held fairly steady (it's actually something we pointed out to retailers a few times: when everything was booming, we resisted the urge to expand our title count) at between 20 to maybe 22 or 23 single‑issue releases per month. Then the collected editions and graphic novels tend to fluctuate a little bit more to match the seasonality of the book market.

Typically, in the Q1, we might only have half a dozen collected edition releases. Around the holiday season, we might peak at 10 to 15 per month. In general, I would say that our annual output might go up 10 SKUs per year, but it's fairly steady.

It's not something that we are actively trying to expand. We feel like we've got a good balance between the amount of releases we have on shelves and what we can support from a marketing and sales basis.

Then in terms of your title mix, what's your high concept description of what BOOM! publishes?
I would say that BOOM! publishes a strong mix of original creator‑owned work and licensed material, primarily aimed at teens and adults.

Actually, 2024 is a big year for rebuilding and resetting BOOM! Box. Obviously, you know Shannon Watters very well. She really was the driving force behind our BOOM! Box imprint, and she left a couple of years ago to pursue a full time writing career, which she is thriving in.

Beginning in the last half of last year, and this year, we're referring to it as BOOM! Box 2.0, a new wave of series that we feel are a great mix of high concept, and a lot of those relationship and vibe elements that make BOOM! Box iconic. Titles like ZAWA, I Heart Skull-Crusher, which has really done well for us, and a couple other titles that are coming later this year are really setting that foundation of what we think BOOM! Box will be going forward. On that end, we're trying to essentially create material that appeals to those original BOOM! Box fans, which started 10 years ago. There are kids that picked up their first BOOM! Box book 10 years ago, and they were 10 years old, and now they're 20 years old or 22 years old, depending on where they started. We’re really firmly planting that imprint in a YA space so that we can capture both audiences.

That's YA, but what about the younger readers?  It seems like BOOM! has deemphasized middle grade.  Is that fair?
Yeah, I think that's fair. KaBOOM! is still active. We have a couple series and a couple franchises that we continue to publish through that. We actually are ramping back up with Garfield and Rugrats, Rocko’s, the Nickelodeon properties, especially with the Garfield film coming out in a month or so [May 24, see “ICv2 2024 Movie Calendar”].

One of our observations is that market got very crowded very quickly. Anybody that pays attention can see how dominant, particularly Scholastic, and other New York book publishers are. While we continue to be present in it, in recent years it’s become less of a focus than the adult publishing.

On the originals side, you just announced that Jeff Lemire is bringing a new ongoing series.  In his newsletter a couple of weeks ago, he was talking about some plans that he had with other publishers that were disrupted, and he had to shop his projects.  Was that how you ended up with that?
Yes, and no. Matt Gagnon, who's our editor in chief (and Eric Harburn, but Matt especially) has had Jeff on his bucket list of creators he's always wanted to work with. They've had a terrific relationship with Jeff for I would guess the better part of a decade.

We came really close to doing something before Jeff decided to do an exclusive with Image for a period of time. We hit the pause button at that point and said, "That's OK Jeff. Will be thrilled to work with you when you're available again." Luckily when that opportunity came along, we were at the top of his list of people to contact.

We're really excited about this project. Because it is the first time since Sweet Tooth that Jeff is going to write and draw an ongoing series of this length. He's really just bringing a ton of energy to it, and we're hoping to bring it to the market and get everybody as excited about it as we are.

We were really interested in that ongoing series angle.  We looked at your solicits and you've got Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, that has over a hundred issues, which these days has to be like one of the longest running comics in the business.  We’re fascinated by the fact that you still have a devotion to ongoing series, which we applaud.  If you talk to retailers, they love the fact that you can't jump off for an arc and on for an arc, you've got to keep buying and keep the flow going, otherwise you break your run.  Most publishers eschew that approach in favor of millions of miniseries and lots of jumping off points from a retailer's perspective.  You obviously do some miniseries, but you're doing some ongoing.  What are your thoughts on that whole area?
First, we can probably both admit if anybody had come to either one of us in 2016 and asked us to bet on Power Rangers going a hundred issues, I don't think either one of us would have taken that bet. It is a testament to the creators that have worked on that, the editorial team and the fan base that shows up every single month.

We're hearing the same thing you are, which is that while retailers understand that there is greater opportunity for experimentation, and obviously everybody loves that issue one sales jump that you can generate, that ultimately for the direct market to be healthy, you have to have a reason for customers to come back in every single month.

Right now, the ongoing series that we have are Something Is Killing the Children, House of Slaughter, Power Rangers, and Grim. Those really are foundational items for us.

Coming into this year, we felt like it was important to support retailers with some ongoing opportunities. Jeff is really the first big announcement that we have in terms of an ongoing series commitment. We have another one that'll be coming towards the end of the month that we hope shows that we understand what retailers are looking for, that we're listening.

And it's not just the retailers; I think the fans want a reason to get invested, right? It's much easier to trade-wait when you know that you're only going to have to wait five months, and then the collected edition will come out.

And big gaps (as we saw with an ongoing title from another publisher) really hurt.  Just that fact that it's there every month is a big deal.
Yeah, absolutely. Obviously it's riskier from the publishing standpoint. It requires a deeper investment, but I think it's less risky when you have a creator like Jeff that both we as a publisher understand, retailers understand what that track record is: fans can get excited about it and he's bringing his audience with him.

Then there are franchises like BRZRKR or Dune, which may not be in a traditional ongoing format, but we're trying to signal to the market that there is a long term commitment to making sure that those properties are in the market, and there's reasons for customers to engage with them every year.

One remaining question on the periodical business: we took a look at your April solicits for June.  Pretty much every issue has two to three to five variants.  Is that just the way the periodical business has to be done now in order to be successful?
The short answer is yes. Not to say that you can't find success with one cover, but I think it is very difficult. If you look at the current market and the titles that are really finding engagement with customers, they tend to be licensed, they tend to have a lot of covers.

On some level, it's a little bit of an arms race. At a certain point, you need to make sure that there are enough things for retailers and fans to pick from that you're not disappearing on the shelf. What we try to do to the extent that we can is be very curated about how we're approaching those covers. So what you'll typically see on our series is there is an artistic direction. Something like Pine and Merrimac by Kyle Starks and Fran Galan is heavily inspired by detective agency stories. We have a variant cover program where there are homages to that era of pulp fiction.

Typically, you'll see less just variant covers for the sake of variant covers. If you look at our solicitations now, ultimately, that's the judgment. Somebody may look at that and disagree with that statement, but that's how we approach it. We never have a situation where we're looking at the program and saying, “We have to have four covers on this. What's the fourth cover? We don't know.”

We do look at every project and every program and say, "OK, what do we think works for this? What makes sense for this particular series? What can it support, and what do we have creative vision for?”

Final question.  We know you love all your children equally, but what should retailers be looking at as far as your most important periodical and book releases for 2024?
Yes, of course, I love all my children equally. That is a given, but if I had to point folks someplace, I would call out that is the fifth anniversary of Something Is Killing the Children, which continues to be one of the biggest franchises certainly in periodicals, but also on the book market side.

This year, we've tried to set up a year that is going to be an opportunity for new readers to jump in. In House of Slaughter, we have a big event storyline that is currently running called “The Butcher's War” that'll culminate in issue 25, which is always a nice inflection point. As you said, not a lot of issues make it to 100, but even the number of series that reach 25 is increasingly less. Then we have issues 36 through 40, which are essentially five months of standalone stories that kind of together make up Erica Slaughter: year one. It's essentially little vignettes of the events that turned her into the character that everybody knows and loves. We think that's a great opportunity for retailers to, for five months, welcome new readers in. Then we've got more planned in the fall.

The other thing that I would maybe call out that's more book market-facing, are two releases that are going to be coming up in the fall and maybe in the spring. One is Rare Flavors, which is the Ram V and Filipe Philippe Andrade series. It's the spiritual successor to Many Deaths of Laila Starr, and I think that's a book that will read amazingly in a collected edition.

And the second one is Animal Pound, by Tom King and Peter Gross, which is a very literary work. We are serializing it, but when that book hits bookstore shelves, it'll be a must read for anybody who likes classic literature and those two creators.

Click here to go back to Part 1.