ICv2 recently spoke with BOOM! Studios President of Publishing and Marketing Filip Sablik to hear about the company’s upcoming fall releases, BOOM’s titles tied to below-the-radar hits percolating up from Cartoon Network, the recent controversy surrounding Mark Waid and J.G Jones’ Strange Fruit, and how Barnes & Noble’ s new graphic novel display may impact sales.

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What do you have coming out through the end of the year that you’re excited about?
Peanuts for us. The movie comes out in November. You guys have covered the tribute book that is coming out in October (see “BOOM! Plans Schulz Tribute Book”).  I think that is an example of a book that I think people are excited about beforehand, but then once they actually see it and see all of the amazing folks that contributed to it, I think it will do really well on shelves, we’re hoping.

And then we’ve got an original graphic novel starring Snoopy called Where Beagles Dare (see “KaBOOM! Premieres New Snoopy Story”). It’s focused on his World War fighter pilot persona. They’re meant to be the two ends of the spectrum, the original graphic novel is a $10 price point and the tribute book is $35, so one’s for kind of the older collector, and one’s for hopefully the new generation of Peanuts fans coming in.

We’ve been seeing a lot of activity on Steven Universe.
Yeah, that one’s been exploding for us as well. I was just fielding a couple of e-mails yesterday from retailers that were expressing a little frustration because it was out of stock, the first collection (see “First 'Steven Universe' Collection”).

So the first printing of the first volume is sold out?
Yes, and it came out at the end of July. So that’s all gone. And anecdotally we sold out of everything we brought to San Diego Comic-Con on Saturday, so every single single-issue, every trade, everything and anything that had Steven on it we blew through. So there’s an inflexion point with the fan base there that’s starting to heat up in a way that’s not dissimilar to what was happening with Adventure Time a few years back.

And the format for the show is unusual. Cartoon Network has been doing these Steven Bombs where they do a new episode every day for a week or two.  Is that what they’re doing with Over the Garden Wall, too?
What’s interesting is Cartoon Network did just the one event series for Over the Garden Wall last year and as far as they’ve told us, right now they don’t have any immediate plans for a sequel on the cartoon side. So we’re off doing the comic book (see “'Over the Garden Wall' Comics”).  We’re lucky enough that on Over the Garden Wall, we’ve been working with Patrick McHale who created the cartoon and he wrote the special and now he’s writing the four-issue miniseries. It’s nice because you’ve got the creator telling you this is the right interpretation of the property.

When you say an event series, 10 episodes - did those run weekly?
I think they ran daily.

They seem to be concentrating the release of these special series; it’s not quite Netflix-style but the episodes are being released a lot closer together than traditional programming, and it seems to be working.
It definitely is. Cartoon Network is interesting because they seem to be a lot more willing to experiment with format and distribution and how they roll properties out.

We were also seeing cosplayers for those shows at the conventions this summer.
That’s always the early thing for us, when we go to conventions and we start seeing cosplay pop up. One of the things that emboldened us to come back to Over the Garden Wall was at the beginning of this year we were at shows and we started to see people in cosplay as Over the Garden Wall characters. It’s something that really just popped up briefly, so it’s a nice indication of kind of the stickiness of a property is when you go to shows and see people dressed up.

Changing topics, there’s been a discussion of Strange Fruit. One of our columnists, Rob Salkowitz, wrote about it recently (see “Critics Are Forcing Comics to Check Their Privilege”). Do you have any comment on the reaction to the book?
I think people had a really passionate response to it. We definitely saw some criticism online, and both us and Mark [Waid] and J.G [Jones] who worked on the book, we’re definitely listening to the feedback we were getting and taking under consideration. The thing that I think was less visible was there was a ton of positive reaction to it as well.  

We got a lot of really great reviews and then anecdotally we got a number of people reaching out to us and talking about how it was a good book. It was split from that perspective, although maybe a little less visible from the outside. And then the support at retail has been really, really strong. We overprinted that book pretty significantly. It sold out. 

We went back and are doing a second printing on it, on issue #1. And then the numbers actually jumped up 20% at FOC on issue #2.  Going in, we knew it was challenging subject matter.  The reactions, I think in some cases, were certainly amplified just by the general climate and things that were happening in the real world that you don’t really anticipate or plan for necessarily when you’re greenlighting a project. In this case, we started working on Strange Fruit almost a year ago.

We definitely respect everybody’s authentic reaction to the work; it’s a challenging topic. It’s a challenging thing for two creators to take on.

You’ve mentioned a couple of creator-driven books that you’re expecting to do well.  One of them, Welcome Back, launched last month.  Why should retailers expect it to do well?
To start off with, Christopher Sebela , the creator and writer behind the series, is a guy who’s been on the rise for the last couple of years. He got a lot of critical acclaim, has gotten some award nominations for his work on High Crimes, and he did a series called Dead Letters for us that we really believe in.  I think it is a smart, concise, high concept that people are going to be able to really latch onto very quickly. And then Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, the artist, did a book called Critical Hit over at Black Mask. I think he’s really polished for an artist who’s in the early part of his career. That combined with the look of the covers, they’re really sharply designed and very iconic. I think it’s going to pop out on shelves. Folks will pick it up and the first issue reads really well.

What’s the other creator-owned title you mentioned?
We’ve got a series from Archaia called Toil and Trouble from Mairghread Scott, who has been working on Transformers over at IDW. She’s the writer behind the Windblade series. The artists are actually two sisters, Kelly and Nicole Mathews. This is really kind of their first work. But it’s the story of the three witches from MacBeth told from their point of view and in the vein of a Wicked or Maleficent. It’s taking something that we’re all, at least passingly, familiar with, which is one of Shakespeare’s masterworks, and turning it on its head and providing a new perspective.  I think all that combined,  it’s got potential to be something that people really respond to.

Anything else that we didn’t talk about that retailers should know about?
In November we’re going to be doing our first series with Grant Morrison called Klaus  (see “Grant Morrison, Philip K. Dick, 'Cyanide & Happiness,' More”).  As Grant describes it, he’s doing Santa Claus: Year One. Here’s this character that everybody knows but nobody knows his origin story. It’s a very Grant Morrison take on Santa Claus. It should be really cool.

On the book market side, we have another Cyanide & Happiness collection coming out. So we did our first one last year. It was really successful for us. We did north of 10,000 copies on it. The new one is coming out in November, it’s called Stab Factory. The last one was called Punching Zoo. It’s a really acerbic web comic featuring stick figures. It has a huge following.

Was that a direct market phenomenon, a book store phenomenon or both?
It was both. It was definitely stronger in the book market.  Barnes & Noble really supported it with a holiday display. They had it on one of their endcaps for the holidays.  Looking at it, we’re in the neighborhood of about 15,000 copies on that first volume so far. When we did Punching Zoo, the guys who do the web comic had already self-published a version of it that they sold directly. This new one, Stab Factory is the first one that we release simultaneously with the Cyanide & Happiness guys so we expect it will do really well.

How is the change in Barnes & Noble’s available display space affecting BOOM!?
I think it’s a little bit early for us to tell yet. I’ll probably have more of an opinion in a month or two. But I know in talking with [Barnes & Noble graphic novel buyer] Jim Killen, we’re really excited about it and excited about the possibility to showcase more work from non-Big Two publishers. Jim and the kids buyers over at Barnes & Noble have been incredibly supportive of Lumberjanes in particular, but also Big Trouble in Little China, Cyanide & Happiness, and a number of other titles. We look at it and we say, ‘great, it’s a better opportunity to showcase and increase the discoverability of some of this stuff.’

The face-out new releases display is very cool (see “Barnes & Noble Adds New Release GN Displays “). That’s a huge difference in the way they’re presenting new titles, making it change all the time, and it helps shoppers see titles that they would have missed otherwise because it’s spine-out.
I think they’re putting a lot of really good, and taking a thoughtful approach to what does Barnes & Noble offer as an experience for a consumer. The big advantage they have over e-commerce retailers is the browsing and discoverability of all this stuff, and obviously when you put more face-out it’s going to be increasing your opportunity to discover a new thing that you weren’t familiar with.