Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor
Official Description: Last year was a banner year for us here at BOOM! Studios: our first feature film, 2 Guns, was released; we signed a first-look deal with 20th Century Fox; Archaia joined us as a new imprint; we expanded the KaBOOM! lineup and we launched BOOM! Box. Join BOOM! Editor-In-Chief Matt Gagnon and Managing Editor Bryce Carlson, plus James Tynion IV (The Woods), Marguerite Bennett (Butterfly, Sleepy Hollow) and Noelle Stevenson (Lumberjanes) as we share our mission to create the future of comics…now.
Matt Gagnon started the panel by introducing the panel–Marguerite Bennett was missing at this point. “We want to talk about why we do what we do. Many publishers talk about what we publish, but we want to take the time to talk about why, because that’s what we think is important,” said Gagnon. He introduced all the imprints: BOOM! Studios, Kaboom!, Boom! Box, Archaia.
“There’s an incredibly amount of diversity in what we publish. The company was founded by Ross Richie. He founded the company on the idea of partnership, that we’re all partners,” Gagnon said. “All the creators are our partners and we’re all collaborators. I feel like we have one of the best teams in comics. There are so many amazing people that work at BOOM! You’ll see a lot of folks a lot about comics and motivated about the industry, trying to push the industry forward. Our fans are our partners as well–we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you. What’s important about the people we choose to work with is that we want to work with them: they’re people that we trust. A big part of publishing is being in that foxhole with people that you trust and people that you believe in.”
“One of our biggest missions is to innovate and do things in a new way. You can go and get superhero comics at DC and Marvel, and it’s great. But if we do superhero comics, we have to do something different. We always try to do things in a new and interesting way. Lumberjanes is a good example of that–no one else has a comic like that,” said Carlson. “We’re trying to push things. Adventure Time is a great example of doing a licensed title differently, to let our writers and artists do what they want and take them in crazy directions.”
“Innovation leads new readers to the industry as well,” added Gagnon. “I love that we’re bringing new readers into the industry and publishing new kinds of material that’s accessible. It’s important to get them in–that’s a big mission of ours.”
“Mark Waid is coming back in 2015. We haven’t announced the project, yet,” said Gagnon before playing a video greeting by Mark Waid. There wasn’t much else that was revealed in the panel, as it was only just Waid encouraging fans to check it out. “We have announced that the artist is JG Jones. He’s done a lot of incredible, groundbreaking stuff. He’s doing a fully painted title for us. I said, ‘You’re going to paint the entire book?’ He just said, ‘Yeah.’ We’ve been watching these pages come in the last couple months and it’s stunning. I can’t tell you how excited I am for this.” At this point, Gagnon played another video from Jones to say hello.
“Marguerite Bennett was going to be on the panel, but she unfortunately can’t make it. She’s doing Sleep Hollow, with Noelle doing back up stories,” said Gagnon.
“I’m taking on the little anecdotes where the characters eat ice cream and watch movies,” said Stevenson.
Gagnon then played a video about George Perez’s Sirens. “Many people ask me why I went to a company like BOOM! and I felt the need to feel creative again. And BOOM! has been providing me with that in spades. I can’t believe how much fun I’m having, because BOOM!’s entire corporate mandate is to make good comics. I feel like I’ve stepped back in time to when making and reading comics was fun,” said Perez.
“One book we’re really proud of in terms of originality is The Woods, by James. This is an ongoing series and James just launched a new series with us called Memetic,” said Gagnon.
“Memetic is about an image that’s posted online and three days later, the world ends,” said Tynion. “That’s the story. It’s this strange image posted on Reddit one morning and destroys society and the way our minds work. It’s about how vast information is spread across our world today and how we deal with the consequences. It’s an apocalyptic horror stories. I wanted to do it in this really strange way, which is why I wanted to go to BOOM!. It’s three oversized issues, to really give myself the time to decompress the time all over the world and tell this story.”
“It’s three issues and it’s the last three days of the world,” said Gagnon. “We read the script and it’s really kind of haunting and has a personal touch to it. One of the things I love about the lead character is that we’re following him throughout this event and there’s a reason why he’s unaffected. The first book we did with James is The Woods. It was one of the best pitches I’ve read in recent memory.”
“The Woods, for anyone who isn’t familiar with it: a high school is transported to the middle of an alien forest and these kids need to figure out why they’re there, who brought them, and survive in the midst of horrifying monsters. There’s no basis in their lives for what they’re facing now,” Tynion said. “And also dealing with just being teenagers. Some of them don’t like each other; some of them like each other a bit too much. This series is always something I’ve been trying to do. I think it was Scott Snyder who told me, ‘If you could only write one comic in your entire life, what would that comic look like?’ And I thought about that for a long time. This is a melding of everything that’s in my interest and each of the characters are different aspects of my personality, to be honest. It’s really personal, to be honest.”
“Which character do you identify with the most?” asked Gagnon.
“Adrian is all my negative traits. Isaac is… well, all of them are different insecurities. Ben, dealing with his weight; Isaac dealing with his sexuality. Those are all the things I was thinking about a lot as a teenager,” said Tynion.
“This is a book we really believe in, so we’re breaking this news,” said Gagnon. “The idea James had was to go 36 issues and we’re going to go all 36 issues on The Woods.”
“We’ve always believed in investing in the next generation of readers, which is why we do all-ages titles. Adventure Time is a great example of that. But we’re also making comics that anyone can pick up, including adults. We want to continue pushing that bar and giving everyone–no matter their age–something to read,” said Carlson.
“It’s been a long road trying to build the next generation of readers,” said Gagnon. “Over the years, we’ve been able to build the all-ages space and the retailers have really supported that. A lot of companies may have walked away after BOOM! Kids and it would be much safer to do more adult projects. One of my proudest moments at the company was when we decided to double down and redo it to make the Kaboom! imprint. We do believe in the next generation of readers and in comics. It’s important for our industry–I’d like to be working still in 30 years.”
Gagnon then introduced Mousguard and David Peterson. “I’m excited to announce Baldwin Brave and Other Tales, a new collection that collects all the FCBD releases. It’s been so much fun putting this book together and I look forward getting this book together!”
“I want to work in a company that’s like what the industry will be in 30 years. One of the best creators we’re working with is Noelle,” said Gagnon. “Noelle is working Lumberjanes right now.”
“I think we just wanted to make a comic about girls and about girls being friends and girls being girls and girls having fun and fighting monsters,” said Stevenson. “We’ve had a lot of fun, maybe too much fun. There’s dinosaurs, were-bears, portals–I think we put everything in there that we wanted to write and that we would have fun writing, showcasing characters we’ve never seen before. Having some pre-teen girls take center stage for awhile has been really fun to do. We’re hearing from kids picking it up and it’s been great to see.”
“The main difference between on online webcomic and print is that I’m working on team. Now, I have Brooke Allen, this amazing artist–I’ve been fangirling a lot about her this weekend. She brings the series to life. It’s been a really great experience to work with such a talented team and rely on them to tell a story,” said Stevenson.
“Nimona just ended, right? Congratulations on a job well done,” said Gagnon to the applause of the room.
The room then turned to a Q&A.
How do you differentiate between comics you want to write for everyone and all-ages comics?
Stevenson: It’s the same reason you wouldn’t necessarily bring a child to an R-rated movie. I really want all-ages comics to be for all ages. You’re not talking down to kids because they can handle a lot more than people give them credit for. I think it comes down to the creator’s individual style.
Tynion: It’s a fine line to cross, but I think where the stories come from… I know the tone, I know the through-line for each of the works I’m doing. The Woods is something I think a young teen would be able to enjoy, along with people significantly older than that. But then there’s some more messed up things I’ve written in the Batman stories that don’t exist there.
Can you give advice on being a writer and an artist?
Stevenson: This is how I did it. You don’t wait for anyone to give you the opportunity. If you have a comic you want to write and draw, do it. I would encourage you to do webcomics and push creativity. When I started publishing Nimona, that was when I started getting hired to do writing jobs. Just make the comics you want to see and people will take notice.