Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Executive Editor
Official Description: Last year was a banner year for BOOM! Studios, highlighted by the release of the company’s first feature film 2 Guns (starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg) and new first-look deal with 20th Century Fox. Archaia joined BOOM! as a new imprint, the all-ages KaBOOM! lineup expanded, and the BOOM! Box imprint was launched. BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie, editor-in-chief Matt Gagnon, VP of publishing and marketing Filip Sablik, president of development Stephen Christy, and creators Paul Jenkins (Fairy Quest, Deathmatch), Frank Gibson (The Amazing World of Gumball), and Noelle Stevenson ( Lumberjanes) plus some special guests share their mission to create the future of comics…now.
The panel opened with Filip Sablik introducing each of the panelists–Noelle Stevenson of Lumberjanes got the most enthusiastic round of applause, unsurprisingly. And, fun fact–Stephen Christy, the President of Development is an Emerson alumnus.
“We believe the greatest comics have yet to be published.” Matt Gagnon took the mic and started going through the history of BOOM! Studios, as Ross Richie was running late. “He built it on the notion of partnership and that partnership extends with us working with our creators, partners like Cartoon Network, like Fox.” Stephen Christy took the mic and talked a bit more about Ross, who told him, “I want to bring the best creators to make the best books out there.”
The panelists agreed that working with BOOM! is one of a kind and how everyone is committed to making great comics, but also making comics for the fans and going out to the fans. “What we try to do is engage with you as much as possible. We’re in the process of doing 20 shows to connect with you guys,” says Sablik. The Buzz on BOOM! is a Youtube Channel for yet another way to connect with fans.
The final introduction turned to the creators, with Sablik saying BOOM! “is genuinely invested in being a partner with our creators” to “let them do what they do best.”
“Paul has been doing amazing things in this industry for a long time. He wrote for Marvel and DC for many years–the origin of Wolverine, Spiderman, the Inhumans. He decided to dive into Kickstarter with Fairy Quest and yesterday, he successfully closed the Fiction Squad kickstarter.” Jenkins raised $63,000 for the book. “My relationship with BOOM! rekindled my relationship with comics,” says Jenkins. “I so want to tell you the next project that I’m doing with BOOM! but I can’t…”
“I think the industry is changing in part of [BOOM!]. When you take a book like Fairy Quest, we felt we had to make the book ourselves. But the moment we brought the book to BOOM!, that was the first time we got a yes. The best part about the book is that everyone that sees it loves it,” says Jenkins about working with BOOM!
Everything BOOM! does it looking to grow the industry, according to Sablik. “Ross hates it when people tell him he can’t do something, so we try to pursue parts of the market that hasn’t traditionally worked.”
Gagnon started talking about original comics. “They’ve always been something incredibly important to me. It’s how we differentiate ourselves and it’s very important to tell brand new stories instead of doing the same things over and over again. One of the things that brought me over to BOOM! was my conversations with Ross. He believed telling stories outside of the superhero genre. We needed to tell stories that were crime, science fiction, etc. That’s been a big mission of ours. In recent years, we really feel we’ve hit our stride. We started out this year with a book called Curse. Evil Empire, Dead Letters, The Woods and, of course, a little book called Lumberjanes! To us, you look at the landscape of the industry–we all love licensed books and franchises, but original comics are the ones that are more difficult, more energy, and more attention. For us, we take a lot of pride in pairing creators together and giving them audience to do their best work.”
JG Jones came on the screen and talked about all the stuff he’s done in the past and how he secretly loves to write comics. The short teaser video announced an unnamed project by Jones, published with BOOM! Studios. Matt Gagnon then reiterated the announcement that BOOM! Studios would be working with Grant Morrison in the new future. The next spotlight turned to James Tynion IV’s The Woods. “We enjoyed working with James so much, we’re releasing another series with him called Memetic. Imagine there was a meme where, when you saw it, it killed you!”
Sablik turned to talking about the next generation and fostering the next generation of comics. “If you don’t publish comics for the next generation of comic book fans to read, there will not be another generation of comic book fans,” said Richie. “Another aspect of this publishing is there’s a lot of publishers approaching this space as talking down to the audience, but we take pride in not watering down or patronizing our audience.”
Stephen Christy started talking about Archia’s relationship with Jim Henson’s archives and some of his unused projects and pre-Muppet projects. The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow is coming this fall, which will be based on another Jim Henson work from deep in his archives.
Sablik asked, “What do you find different working on a liscensed comic versus your own work?” to Frank Gibson.
“They picked the right people for the projects. I get to take a lot of liberities with things like The Amazing World of Gumball. You expect to go through the ringer, dealing with a big TV Network, but they’s so supportive,” says Gibson. “I’m going to do my own boom with BOOM! as well!” Working with BOOM! is like “a nice warm blanket, since I don’t have to do the stuff I don’t like anymore.”
The panel then turned to Noelle Stevenson and the Lumberjanes. “”I was in intern in 2012–a design intern. I was really excited because it was my first time doing anything behind the scenes with comics. I become really good friends with Shannon Watters–she showed me the ropes with comics. It was our first brunch back after I had graduated, she said, ‘You know, we’re doing this new series with girls at camp…’ So I said, Yes! I did the character designs and I was very excited. She asked if I wanted to be the co-writer and said absolutely yes! We just started spitballing from here and that’s how that happened.”
“One of the great things about Noelle is her work ethic,” says Gagnon. “What’s interesting is an incredible amount of success in a very small amount of time. So my question is, with all of this work on your plate, how do you do it?”
Noelle responded saying, “I did go through the ringer that was art school. It helps that one of my favorite things to do in the entire world is to tell stories. It’s work, it’s definitely work, but at the same time I don’t think there’s anything else I would rather be doing. Having a work/life balance is important, but there are times when I’m at a party and all I want to do is go home and write or draw these characters. I haven’t gotten tired of this, all I really want to do is tell all these stories. If I have to give up certain things for that, I’m okay with that. It’ simportant for me to tell the stories in my head the way I want them to be told.”
“The reason I went to webcomics in the first place is because I wanted to be the designer, the director, the writer, the actor, the choreographer. Comics gives you a way to do that,” says Stevenson. “There’s something that’s exciting and terrifying about carrying the entire weight of a stry just in your hands. Every decision you make is in your hands.”
And Ross introduced the former president of DC Comics Paul Levitz, who walked up to speak. “I think when you build a team, part of how you build a team is there have to be some people who are so young that they believe anything is possible. When I walk into the BOOM! Offices, I raise the average age a little bit, but hopefully I’m a help to the team by saying, “Oh yeah, we had this problem before–here’s how we fixed it” When I worked at DC, we moved the industry to rooms like this, with readers who are a more diverse group who are seeing stories they haven’t seen before. When I came to comics, the definition of the audience was very narrow. We knew that it was possible to do comics for all ages, genders, and mindsets, but it took the evolution of the comic book world to start doing that. It’s a wonderful moment to be able to look at an audience like this and look at so many different kinds of people and I think we’re just at the beginning.”