BOOM! Studios has come a long way since starting up in Ross Richie's spare bedroom in 2005. One year shy of their tenth anniversary, the publisher has grown into a multi-headed beast in the industry with imprints that span a world of genres. KaBOOM!, their all-ages imprint, has cranked out popular licensed titles like Garfield, Peanuts, and Cartoon Network's Adventure Time and Regular Show. Last year, BOOM! entered into a "unique first look relationship" with 20th Century Fox that could lead to more movie titles in the BOOM! library, joining their current licensed titles such as Planet of the Apes and Ice Age. One of BOOM!'s imprints, the recently acquired Eisner-award winning Archaia, has produced beautiful hardcover novelizations and also original titles like Alyssa Milano's cyber adventure Hacktivist (yeah, THAT Alyssa Milano) and Hub's visually stunning Okko.
Editor-In-Chief Matt Gagnon put the focus of the “We Are BOOM!” panel at C2E2 on the publisher's commitment to new stories, saying, "for me, the best way to push our industry forward is by doing things that people haven't seen before, by publishing things that's accessible to everybody from all walks of life."
Gagnon discussed their new imprint, BOOM! Box, describing it as "a little bit more experimental" than the others. BOOM! Box debuted last December with Midas Flesh, created a trio of creators fresh from Adventure Time comics, Ryan North, Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline. The BOOM! E-I-C states that Lumberjanes, released just earlier this month under the BOOM! Box imprint, is already gaining a large following amongst those who appreciate stories about strong, female characters. How popular is it? It's currently out of stock, says Gagnon.
Though Gagnon is pushing for more original stories and delights in giving creators and artists the full reigns of their projects, he is still proud of how they've handled classics like Peanuts and everyone's favorite fat cat, Garfield.
"When we do licensed material, we treat it with a lot of care and we don't do something unless we're really passionate about it,” Gagnon said from the dais. “When you look at the things that we publish, like Sons of Anarchy, it is a TV show that I love. It is something that I have been watching since the first week that it came out on FX, so that's something that we felt we could do really well."
Returning the focus to upcoming original stories, Gagnon introduced author James Tynion IV, whose new release, The Woods, is due out officially in May, but advanced copies are already available at the BOOM! booth at C2E2.
"I wanted to write original stories in comics my entire life," says Tynion, who has worked at DC for two years. The writer describes The Woods, "it's about young characters and it's an adventure story with horror, but it's also very much about the human relationships at the heart of it."
Gagnon, clearly excited about the project, added, "this was a pitch that I thought had the merit to be an ongoing series, and the pitch was this - there's this school in the Midwest, and every single student, every single teacher, every single faculty member, the entire grounds, disappears! Gone. They reappear on this strange alien planet that has a red gas giant looming above it. They have no idea why they're there. They have no idea where they are. The teachers are terrified, and the students - you know when you're a teenager you're too dumb to be scared most of the time, right? They are the ones who take it upon themselves to venture out into the woods and find out why they've been brought there. I was floored."
Digging further, Tynion explained the fear a young adult could feel on this alien planet, not knowing if they'll ever see their parents again, if they'll ever go home.
"If they've been transported to Mars, then there's no way that anyone on Earth could go and get them back, and they are not on Mars,” Tynion says. “They are somewhere way different. And that fear and distrust is where this all comes from."
Gagnon then introduced Paul Jenkins, who has written for DC/Vertigo’s Hellblazer, and has worked on numerous other franchises such as The Spectacular Spider-Man, Wolverine: Origin, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and The Incredible Hulk. He also penned the Marvel Knights series Inhumans, which won him the Eisner Award in 1999. Jenkins signed on to work exclusively with BOOM! in 2013, launching Fairy Quest and Deathmatch. Jenkins spoke a bit about how the studio approached him to do Deathmatch.
"They said we'd like to do Hunger Games with super heroes, basically, and I re-pitched it to them,” the writer revealed. “I said, that's cool but can we build a wall, do something that's different from them just knocking each other off."
Jenkins goes on to discuss how much it meant to him that BOOM! was allowing him to write what he wanted, without the pressures once put upon him by Marvel and DC.
"I felt like I had finally come home."
Gagnon explained why it is important to him to give the creators the trust they need to write unique, non-traditional stories like Lumberjanes.
"It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Gravity Falls,” Gagnon say. “The thing that I loved about this book is that it made me smile. Take the fact that, obviously, there's not a lot of gender diversity in our industry is something we're actively trying to change. "