Cars relaunches this week as a new ongoing comic book series, changing from the four-issue mini-series format that launched the title last year for Boom! Studios.
Beginning with a new #0 issue, Cars retains mini-series writer Alan J. Porter with art by Allen Gladfelter. After two four-issue mini-series last year -- World of Cars: The Rookie and World of Cars: Radiator Springs -- this ongoing is a reaction to the success of the title, particularly with kids.
"I have been delighted by how well the Cars books have been received both by comics fans, Cars collectors and, most importantly, families," Porter told Newsarama. "I get lots of feedback from parents who tell me they love reading the books to their kids, or that their kids have read and re-read the book. One parent emailed me to tell me his son insisted on having a copy of Cars under his pillow every night before he went to sleep, and at a convention last year a lady stopped by to tell me that it was the Cars comic that had been the trigger to get her disabled son to start reading. How cool is that?"
The new ongoing focuses on new stories set after the movie, and it starts in this week's Cars #0 with Lightning McQueen organizing a charity race at his new race track in Radiator Springs.
"[It] gives us the chance to bring the two sides of McQueen's life together as we bring the race track crowd into town," he said. "Central to the story is a new character who will act as a foil between McQueen and his rival Chick Hicks."
The charity race benefits a group called the Winners Circle camp, an idea Porter found in the real world of racing. "I've often heard NASCAR legend Ricahrd Petty talk about his Victory Junction camps for sick kids, and thought it would be nice to create a similar idea in the Cars universe," he said.
The issue will also introduce a new character called Timmy, a Mini Cooper with a permenatly bent axle, who gives McQueen inspiration after he is injured in an on track crash, but also exposes McQueen's own inbuilt prejudices.
"As the story arc continues Timmy will be instrumental in us finding out why Cars bad guy, Chick Hicks, acts the way he does," he said.
That story ends with Issue #3, then the second story arc (Issues #4-7) is planned to be what Porter calls a "fun cross-country ride in the spirit of the Cannonball Run and Wacky Races as various characters from the Cars franchise team up for the 'Route 66 Dash.'"
Porter is hoping to tell stories that appeal to all ages in Cars, not just kids. "I've had feedback from kids and adults alike who enjoy them," he said. "I do seem to hear a fair amount of adults who buy the book to read to their kids, which is great. The funny thing is they always seem to apologize for the age of their kid. 'I bought your book for Johnny, but he's only 4 so I have to read it to him.' If it means you are picking up comics and sharing the enjoyment of them with your kid, no matter what his age, then thats a huge win as far as I'm concerned.
"I hope that some of the young kids picking up their first comic because it's Cars (or any of BOOM Kids! titles) will develop a love of the medium and continue to enjoy it as they grow," he said.
The comic also gets a loyal following from collectors. "I must admit I was amazed to discover that there is a large vibrant community of adults who collect the Cars die-cast toys, and they have been very enthusiastic and supportive of the comic," Porter said. "At San Diego last year one of the collector websites hosted a Cars panel and made myself and artist Allen Gladfelter very welcome."
Porter started on the comic after "begging" Boom! editor Paul Morrissey to work on the project, since the two had worked together on a pilot project at TokyoPop called God Shop. The writer, who has been reading comics steadily since "rediscovering them" in college, worked as a comics retailer and organized local conventions, then used his fandom to scratch his writing itch over the years. He started one of the early Batman fan websites, then he landed a book deal to write The Unauthorized Batman Collectors Guide.
"A couple of years after the book came out I found myself on a panel at a con with Bob Shreck and afterwards asked him if I could pitch him stuff," Porter explained. "He was gracious enough to say yes, and over the next few years I kept sending him ideas and pitches. He never bought a single one of them, but he did give me excellent feedback and advice.
"Part way through this process Bob gave me the best piece of advice I've recieved to date. 'If you want editors to take you seriously, stop being a fanboy,' he said. That weekend I closed down my websites, and switched my energies to launching a writing career."
Porter now has writing credits that include pop culture and technology magazines, non-fiction books and contributions to several others. "I only got really serious about trying to get back into comics a few years ago when I moved to Austin, Texas," he said, adding that he also works part-time in corporate communications. "There is such a strong and vibrant comics creative community here, that I was soon making contacts, joined a writers group, and traveling to cons to introduce myself to editors. That effort eventually lead to the TokyoPop deal and then Boom!"
The writer said it isn't difficult to work with both Disney and Pixar. "The approval process hasn't slowed anything down, and we have managed to keep the book on a monthly schedule," he said. "Any feedback and notes I have had, and I haven't had many, have been spot on and helpful. I'm really enjoying working with them, and I hope to be able to continue working with them on Cars and some other properties going forward.
"I've had some kind comments from a few people at Disney about the book," he said, "and it's always gratifying to know that the license holders are pleased and enoying the book too."