BOOM! Studios has had what can only be called a banner year. Their purchase of Archaia expanded their bookstore market with a marquee line of graphic novels and comic books. 2 Guns became a movie, and a success, with more film adaptations of their properties on the way. Creators like Paul Jenkins and George Perez have signed exclusives with the company, committing their comic book talents to BOOM! alone. Their kaBOOM! line of all-ages comics, including incredibly popular Cartoon Network properties, has expanded their readership.
So how to celebrate a banner year? Add another banner, of course. Joining BOOM!, kaBOOM!, and Archaia, BOOM! Box is the newest imprint at the company that seeks to continue to expand their readership through innovative company changes. The first tile, The Midas Flesh comes from Ryan North, a popular webcomic creator who also happens to do work on the Adventure Time comics for the publisher. To find out more about BOOM! Box, why a new imprint was necessary, and what BOOM! is going to do next, we talked with Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon and editor Shannon Watters.
Newsarama: First one is an easy one, Matt, Why a new imprint? What can you do by separating out these new series that you weren't able to under BOOM! or KaBOOM! or Archaia?
Matt Gagnon: The simple answer, and probably the most accurate answer, is that it needed to exist.
We started to acquire a lot of projects we were interested in that were experimental and out there and didn't exactly fit in any of our existing imprints. Shannon sort of unlocked all of this talent on our KaBOOM! books like Adventure Time, Regular Show, and Bravest Warriors, and there was this wellspring of creative talent that the Direct Market largely hadn't been introduced to yet. Many of these creators create for the love of the game. And many of these amazing creators have stories to tell outside of their work in KaBOOM! and elsewhere. Well, let's give them a stage. The market clearly has embraced them in a significant way. Let's give them a place to experiment, to tell their own stories, to do something new.
And that’s just the genesis. It all really started to build out and form from there. We’ll have many creators that aren’t even involved with KaBOOM!, and some of the series may even be things that you recognize…
Nrama: Who is this imprint for? It's starting with Ryan North, who is known for his webcomics and works with you already in KaBOOM! – will this be an ask-and-invite sort of imprint, or one accepting pitches from other creators who haven't worked with you guys just yet?
Shannon Watters: For a while we were throwing around the tagline, "Comics with Pals," because from the beginning, that's what I wanted this imprint to feel like for both creators and readers. On the KaBOOM! books, I'm really privileged to work with a variety of creators from all corners of the medium who are just blow-your-mind rad and creative people, and I wanted to create a space where we could say, "What weirdo awesome idea do you really,really want to do that we can provide the financial means and reach for you to pursue?" This is BOOM!'s find-someone-creative-you-dig-and-get-experimental-hecks-yeah imprint. We want reading these to feel like you're eating your bowl of sugary cereal and drawing comics at the kitchen table about, I don't know, yetis in coonskin caps because you want to and maybe Rocko's Modern Life is playing on your TV in the background. Maybe you weren't allowed to watch Rocko and instead your little brother is playing Donkey Kong—it's okay, this imprint is for you, too.
Gagnon: We have a lot of readers who crave originality and experimentation with the medium. We do, too. The creators we’re working with see things a little differently. BOOM! Box is for readers that want to crank the dial up to 10 and have a good time. These are comics that will make you smile.
Nrama: To follow up on that, what sort of stories are you hoping to tell with BOOM! Box? Are there particular genres or story styles you're looking to explore here?
Watters: The philosophy of the imprint is relentlessly positive, and relentlessly committed to high-quality graphic storytelling, but beyond that, there's going to be a fair amount of freedom for creators who choose to pursue projects through BOOM! Box. Is "gleeful" a story style? "Fun"? You guys may have seen the teaser image by now…
Nrama: Yes. [Newsarama Note: You can see the full image by clicking above here]
Watters: Well, the teaser image was illustrated by perfect human Jon Chad, who incorporated some of the imagery from Ryan's upcoming project into the imprint's cassette tape motif, which we chose for the mixtape factor. The greatest thing about getting a mixtape from someone dashing was that this person liked you enough to not only curate a decent playlist, but also sat there for 46-60 minutes and played each song, in order and with artfully crafted pauses, just for you. And then... and then! ...this person might also write out the track listing by hand and draw a dragon on it for you. Just because they liked you!
We want this imprint to provide a space for creators to do something that's exciting and/or challenging for them for the love of it, and see what comes out of that. There won't be any dark-souled superheroes, tragically, but there'll be dinosaurs and smart, rad teenage girls and hilarious true stories and more, all cooked up with love and care.
Gagnon: Yeah, the mixtape was something we had talked about in development meetings and it just seemed to resonate with everybody. It evoked the creativity, the DIY sensibility, and the love that we felt embodied the imprint. If you made a mixtape for somebody, there was a certain amount of thought and emotion you'd put into it. You had to craft it, and it took time, so you had to care. We believe that the creators in this imprint make comics with joy and love and passion.
Nrama: Tell us what you can about Ryan North's story – how did he come to you with this big 8-issue story, and how does it set the tone as the vanguard for this new imprint?
Watters: Ryan has spent the last decade executing experimental ideas literally every single day for his day job, where he puts words into the mouths of extraordinarily smart and charismatic dinosaurs. Writing a funny and then moving on to the next funny/taking the best ideas and expanding them into something incredible is just a normal Tuesday for Mr. Ryan North.
We play this game at cons, where Ryan pitches me terrible ideas for Adventure Time comics, and I say, "Ryan that idea is actually not terrible," and he says, "ye gads you're right," and then absolutely destroys it when he sits down to write the issue. With The Midas Flesh, I asked Ryan, "if you could do a comic that was not Adventure Time with me, what would that comic be?" Midas is that project. Basically, Ryan is not only perfect at hugs and being very tall, he is also the perfect person to have by your side when you're launching an imprint like ours.
Nrama: It's been a big year for BOOM! With an acquisition, exclusive creator signings, a hit movie adaptation, and now a new imprint being built from the ground up – First, what would you say has been the central driving force of BOOM! in 2013 – if you had a tagline for 2013, what would it have been?
Gagnon: We’ve been building toward this for a while. In some ways, the success of 2013 is the culmination of a lot of initiatives we were developing last year and in years prior. The acquisition of Archaia, 2 Guns on the silver screen, signing George Pérez, Paul Jenkins and Brian Stelfreeze, the success of our BOOM! originals (Polarity, Suicide Risk, Next Testament, Six-Gun Gorilla, Day Men, Hit), launching BOOM! Box — it’s all years of work and planning, reaching an outcome that exceeded even our expectations.
The driving force behind all of this is the people who make up BOOM! Studios. There’s a reason we launched the “We are BOOM!” campaign this year. The “we” is critical to everything that we do. We believe in our staff, our creators, our readers. When you have a team that backs one another and moves forward toward a common goal, it’s incredible what you can accomplish. This is what we believe: We are BOOM! Studios…and you are, too.
Watters: One of our production designers, Hannah Nance Partlow, sells a screenprint of the phrase, "Be Nice, Work Hard, Get Rad," which, if there was ever BOOM! in a nutshell, that would be it.
Nrama: And that brings us to 2014 – what's your tagline for 2014, if the tenet of the year can be summed up as such?
Watters: You ain't seen nothin' yet.