Inside TAPAS and BOOM!'s New Relationship, Launching with HEAVY VINYL Sequel

Heavy Vinyl
Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)
Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Over two million people read comics each month on the digital comics platform Tapas - and BOOM! Studios wants them to read some of their titles. Earlier this year, the two companies announced a partnership that will kick off with a sequel to 2017's Heavy Vinyl to be released digital-first exclusively on the Tapas platform.

For BOOM!, this is a continuation of a longheld appreciation of digital comics. The publisher was one of the first to release comic books on Myspace, and their one-shot, Adventure Time Marshall Lee Spectacular, was one of comiXology's flagship exclusive titles in 2016. The publisher continues to have a strong relationship with comiXology, but sees a distinctly different audience in Tapas' userbase that would also like the Los Angeles-based publisher's comics - particularly Heavy Vinyl.

Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O! reunites writer Carly Usdin and artist Nina Vakueva for the continuing story of a music stores' female employees and their hobby in a secretive fight club.

"Getting the chance to continue the Heavy Vinyl story is a dream come true!" Usdin said. "I'm thrilled to be reunited with my precious little ‘90s babies. You can expect the same level of exhaustively-researched pop culture references with new characters, a new mystery, and more Chris/Maggie cuteness. I've been having a great time writing it, and I can't wait for fans to read it."

Tapas has already begun serializing the original Heavy Vinyl volume on its digital platform, with Y2K-O! scheduled to begin this fall.

Newsarama spoke with Tapas' Content Manager Brooke Haung, as well as BOOM!'s President of Publishing & Marketing Filip Sablik about their companies' team-up to produce more Heavy Vinyl, the broader partnership, and future endeavors together.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)
Filip Sablik
Filip Sablik
Credit: BOOM! Studios

Newsarama: Filip, how did the team up between BOOM! Studios and Tapas come about?

Filip Sablik: About a year, year and half ago, we had a mutual contact that was working with Tapas and consulting. So she had put together a meeting, and we quickly realized Tapas was fans of a lot of what we did and there was interest to work together. Then we started talking about what the possibilities were from there.  

Nrama: Brooke, when can we expect the new volume of Heavy Vinyl to hit Tapas as the original volume is already starting to be published on the platform?

Brooke Haung
Brooke Haung
Credit: Tapas

Brooke Huang: What we know is that it will be Fall of this year.

Nrama: What made Heavy Vinyl the perfect series to start this endeavor?

Sablik: We spent a lot of time talking with Tapas about a bunch of different series we thought would be a good fit, but Michael who is editor in chief of Tapas, saw Heavy Vinyl as something Tapas readers would be drawn to. We were seeing a very terrific response from comic book shops, from libraries, and at the book market at the time.

So we knew we had something that was a really great property and it felt like it touched upon themes and relationships that had a tone that would appeal to the Tapas audience without replicating what they already get with the platform. So I think that is what made it perfect, is that it felt like the right combination of story, tone, and visual aesthetic that not only would appeal to the folks on the platform, but also convert over neatly. Because obviously there are some differences between how a traditional comic book page is constructed and the way that the webcomic format on Tapas is read.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Nrama: Why do you think it’s important to have this marriage of digital and printed comics?

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Huang: Tapas has always been interested in experimenting with print comics to digital and reformatting it to be easily read on a smart phone, especially for young readers these days – and a lot of our readers are young, female readers. Everyone carries a smart phone now, and we thought this would be a great way to bring their favorite comics with them on the go – their favorite print comics that is.

We see a lot of people reading webcomics that were original comics on Tapas, saying that if you had a print version we would love to have a copy. And seeing people who are reading Heavy Vinyl on Tapas there are actually quite a couple of readers that recognize it from BOOM! Studios and are really excited to see it as a webcomic as well. So it’s really a complimentary experience, in our opinion, brining print to digital and we are hoping to bring some of our readers to print as well.

Sablik: I agree with everything Brooke just said, and I will add that one of the core missions here at BOOM! Studios is to try create new fans for the medium of comics. One of the ways we look to do that is that we love to do that with print comics and graphic novels, and we love to do that with digital conversion as well.

But how do we build that outreach, and as Brooke mentioned Tapas has a great audience built into the platform that are exactly the type of fans that we are trying to reach, and we think would love the type of content that we produce. So it just feels natural, and as print publisher we were very early at adapting digital platforms as a potential way to reaching out to new readers. Going all the way back to, I think we were the first company to publish digital comics on Myspace and competing on the various evolution of digital comics.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Awhile back we were looking at the work the team was doing at Tapas. We were really impressed by it and saw the potential in it as a way of reaching out. This is the first activation and there will be more to follow. Ultimately, our goal we see this is complimentary as expanding an audience, which in the long run will help the medium, will help creators, will help publishers all over. If we can have more people consuming comics in whatever format and device they are most comfortable with. That means we can have a greater variety of content, a more diverse pool of creators working, and more diverse group of series going on at any given time.   

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Nrama: What can you tell us about the next volume of Heavy Vinyl?

Sablik: I don’t think I’m allowed to tease anything about it, other than to say our gang will be back. One of the things that has been terrific about what Carly and Nina have created here is that they’ve created a world, a set of characters, a home base, a mission that has plenty of opportunities for new stories and has a built in engine to tell new adventures with these group of characters. So I know they are going to expand the world and continue to build on what they did with the first volume. We are actively in the development phase on that so I don’t think I can tease anything officially.

Nrama: How long will fans have to wait for the trade of Heavy Vinyl after the release on Tapas?

Sablik: Great question, we are looking at serializing, like Brooke said, in the Fall and then in the Spring we’ll have a print collection out in stores. Again we look at this audience as additive and separate in many ways. Of course, there is some overlap, but largely these are fans that have not had the opportunity to reach out to and engage with our content. So our hope is that they will read our story on Tapas, and they will fall in love with these characters the way we have and hopefully will want to have a copy of it on their shelf or their coffee table. The idea is to make that a relatively seamless experience from digital to print.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Nrama: Will there be extra content in the trade for the people who have read the Tapas version?

Sablik: I don’t know if we locked that down yet, but typically it just depends on the collection – ultimately the great thing about digital and maybe the challenging thing about print is that you have to work in signature. So some of that is decided on how many pages of content we have, and are there additional signatures we have to fill out – sometimes we do that with cover galleries.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

In this case we are going from a digital serialization from a graphic novel we won’t have as much of that, but we will have – obviously there’s a lot developmental work that goes into a series like that. So I would say stay tuned as we get closer to it as we get to reveal details.  

Nrama: Does Tapas want to team up with more printed comic book companies with this type of cross promotion? Any dream comics?

Huang: Yeah – that is something we are definitely excited about. We’ve gotten a really great response with Heavy Vinyl. We would love to work with other companies. We would love to work with BOOM! Studios more. One of the reasons we wanted to work with BOOM! Studios to start out with this experiment is because we love so many of BOOM! Studios’ titles. We think there’s an overlap, not necessarily the same readers, but readers that like and look for the same kind of stories. 

Nrama: Would you like to see some original Tapas series have a printed graphic novel through BOOM! Studios? What titles in particular do you think would fit the move the best?

Sablik: We’re actively having that conversation, and our editors are talking to the team at Tapas for possibilities of things that we think our current audience would respond well to. So hopefully we will have news on that before long.  

Nrama: Would you like to have more of your titles release through Tapas? What type of titles do you think work the best with this type of release?

Sablik: Absolutely, like I said I think we are all hoping this is a step for a larger relationship. Ultimately, it has to be a relationship that works for everyone in the equation. It has to work for BOOM! Studios. It has to work for Tapas. It has to work for Tapas’ readers. It has to be something that resonates.

As we were talking about it and looking at it, our Boom Box imprint is the clearest and most obvious choice in terms of sourcing material that could do really well on Tapas. One of the conversations we had was looking at Carly’s other series Avant-Guards, which has a similar appeal. There’s a number of other titles that can work. Series that are focused on character and relationships that have a combination of drama and humor in them are going to fit in really neatly.

Credit: Nina Vakueva (BOOM! Studios/Boom Box)

Boom Box’s imprint in particular will develop by Shannon Watters, our senior editor, who oversees the imprints – as a reaction to her love for webcomics. She’s someone who grew up reading manga and is a big fan of that as well. So those are all similar places of inspiration that overlap with what you see on Tapas. Those are the areas we are looking at primarily, and there are other titles from our Studios imprint that may be a good fit as well. 

Nrama: Maybe Fence, since that is going to a graphic novel imprint?

Sablik: That would not be a bad idea. If I could be so bold – if the fans on Tapas are reading the interview they should definitely let us know what they would like to see next. 

Nrama: Would you like to release more volumes of Heavy Vinyl after this sequel?

Sablik: I think it’s open ended. I think we would love to continue the series, and ultimately if the fans are there and telling us they want more. Carly and Nina are fantastic to work with and our experience with Tapas has been awesome. We were thrilled to see not only the amount of energy they put into launching Heavy Vinyl on Tapas. They did a great job with promoting it, and came up with these really cool social media activations and trailer. Just a lot of really terrific work that Brooke and her team did, and we would love to keep it going.

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