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Chris Ryall Looks Forward with IDW

by  in Comic News Comment
Chris Ryall Looks Forward with IDW

The first half of 2012 has seen IDW Publishing undertake several ambitious projects, from relaunching long-running series to adding new licenses to the fold, not to mention new creator-owned work. Two new “Transformers” ongoing series have breathed new life into the franchise, Roger Langridge’s “Popeye” has proved an unexpected hit, new titles for “Godzilla,” “The Crow,” and “Mars Attacks” are on the horizon; on the indie side, flagship title “30 Days of Night” continues its ongoing reign of terror, Joe Hill’s “Locke and Key” has wrapped its penultimate arc, and miniseries by Chris Roberson and Mike Costa have brought magic and fantasy to the line.

Heading into the summer and the undoubtedly big announcements that will come out of Comic-Con International in San Diego this July, CBR News caught up with IDW Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall to discuss the state of the publisher, the progress of its major series, and IDW’s place in the current discussion of creator-owned comics and creator rights.

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CBR News: Chris, I’d like to start with broad strokes — how has 2012 treated IDW so far?

I heard the line might be streamlining a bit — will all three titles be continuing?

Yeah, they will. Dirk Wood, our marketing and PR VP, made a comment at C2E2 to the retailers. He said something, and it got misconstrued as “oh my God, they’re pruning back their ‘Joe’ books!” Certainly not true at this point. If anything like that does happen somewhere down the line, that would be something that is in line with what we’re headed with the direction of “G.I. Joe,” but for the foreseeable future we’re keeping the titles as-is.

Heading into the second “G.I. Joe” movie, then, what kind of planning goes into movie tie-in projects? [Editor’s note: This interview was conducted prior to “G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s” release date being moved to March 2013.]

Well, we did a prequel comic that was set in between movies one and two. We didn’t do an adaptation this time. Adaptations are kind of a weird thing now. When I was a kid and I was reading adaptations, that was the only way to revisit something like “Empire Strikes Back,” because there were no video tapes, there was no ability to watch things over and over. So an adaptation was this cool thing where you could replay and relive the story. But now, I don’t know that fans care about straight adaptations in these cases as much as they care about new content that expands or enhances the story. So we did a prequel, we’re waiting to see how the new movie is received. The early word on it is it’s certainly much better than the first one, but I’m also wary of having too many “G.I. Joe” books out there. Right now we have four. I don’t know that we can force more than four monthly “G.I. Joe” books on people at this time. If there’s enough outcry for movie-related comics that pick up after the movie, we’ll talk about that. But we don’t have immediate plans for that.

Since we’re talking about movies a bit, let’s move on to “Star Trek.” Your ongoing series bridges the movies in the reboot continuity, picking up after the first J.J. Abrams film and keeping the story going until the next one. How has reception to the series been so far?

It’s been good. The thing about that series, and I think it will be one where, when the movie gets closer, people will look back and want to re-read these or read them for the first time, because we’ve been coordinating this whole series with Roberto Orci, who is one of the screenwriters on the “Star Trek” movies. So he’s been dropping in little things, seeding little things that will come back and factor into the movie. Certainly, as it gets closer, there will be more of that. This isn’t just us — again, I go back to my childhood and “Star Wars,” where between the movies there were just these ridiculous story lines, they didn’t know what was going on. In this case, everything is well planned out, thought ahead, and does tie in. Read all together, it does make a nice coherent storyline, leading into and out of each movie.

Plus, we have tribbles! We’ve been retelling some of the old episodes set in the new universe, and the tribbles episode, which was one of my favorites and I think one of everybody’s favorites, we’re revisiting soon, too.


James O’Barr’s popular creation “The Crow” returns to comics in July

Another current series, “Star Trek/Doctor Who” is not set in the new continuity, it’s “Next Generation” — that one is a lot of fun. How did that project end up coming together?

That came together through a lot of dancing and pleading and sweating and all of that. “Doctor Who” had never done a crossover in any form, TV or prose or anything else, in their entire history. It’s safe to say they were somewhat resistant to the idea at first. But this is a lot of what I do with my day. When people ask me what I do with my day, there’s a lot of talking and convincing and showing, and planning of what we can do. Showing the BBC what a crossover could be and what we could do with it, how it could work and why it’s a good idea to do something like this. That came about through a lot of conversations and planning sessions and so on. We thought it made sense to focus on the “Next Gen” not just because it’s their anniversary this year, but because “Next Gen” seemed to play a bit better in the “Doctor Who” universe. I did find a way to work in a Fourth Doctor meeting the Original Series crew, which will happen in issue #3, but just as a flashback, which is a fun thing for the fans who have been wanting that. But I just thought “Next Gen” and “Doctor Who” were a more cohesive fit.

All right. In the last year or so you’ve brought back “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” and the new “Crow” series is debuting soon. “The Crow” is beginning with John Shirley, the screenwriter of the first movie, and you have series creator James O’Barr doing something later on.

Yeah, in fact, O’Barr just sent me the first ten pages from his new story in the mail last week. It’s underway and he’s having fun being back in that world again. John Shirley’s book comes out first, and that’s set in Japan. It takes the idea of “The Crow” and sets in a somewhat different direction, so it’s not just transplanting the idea of “The Crow” to a different location. It’s sort of changing what people have seen with the Crow before. And then James O’Barr has got something entirely different as well. I can’t wait ’til people see it.

Is O’Barr writing and drawing?

He is, yeah.

These will be the first new “Crow” comics in ten years. What made you want to go after this property and bring it back?

It just one of those properties that just works well in comics, and it’s one that I personally had been missing. I liked “The Crow” back when O’Barr first did his thing, and I enjoyed the movie, it just felt like something that hadn’t been overdone, like something we could have some fun with that people would really enjoy.

You mentioned “Mars Attacks” earlier, which is something that’s kicking up soon, as well. I’d like to touch a bit on your April Fool’s joke

[Laughs] That was a Topps April Fool’s joke! It’s funny that it did catch some people, they thought it was a real thing, which I guess is understandable since it was released before April Fool’s Day. But yeah, no musical, just comics, and I think John Layman is much better suited to doing comics than musicals.

Advance copies will probably arrive at the office this week, it’s already been approved and sent to print with those crazy 58 covers for #1. Layman’s another one, as I say, I can’t think of anyone better suited to writing “Mars Attacks.” With John McCrea, too, it’s been an absolute blast for me. They’re four scripts in and it’s so much fun. It’s weird we’re doing a licensed book where there’s this level of death and destruction and carnage and craziness. Usually, you do a book like “Transformers” or “True Blood” and you’ve got to respect the characters to a point where you can’t kill them arbitrarily. There is a lot of arbitrary killing in “Mars Attacks.”

And are there any new details you can give about your upcoming “Judge Dredd” series?

At Comic-Con, we’re going to doing a Dredd anniversary panel with the 2000 AD guys. They’ll talk about their plans, we’ll be releasing the “Dredd” creative team there and showing a bit of stuff. That’s when it’s all going to kick off. That’s one that I’m really excited about, too, because I’m working directly on that and I’m really happy with the direction that we’re going to go with it. I think people are really going to dig that one.

Finishing up talking about licenses a bit, are we looking at an “Infestation 3” coming up?

No. But we have something else in mind to take that “Infestation” slot. We were just having a planning session about that today. There is something else big in the works, but it won’t necessarily take the form of an “Infestation” sequel. That will be aiming for January, for whatever reason I like that time of year to do this sort of thing.


joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s “Locke and Key” epic has one more miniseries to go before it wraps

I’ve also noticed you’ve done a couple historical books recently, with “Nevsky” by Ben McCool and Mario Guerra and “Secret Battles of Genghis Khan” by Daryl Gregory and Alan Robinson. Is this something you’re looking to do more of, or did these two projects just happen to be really nice?

Yeah, we’re not looking to do a whole historical line, but these were pet projects of people and they both worked nicely for different reasons. I’m directly working on the “Genghis Khan” book, and it’s a blast. There’s beheading, and boilings in oil, all kinds of stuff. Genghis Khan’s one I didn’t know a lot about other than the name, so it’s fun to actually see what the real story was.

Great. Moving on to the Joe Hill stuff, another “Locke and Key” series wrapped up this month. We have got one more to go before the end of the main story, and there’s another new “The Cape” series coming up. At this point, are you starting to line up new stuff with Joe?

Well, “Clockworks” ended and in August there’s a one-shot called “Grindhouse.” There will be a couple one-shots that space in amidst the final series. And then the final series will kick off late Fall or early Winter, that one is called “Omega” and will be a seven-part story that concludes the ongoing story that we’ve been telling but not necessarily the end of “Locke and Key.” Joe and I are constantly talking about things he may want to do beyond that, but 2013 is going to be spent primarily on “Locke and Key” so I think it’s a little premature to plan out beyond that, since he’s also got his novels and everything else he does. His active Twitter feed, he’s got to keep feeding the beast every day. But yeah, Joe is a guy I will be in business with for as long as he wants to be in business with us.

Along those lines, “The Cape: 1969” is another one I’m finalizing this week, it hits in June. That’s a fun one, too. It tells the origin of the Cape but in an entirely different setting and tone and type of story. It’s set in Vietnam, and it’s really just a good, gritty war comic. It extended that story but takes it directions other than the usual prequel, “oh, he found a cape and now he can fly!” sort of thing.

Obviously, we haven’t touched on IDW’s entire publishing line, but at this point is there anything else you’d like to add about the company as a whole or any particular projects?

I guess I can’t even hint about some of our other Comic-Con announcements, but we do have some other great left-field stuff lined up to talk about there. And John Byrne and I have been making big plans this week, too. He’s currently working on “Trio” and we’ve been talking about all kinds of different things that could follow on from there. His “Next Men” book just ended — the final issue ships in June, but we’re finished with it so we’re talking about what’s next. He’s got a lot of good plans.

Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a constant array of new and interesting things we’re working on. Even eight years in to doing this, I’m still having a blast with it. I’m happy that so much of our stuff is so well-received and constantly grateful that fans dig what we’re doing.

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on IDW Publishing and its upcoming projects.