The exclusive contract has become a ubiquitous part of the comics landscape, though usually such announcements revolve around locking talent down at one of the mainstream superhero publishers.
Today, however, after declaring “I Am BOOM!” in February, Paul Jenkins is making it publicly known that he has gone exclusive with BOOM! Studios for his foreseeable future, and the writer has penned an open letter for CBR News explaining the reasons for his move.
Jenkins, of course, has had stints at a number of companies as both writer and editor, including Top Cow, Vertigo, Tundra and more. But he’s also been a reliable writer in the Marvel and DC stable over the past 15 years, recently working on books including “Hulk” and “Stormwatch.” With today’s announcement, his commitments for the foreseeable future will be to new characters and new stories.
Below, Jenkins explains why he’s going all in with BOOM!, his publisher for “Deathmatch” and “Fairy Quest,” how his future world will better fit the mold of personal superhero sagas he’s written in the past like “Inhumans” and “The Sentry” and what his motivations were for taking the exclusive and his reasoning public.
Have you ever fretted for days over an email that you really wanted to send?
It can be excruciating sometimes; I have plenty of drafts stewing in my Outbox that cover numerous difficult topics but I know as well as anyone that it is better to think for a day or so before pulling the trigger. My unsent letters are usually work-related, and most are intended to right a perceived wrong, or solve some logistical problem or other. Well, this is the one I have been thinking of sending for a couple of years now. I don’t think there is an easy or right way to do this, so here goes:
I’m going to remove myself from working for the foreseeable future with Marvel or DC, and I’ll be working exclusively from now on with BOOM! Studios. I’m finally going to make myself happy again in the process.
The first and most understandable question may well be, “Why make it a public affair? Why not simply go quietly and work wherever you like without feeling the need to shout it out to the whole world?” Well, the answer is that I have something to say, and I feel the subject is important enough to initiate some debate. I hope those reading this will agree the discussion will be worth their time. I feel that we are once again moving in the wrong direction, creatively. I’ve been down this road before, and it’s a road we can and should avoid. I don’t need to tell you what Greg Rucka and numerous other respected creators have already told you – that the Big Two have removed their focus away from the creators and towards the maintenance of the characters. I don’t blame Disney or Warner Brothers. After all, Avengers made a lot of money, didn’t it?
But me, I love to write comics. I have always been captivated by the potential of the medium. Comic book creators enjoy a tremendous advantage in the way we can tell a story, with our wonderfully collaborative interaction between artist and writer. Over the course of my career in this industry I have had the opportunity to work on all of the major characters at Marvel and DC, and for much of that time it has been a lot of fun. But honestly, the entire medium deserves more than we are currently giving it. So do the fans, the people who currently shell out four dollars for each comic that they buy. We have taken away the consequences of the stories we present to them, and I feel the mainstream product is becoming a homogenized puddle of “meh.” I have no desire to appeal to a reader’s indifference, nor be involved in a final product that I do not fully support.
I have discovered in my forties that I am primarily driven by a desire to tell good stories and shepherd them through the creative process as best I can. I am immensely frustrated by the fact that we have come full circle, back to the days of simply managing characters. I am even more frustrated that my name is attached to a creative product that I did not fully create. Lord knows I am not always perfect as a creator… but as I sit and try to find the right words to say I can tell you one thing with certainty: I know when it was a lot easier, and that was back in the days of Marvel Knights. In those times, Marvel had been in bankruptcy, and they had little choice but to allow the creators the freedom and trust that so many of us deserve. I look back on “Inhumans” and “Sentry,” on my Spidey runs with Bucky and Humberto, and on various successes with “Wolverine: Origin” and others, and I know – because I was there – that they succeeded in large part because I was given freedom to create without being handicapped by editorial mandates. It just hasn’t been that way for a while. In recent years, I have watched, helpless, as editors made pointless and destructive changes to scripts and artwork that they had previously left alone. It bugs me that the creators were a primary focus when the mainstream publishers needed them, and now that the corporations are driving the boat, creative decisions are being made once again by shareholders. I want to create comics the way we are supposed to. I want characters to die and stay dead, or at the very least make sure that creative decisions in a series lead to something more than an inevitable return to the status quo.
So I am fully committing to working with BOOM! Studios, where I have already enjoyed more creative freedom in the last six or seven months than I can possibly articulate. Ross Richie has reanimated a beast that I had thought was extinct: namely, he has created an environment of trust between the creator and the editor. The culture of BOOM! is one that I admire; one that I miss terribly, and I can easily recognize: I told Ross recently that working with BOOM! reminds me of my days at Marvel Knights. I can pay his amazing team, that he’s assembled with Matt Gagnon and Filip Sablik, no higher compliment. I know that I am only ever going to be happy if I am allowed to create by a collaborative publisher who truly wants comics to be worth the cover price.
I suppose there comes a time in everyone’s life where they think about the good old days and wish they were “home.” Well, I am lucky enough to be home. I hope readers will see what BOOM! Studios is doing in their cool little corner of the creative world. I believe those fans who want me to write books like “Sentry” and “Inhumans” will once again be able to expect that my name on the front cover of a book reflects a certain standard. I’m going to be building worlds and doing creator-owned stuff, and generally smiling when I wake up instead of fretting that my name is attached to something I do not believe in.