IDW Publishing surprised fans this past April with news that the San Diego-based company would publish a new ongoing, all-ages series titled Star Wars Adventures — rather than Marvel, which already publishes a line of Star Wars comics and shares Disney as a corporate parent.
Soon after the announcement, CBR spoke to Greg Goldstein, President and Chief Operating Officer of IDW, at the C2E2 convention in Chicago. Goldstein discussed why IDW was the right home for Star Wars Adventures, and what type of stories to expect from the September-debuting series.
The conversation then moved to details about IDW’s newly announced DuckTales and Tangled comics, and moved on to IDW’s approach to licensed children’s comics in general.
CBR: Let’s start with the Star Wars Adventures comics. How are your comics different from Marvel’s, and why are these comics with IDW?
Greg Goldstein: The former question is easier to answer in that we are doing the all-ages comics. Marvel has been doing some amazing, great Star Wars comics, some of the best Star Wars comics ever done, and they are really for the more mature Star Wars readers. I don’t mean adult with a capital A, but the storylines are sophisticated, they are PG-13, they are continuing stories, they are longer stories, and Disney/Lucas/Marvel, which is all one happy family, really wanted an all-ages version of Star Wars out there for younger readers.
We have had great success with the all-ages comics, whether it’s My Little Pony or Skylanders or what we’ve done on [Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles] Adventures, and so forth. We’ve done Disney classic titles with Disney, we have great relationships with all three companies, and already we are working with Marvel on the Star Wars Artist’s Editions and the [minicomics that come with IDW’s Fun Packs]. I don’t like to speak for another company, but Marvel especially wanted to focus on the more mature titles that fit in with the core kinds of superhero stories they tell, and there was room for somebody that has already got a lot of all-ages material, and somebody that they already trust to work in that world.
Will these be original stories set in that universe, or will they be retellings of existing stories?
They will be original stories, primarily. They will be set in the entire Star Wars combined universe: They can be the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the modern films, some of the offshoots that are still considered part of the canon.
How did you decide what your first couple of storylines would be?
We quietly put the word out that we were talking to Disney and [Lucasfilm] about this six months ago, and we got some creative proposals. We evaluated those, and took the best of what we got and sent it over to Lucas, but there’s no end of people that want to work on Star Wars. There’s just a lot of us like myself that love it. It’s part of our culture.
So you got pitches from creators.
Yes, and since we announced it, we’ve gotten many more. Our chief creative officer Chris Ryall’s inbox has blown up.
How do you market to children in the direct market?
The direct market has been saying that they want more all-ages comics, and for the most part they have been very receptive to what we have been doing. The direct market blew up on My Little Pony four or five years ago, when we first went into the pony business. There was a need that not everybody realized was there, which was basically, if a parent comes in to buy Amazing Spider-Man or Transformers, and the kid comes in and it’s a young boy, there’s plenty there, whether it’s Batman Adventures or what have you, but for the younger girls there wasn’t anything, or very little.
So Pony was a gateway for young readers on the comic book side, particularly among girls — not that boys don’t read it, from what we’ve been told. Now a family can go into a well run comic book store, and there’s something for everybody.
DuckTales is one of those beloved stories the fans love. It’s being relaunched by Disney. The early word is that it’s great and is going to have as much beloved fandom as the first iteration, so DuckTales will start coming out as single issues from us in July.
And then the Tangled comics, which you also just announced.
The [Tangled] TV show is based on the movie. It certainly looks like they are putting a lot of creative energy and love into the property. We saw some early stuff and it looked great. And again, Tangled is going to be an opportunity for probably female readers, all ages, to jump right in.
Are these going to be original stories?
So they are not based on the TV series?
The story content is based on it, but we are not making adaptations. There’s minimal added value in doing that. Nowadays, you can rewatch the episode in one format or another over and over and over again. When I was a kid, if you missed that day’s episode, you might not see it for a year. It wasn’t running that same night or the next morning. Nowadays, you want to have added value. So we are going to exist within the universe, but our material is going to bring in new content.
Why do you think you have done so well with all-ages comics in the past few years?
We started to get a sense from going to these retailer events that there was not enough good all-ages content in the direct market and that the retailers were more willing to try it, because some other areas of their businesses were flat. They were not growing at the rate they wanted to.
The natural inclination for parents that don’t know comic books is the material in [comic book stores] is for kids. You don’t know the industry, you go in there and say, “What do you have for kids?” and the retailer goes, “Well, I got a handful of things over there. I don’t really have that much.” We saw an opportunity and really started thinking about all ages.
Two things happened simultaneously for us. One is we are Hasbro’s preferred partner in the comic book industry. Hasbro’s My Little Pony animated show was blowing up, and Hasbro and IDW both knew together that My Little Pony was a risk, based on demographic, but it was a risk we were willing to take together, and we kind of created a unique business model around it where we shared the risk a little bit more than we might with some of the other comic book properties. And that worked. And then simultaneously, Nickelodeon purchased the [Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles and relaunched the Turtles on TV, and we knew we wanted the Kevin Eastman “adult” comic book out there, but at the same time, kids have loved Turtles forever. Back in the day, Archie had a great Turtles program. So we knew we wanted to do a kids’ Turtles.
So all of a sudden we had a great male title, we had a great female title, and other opportunities that either started presenting themselves to us or we started actively acquiring, just sort of complementary. We knew there would be an interest in Skylanders; we knew there would be an interest in Angry Birds; the Disney Classic characters always feel safe for the parents. Today the little kids want to read their first comic books. Disney comics are a natural, plus the stories are usually interesting enough that adults like them too.
So you get both audiences.
The definition of all ages is it’s not just for little kids.
It seems like a lot of your properties have a nostalgia element to them — today’s parents were watching Jem and the Holograms or My Little Pony as children.
Until I watched an episode of My Little Pony I didn’t get it, because I remember my friends’ little sisters watching the first version of Pony, but this version has got so much fun and energy and sly humor going through it that I get the appeal.
A lot of our properties are nostalgic, but they are the modern iteration. We are not basing our Turtles on cartoons from 30 years ago, we are basing them on the Turtles of today. Our Turtles have cell phones.
So what’s next?
One thing about IDW is we never rest. We are always looking for new opportunities. I’m working on a couple of things now, as is the team, that we hope we can announce by Comic-Con [International in San Diego]. The Star Wars launches in September; it’s going to be huge.
This summer, just on the all-ages side, DuckTales, Tangled, Star Wars Adventures. On the more adult side, we’ve got the first Mirror Universe story set in the Star Trek world, with Next Generation as opposed to the original classic series. It’s called “Mirror Broken.” It’s got J.K. Woodward doing the art, which is an absolute favorite of Star Trek fans in the comics, and we’ve got a bunch of other exciting Star Trek things happening that will be related to the new TV show. So there are some great things going on there.
Turtles is insane. The Turtles Free Comic Book Day comic is actually the #0 issue for a five-week event in August, “Turtles: Dimension X.” That August event will spin out, leading to Turtles #75 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Day, October 25.
Because it’s celebrating the 75th issue of Turtles. The longest running Turtles previously was issue #73, so we are eclipsing that. It’s just a celebration of all great things Turtles. So we have to figure out a way to get Kevin Eastman in 20 places at once. We’ll do it somehow.
How is your Yo-Kai Watch comic different from the manga, and why would you do a Yo-Kai Watch comic at all?
That’s a good question. We are always interested in trying new things, and Ted Adams, our CEO, and myself, our editorial team, we have always believed there are a lot of great manga IPs that have been shortchanged by not having Western style comic books: Left to right, color, standard Western storytelling. So Yo-Kai was obviously becoming a big thing, and we said you know what, if the licensor is willing to try, and have both versions out there, let’s give it a shot.
Our stories are definitely more traditional Western stories for fans of Angry Birds or Skylanders or Littlest Pet Shop. The Yo-Kai Watch fits in with that world, and it’s nothing like the manga but it’s true to the IP.
Are you looking at any other manga?
There are a handful that we have looked at and pursued for years, and someday we will get them. [Laughs] That’s all I can say for now.
Star Wars Adventures is scheduled to debut in September. Keep reading CBR for more on the series.