CEO Ross Richie was in attendance at BOOM! Studios’ early-Friday evening WonderCon panel alongside managing editor Bryce Carlson, editor in chief Matt Gagnon and artist Russell Dauterman (“Supurbia”). Suffering a similar fate as a number of people using the convention center internet connection, the panel had a slightly delayed start as the panelists downloaded a 24 MB PowerPoint file at 30K per second.
Gagnon told the people in attendance at that moment that he appreciated them putting off dinner to attend. When Richie started taking pictures of people taking photos, Gagnon quipped, “We’re just going to turn this into one big Tumblr upload.” Richie joked that the idea that Gagnon knew what Tumblr was is an accomplishment in that Gagnon was the only person in America who wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter. “As far as you know,” Gagnon returned.
Once the presentation was ready, discussion began with BOOM!’s 2011 accomplishments, leading off with “Planet of the Apes,” “Hellraiser” and “Elric.” “I am a nerd, and I grew up with these three franchises,” Richie said “It is an honor it’s a huge honor to publish that stuff.”
The company is starting their second year of publishing “Apes,” a property that was apparently difficult for many of the younger staffers to comprehend. “It’s a franchise that’s been around since 1968,” Richie explained, “I was trying to explain, pre-‘Star Wars,’ what it was like, that it was a kind of ‘Star Trek’/’Planet of The Apes’ world if you were a science fiction fan.” Richie was liberal with praise for series writer Daryl Gregory and artist Carlos Magno.
Last Wednesday saw the launch of “Exile of the Planet of The Apes,” a follow-up to “Betrayal of the Planet of The Apes” by the returning team of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Sara Bechko. The response to the “Betrayal” mini was so strong that they were happy to invite them back for another trip in the fictional world.
“We’ve been working with Clive Barker on new ‘Hellraiser’ stories for the last year,” Gagnon said, explaining that as the series enters into it’s second year of stories, fans can be assured they all reman in canon. “Clive had only touched ‘Hellraiser’ basically twice, and so this is the first time he’s actually coming back to the character. For the series, we’re telling a brand new story with Pinhead, and without giving any spoilers away, there’s actually been a kind of change of the guard that happens in the series towards the end of the first year that is, uh …”
“We can be more aggressive without being spoilery,” Richie interrupted, as Gagnon asked, “Can we?”
“There’s a new Pinhead,” Richie continued, “if you haven’t been following this.”
“The old Pinhead is obviously still around, in a new way,” Gagnon said.
“If you have any affinity for ‘Hellraiser,’ this is the creator,” Richie said. “He is unfiltered, he doesn’t have a film studio to answer to, he doesn’t have a book publisher that he’s gotta deal with — it’s just whatever Clive wants to do. He is changing Pinhead. If you don’t know who the new Pinhead is, be prepared, it’s a radical departure. It’s exactly what Clive approached us with from the beginning. It’s pretty amazing.”
Switching to “Elric,” which Richie described as “an amazing fantasy figure, sort of an anti-Conan, lots of high magic, lots of darkness, lots of chaos,” Richie talked about his common ground with Michael Moorcock, living “sixty minutes from where I grew up,” in San Antonio. “When we first approached Chris Roberson…we talked about what we wanted to do. I was like, ‘Chris, we need to pull out all the stops.'” Richie went on to describe the current storyline as “the humdinger of all Elric stories of all time…the crisis on infinite Earths of Elric…a love letter to everybody who loves Michael Moorcock.”
Moving on to plans for 2012, Richie began by discussing KaBOOM!, BOOM!’s kids imprint, and the company’s pride in working with the “Peanuts” properties. “When you start a funny book company, [and] you work with people like Michael Moorcock, you can’t really call mom and say, ‘Hey, Mom, I’m working with Michael Moorcock!’ She doesn’t really get it. You always wanna make your parents proud. When I grew up in the 70s, there were collections of Charles Schulz ‘Peanuts’ strips from the 1950s. When my parents were a cool, young married couple, they were buying ‘Peanuts’ strip collections long before they had a family. It was a really cool moment to call up my mom from Santa Rosa at the Charles Schulz Museum and say, ‘Hi, Mom! I showed up at the Charles Schulz Museum and they didn’t kick me out! They, actually, are talking to us about doing comics!'”
Gagnon talked about closely working with the Charles Schulz Museum, including hiring many artists from Charles Schulz Associates in Santa Rosa. “There’s a lot of love and affection that goes into this book. We wanted to make sure we did something that was based on Charles Schulz’ creation. The best way to do that was to draw inspiration from the strips themselves. A lot of the stories that you see in here are adaptations or playing off of the strips that Charles Schulz created.”
Gagnon was credited with developing the “First Appearance Covers” as the retailer incentive variants, showing off a much different style of Schulz’s art — for example, Charlie Brown had no zig zag on his shirt when he was created, and Linus was a baby. Snoopy’s first appearance will be the cover of the retailer incentive for the next issue in April.
“Adventure Time” has been a huge success for BOOM! “This book has been insane,” Richie said. “We are trying to catch up to the demand.” Lead stories for each issue are written by Ryan North of “Dinosaur Comics” fame, while the backup stories are intended for pulling in “different indie comics luminaries.”
“Matt won’t tell you,” Bryce interjected, “but he dresses up as Princess Bubblegum once a month…”
“It’s true,” Richie said in almost a whisper. “It’s horrifying.”
The debut issue’s first printing sold out ten days before it shipped, the second printing sold out in a day, and, after “going long on the third printing,” they’re about three quarters of the way through inventory on the week that issue #2 came out, implying that a fourth printing is likely.
Issue #2 of “Adventure Time” sold out a week before it shipped on this past Wednesday, so a second printing is coming, but they wanted to draw attention to issue #5 in June, with covers from James Kolchaka, Chris Houghton, Eleanor Davis, Mike “Gabe” Krahulik of “Penny Arcade” and a back up story by Paul Pope.
The newest KaBOOM! title is “Garfield,” launching in May. The first issue variant shows the famous cat thinking, “I’ll give you all ten seconds to get off the comic racks!” Shown all around are threatening hands that are clearly from recognizable characters: Thor, Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, The Thing (from Fantastic Four), Wonder Woman (lasso in frame), Spider-Man, Wolverine, Iron Man and the Hulk. Creator Jim Davis told Richie that part of his decision to license with BOOM! was the strength of their kids comics, in particular “Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.” Mark Evanier is handling the writing chores, a comfortable position since he was one of the producers on the “Garfield” cartoon and one of the few people Jim Davis trusts to write the character. Series artist Gary Barker illustrates the newspaper strip, so he’s also obviously very familiar with the character.
Turning to the BOOM! Town imprint, fresh off the Eisner win for their debut book, “I Thought You Would Be Funnier,” it was announced that Rich Tommaso has a new original graphic novel called “Pete and Miriam,” a “nostalgic piece about growing up in jersey in the 70s and the 80s.”
Indie rock icon Daniel Johnston, most famously known for making the shirt Kurt Cobain wore relentlessly, was sought out by BOOM! after his Kickstarter campaign to start a comic launched, and they will be bringing out “Space Ducks: An Infinite Comic Book of Musical Greatness.” Johnston debuted the comic at South By Southwest earlier in the week, and also released an iPad app that melds multiple media types into an immersive experience Richie said is informed by Johnston’s diagnosed schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
May will see the debut of “The Other Side of Howard Cruse,” comics focused on topics other than the renowned cartoonist’s sexuality. Gagnon described the project as “not for the faint of heart,” and art showed grown up versions of Richie Rich and Little Lulu in decidedly un-family-friendly situations.
The panel discussed the breaking in story of Dauterman, who was discovered at a portfolio review in San Diego last July. “I’m unbelievably excited for this book,” the artist said. “My guilty pleasure is ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ so when Eric [Harburn, the book’s editor] told me the concept, that was my thing, and I really latched on to it form the start.”
Writer Grace Randolph also enjoyed some notoriety on the internet as well as writing Disney titles for BOOM! before she took Gagnon to lunch and pitched him “lots of things.” “Supurbia” is what he latched on to, and the first issue has sold out.
CBR is featured in “Fanboys vs. Zombies,” a comic book set at San Diego Comic-Con showcasing how CBR’s on-site workspace becomes one of the last refuges from the shambling horrors. Written by Sam Humphries (“Our Love Is Real”), the first issue is $1 (a common theme for BOOM! series) and features covers by Humberto Ramos, Ale Garza and Khary Randolph. This is also the first comic book for artist Jerry Gaylord, again showing BOOM!’s interest in developing new talent. There are 1 in 100 variant covers by Arthur Suydam playing off of two classic DC covers (“The Flash” #123 and “Crisis on Infinite Earths” #7) slabbed by CGC and graded at 9.8 for quality. This ships the first week of April.
Borrowing a tactic from BOOM!’s “Mark Waid is Evil” marketing campaign, the campaign for Sam Humphries’ “Higher Earth” began with a teaser image consisting solely of the text, “Space is dead. Welcome to Higher Earth.” The $1 debut issue, with covers by Phil Noto, Ben Oliver, David Aja and Joe Benitez, is a revenge story about two people hopping between a bunch of alternate earths, each one drastically different from the rest, all in order to reach Higher Earth, the one world “that rules them all.” Michael Golden provides another CGC 1 in 100 variant, slabbed and certified at 9.8.
At this point, the screen was filled with the following text” “They killed the world. They killed justice. They took everything from me, except my own worst enemy. Now, united in hate, together we will make them pay.”
“Honestly? A broken world isn’t the place for these steroidal idiots with their quaint little notions of good and evil. Civilization’s dead, our species will survive only with the careful guidance of an undisputed ruler.”
this was all a lead-in to the announcement of“Extermination,” a “post superhero book” written by Si Spurrier, with covers by John Cassaday, Frazier Irving, Trevor Hairsine and James Harren and a 1 in 100 sketch variant from Cassaday. Richie summarized the concept. “What happens when aliens take over the world and Batman teams up with Doctor Doom to save humanity?”
“The Hypernaturals” will hit the first week of may for Free Comic Book Day, heralding a series debuting in July and created by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. They kept their cards close to the vest on this, sharing only the logo.
A few brief fan questions wrapped the panel, leading to the note that “Peanuts” will be a series of miniseries, released throughout the year as an “event,” while Dauterman noted his influences included Chris Bachalo, Frank Quietly, Bruce Timm and vintage advertising art.