Baltimore: BOOM! Studios Panel

BOOM! Studios co-founder Ross Richie and Editor in Chief Mark Waid were on hand last weekend to meet with fans at the Baltimore Comic-Con. The BOOM! panel began with surveying the room to find out who was reading any of the various BOOM! titles and then going on to spotlight “Challenger Deep.” The book focuses on the discovery of methane ice in the Arctic, and takes place on a submarine that’s settled on the bottom of the Challeneger Deep crevice, on top of the methane ice.

Waid reviewed the more recent announcements, including the "Farscape" book, plotted by the original television series creator Rockne S. O'Bannon, who Waid said is enthused about the openness of the comics medium, which comes with no budget restrictions.

As previously announced, the Pixar titles will launch in March of 2009. The first out of the gates will be "The Incredibles.” "We've got this hot new kid on the book named Mark Waid, we think he can do something," said Richie.

"Cars" will be the second book and will be BOOM!’s offering for Free Comic Book Day. After that will be" Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "Monsters Inc." and "Wall-E." “Up,” the new Pixar film set for release next May, is also under consideration for a comic book title. Waid explained that market penetration will not necessarily be driven solely through the comics shops, and said BOOM!’s Pixar titles will have a presence in big box stores. Waid also noted "The Incredibles" title is drawing the attention of some high-profile talents who wish to create cover artwork.

Switching gears from one Disney-related property to another, the panelists mentioned that Roger Langridge is producing story and the art for the "Muppets" comics, launching in March of 2009. Richie believes the comic "captures the off-center flavor of the Muppets,” and some of the folks involved in approving the content of the BOOM! comic were actually connected to the original Muppet show.

"The plan is not just a 'Muppet Show' comic, but also to do a lot of Muppet spin-off titles, like 'Muppet Prince Charming' and 'Muppet Sleeping Beauty,'” Richie said.

Another title discussed was "Galveston.” Based on an idea by Johanna Stokes and Ross Richie and written by Tom Peyer and Mark Rahner with art by Greg Scott, the high concept behind the story is a team-up between legendary pirate Jean Lafitte and Colonel James Bowie. A four-issue miniseries, “Galveston” #1 ships in October.

Richie said actor Stephen Baldwin (“The Usual Suspects”) approached him and his partner Andrew Cosby with an idea for a comic book. Waid confessed that when he heard this, he “detected that the ether was disturbed.” "I heard this and then a big part of me died inside,” Waid said. “'Oh good, another actor writing comics.'" But after Waid saw the script pages, he said he was really impressed. With a story by Baldwin and “Eureka” creator Andrew Cosby, “The Remnant” follows a group that tracks a cell of terrorists, but the terrorists are not all they seem -- not an Al Qaeda-like cell, but something more linked to the supernatural. Caleb Monroe will script and Julian Tedesco will provide artwork.

"Because we're not doing superhero stuff, we attract some of the talent who isn't interested in superheroes at Marvel or DC," the panelists said. They went on to mention that there is an historic tradition in comics of great artists who found interest in non-hero stuff, like John Buscema. “That is the type of artist BOOM! Is trying to find and appeal to,” they said.

The next title discussed was "Hexed," written by Michael Alan Nelson. It features a Brazilian street thief who comes to the US and finds herself in all sorts of bizarre situations. “When we meet her, she comes into possession of a guitar case, and…” That's where Richie decided to leave it without spoiling the reveal. "She's a supernatural thief,” he added. “If you need the halo of an angel, that's who you go to.” The entire art team is composed of female creators -- Emma Rios on line art and Cris Peter on colors -- which Richie is proud of. Waid and Richie both concurred, "This is going to be one of our breakout books."

"Mr. Stuffins," the book about the teddy bear secret agent, will be placed back on the BOOM! schedule. The story is about an A.I. engineer who dumps an artificial intelligence program into a Teddy Ruxpin-type of toy. The book is written by Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes.

Writer Mark Sable, who has done some work with DC (“DC Special: Cyborg, “Two-Face: Year One”) has come to BOOM! with a five-issue series called "Unthinkable." In the story, the government puts together a think tank of the most imaginative thinkers, people like novelists and screenwriters. This group is pressed into determining and devising methods the terrorists might use for attacking the United States. The twist is that the think tank is not sponsored by the US government. Look for it in May.

Mark Waid said he will be contributing some writing to a few titles for BOOM!, telling the Baltimore crowd he feels he can finally step away from the day-to-day administrative work and focus on some other things. Richie mentioned there will be three series Waid is launching, in addition to his work on "Potter's Field" and "The Incredibles."

The duo then opened the floor to questions.

Will "Farscape" be new-reader friendly? “I was insistent on that,” said Waid. “We seem to see from the fan response more people whi missed it the first time around are interested in 'Farscape.'"

Waid then mentioned the "North Wind" experiment -- whereby BOOM! distributed the comic for free on MySpace while the comic was available for sale in comics stores — and advised fans to check out BOOM!’s website, where the publisher is posting six pages of free comics every day. The various "Tales" titles -- "Chthulu Tales," "Ninja Tales," "Zombie Tales" and soon, "Pirate Tales" — as well as "Shmobots," "Two Guns" and "Hero Squared" can be read at one new page a day.

Regarding a fan’s question about the nature of the Pixar comics, Waid and Richie explained that BOOM! will be able to introduce new concepts. For example, the first Incredibles story focuses on Mr. Incredible’s attempt to cover up a sudden loss of his powers, and depicts the family calamity that results.

Anything further to do with "Stardust Kid"? Not right now, but the collected edition is available. Other J. M. DeMatteis works will be collected, such as “Seekers.” In fact, December will be DeMatteis month. The final three issues of "Hero Squared" will also released soon, enabling BOOM! to finish collecting the complete "Hero Squared."

Kathryn and Stuart Immonen’s critically acclaimed webcomic "Never As Bad As" will be released by BOOM! in a hardcover edition designed by Stuart Immonen.

Has an artist for "The Incredibles" been selected? "Yes, there will be an artist," Waid said, but due to negotiations, that person cannot yet be named. “But you will be happy.”

How will BOOM! avoid falling by the wayside, like Virgin Comics? "We work hard not to overspend when hiring freelancers -- we pay our talent in chocolate bars and canned goods," Waid joked. Waid then went on to say that the company has been built up gradually instead of exploding too quick and too fast. Waid has called in favors and found burgeoning talent, posing the company for a gradual growth, publishing only things they truly believe in.

How long is the license agreement with Disney/Pixar? It is a three-year contract, guaranteeing that there will be approximately three years’ worth of stories for each property. Waid stopped just short of promising 36 issues of each license.

Will there be more "Potter's Field?" Yes, there will be one more issue in March with Paul Azaceta returning for art, after which all of the stories will be collected.

How much of a boost did the publisher notice when Waid was hired as Editor in Chief? "It drove [DC Comics Executive Editor] Dan DiDio to drink, " Waid said. Richie then provided a brief analysis of the work Waid has done for the company. "He spent 14 months really building a schedule and an infrastructure for us. Now he's creating his own titles and doing his own thing. It's reminding me of when Kirby did the Fourth World, as his own writer and editor." Waid chuckled at the notion, "No pressure there."

Any chance for an Incredibles/Fantastic Four crossover? "Wouldn't that be great?" Waid said. Richie advised fans to get the message boards lighting up.

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