BOOM! Studios Managing Editor Matt Gagnon has been in comics his whole life-first as a reader, then as a retailer, and, since March of last year, as one of those behind-the-scenes people that help bring fans the stories they love. Originally joining BOOM! as an editor for the "Farscape" comics series, Gagnon now works directly under--and occasionally oversees--Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid, managing all of BOOM!'s titles. CBR News spoke with Gagnon about his rise to power.
In his youth, Matt Gagnon began reading collections of "Garfield" and "Family Circus" from his local library, eventually graduating to "X-Men" by Chris Claremont and Jim Lee, which he bought at the grocery store. "Around this time, me and my little brother Nick would have been dividing our meager funds amongst comics and baseball cards," Gagnon told CBR. "I ultimately ended up trading most of my baseball cards for comics with kids in the neighborhood. I was hooked. It was all about the X-Men and Batman for me.
"Then the early-nineties boom hit, and I was reading some of the Image stuff. You know, making sure I had the complete series run of 'Brigade.'"
Gagnon began his professional comics career as a retailer, working as a buyer for Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, an experience that gave him an insight into the business side of the comics industry. "I can't imagine any better training," he said. "Being there at the point where art meets commerce, talking to the readers/customers every day and seeing what they're responding to, learning the business from the perspective of the retailer, all these things and more prepared me for publishing. I think it gave me a unique perspective on what readers want to read and what's important to them."
"I met some of my best friends and colleagues in that store," Gagnon continued. "To say that it was life changing isn't hyperbole. Hanging out on Sunset Blvd., with the sun shining, and being in an environment where people are excited, passionate, and eager to talk about an entertainment medium that we all adore - it was good times. Meltdown is one of the world's best comic shops and I was lucky enough to be a part of that legacy."
Gagnon said that through his interactions with publishers, distributors, and creators -- interactions which included organizing the wrap party for Brian K. Vaughn's "Y: The Last Man" -- he began to make a name for himself. "I slowly started to become a part of this community that we all love," he said, which eventually helped him land the job at BOOM! "Chip [Mosher, Marketing & Sales Director] and I had known each other since '05, I think. He introduced me to [founder] Ross [Richie] when he joined BOOM! and we all got along well," Gagnon said. "From what I understand, they were keeping their eye on me and ultimately asked me in for an interview. Once I had the roundtable interview with Ross Richie, [founder] Andrew Cosby, and Mark Waid, they classified me as mentally fit for the job. It was kind of like being on trial with the Guardians of Oa, if the Guardians of Oa had Southern charm."
Gagnon's role at BOOM! includes editing Editor-in-Chief and legendary comics writer Mark Waid on his new projects, such as "Irredeemable" and "The Unknown." "The only thing more terrifying than editing your boss is your boss being Mark Waid," Gagnon laughed. "And I mean that in the best possible way. Mark is one of the great comic book storytellers of the last 20 years. I'd be lying if I said it's not a little intimidating. That said, we have a great rapport and make a good team. At the very least he never points out the fact that there's somebody in diapers editing his work."
More to the point, Gagnon said that editing Waid is actually quite painless. "Mark's scripts come in clean. He's a meticulous writer. The content is well thought out - the visual storytelling is impeccable - and the man is a grammar Nazi," the editor said. "More than anything, my job is to have his back, manage the covers and art team, handle all the logistics, and make sure the best possible package hits the shelves on time. Also, protect my creators from any day-to-day complications that arise and fight battles they'll never know about so they can be creative and concentrate on story and art. Of course, Mark understands this being an editor in his own right."
As to any insights about the secrets to Waid's success gleaned from his behind-the-scenes perspective, Gagnon said the answer is simple. "You just have to spend 25 years in the biz working alongside legends and writing every major character in superhero comics. Oh, and be a genius. You gotta be a genius," he said. "Seriously though, I couldn't begin to describe how Mark does what he does. He's dedicated his life to the craft, knows more about comics than most people have forgotten, and never stops pushing the boundaries of the medium. The way he works a page is something to behold."