Yesterday Mark Waid, editor-in-chief of BOOM! Studios, announced via a YouTube video that BOOM! would post full issues of their Hexed mini-series on MySpace the same day the book was released in stores, just like they did with the North Wind mini-series a year ago. As I was already talking to Chip Mosher, their sales and marketing guy, about several other things going on with BOOM! when the video was released, I was able to sneak in a few questions about the promotion as well.
My thanks to Chip for his time.
JK: Last year BOOM! put the complete North Wind mini-series up on MySpace Comic Books, with each issue going up on the day it hit retailers' shelves. And now you're doing it again with HEXED. Why did you choose HEXED, versus any of your other titles?
Chip: Right time. Right place. Right book.
Personally, I see Hexed as one of the books that is kicking off BOOM! 3.0. I consider Mark coming on board as E-i-C as BOOM! 2.0 -- where he spearheaded the stabilizing of the line-up and built up editorial. I look at this next year as BOOM! 3.0 -- where the promise of Mark Waid as E-i-C is realized in full. The team here at BOOM! is running on all cylinders. You'll see a whole host of books coming out of BOOM! in the next year, shepherded by Mark and the editorial team, that will just rock your socks off.
JK: Some retailers were unhappy with the North Wind promotion last year, saying they wished they had known you were releasing the book online the same day it would be in shops before they placed their orders. So what did you do differently this time around to communicate with retailers about the promotion?
Chip: Well, not only did Mark do the video announcement, but we did a separate announcement aimed directly at retailers to answer their concerns. The promotion as a whole came out of those concerns. We listened to the retailers and came up with a great promotion because of just that.
JK: And are you offering them any kind of incentive to encourage them to order more copies of the title?
Chip: We're calling this the "5 for 500 Program" - because we sent five extra copies of Hexed #1 to the top 500 retailers. We made issue #1 completely returnable, and we are offering a 3 percent reorder incentive for all the books in the series. BOOM! is taking all the risk onto ourselves and shipping extra copies to retailers for them to sell at no risk to them, because that's how confident we are in this book and in this promotion.
JK: Looking back, BOOM! took some hits over the North Wind promotion, but overall how did the book do?
Chip: Well, we sold out of issue #1. But more importantly, we sold 30 percent more copies of issue #4 than we did of issue #3. With a five issue mini-series, this just does not happen. As Mark states in the retailer video, the only way these numbers make sense is if people went to MySpace.com/comicbooks, read issue #3 online and then went out and bought number #4 in the stores. I know this didn't add up to some, but you know, people buy DVDs of TV shows they see for free all the time, so it really shouldn't come as too big a shock that giving something online for free spurs sales.
In the end, we had a lot more supporters than detractors on the North Wind promotion. And I think by doing the "5 for 500 Promotion" hand-in-hand with full returnability that we have really addressed most if not all of the concerns out there.
JK: I want to talk about some of BOOM!'s plans for the future, but first, let's talk about where you've come from. The last couple of years have been pretty big for the company, with Mark Waid coming on board, the Disney/Pixar license deal, not to mention a pretty big increase in staff. Can you give us a little perspective on how BOOM! has grown since you joined?
Chip: When I came on board July of 2007, Ross Richie had done a brilliant job building the company. The original vision for BOOM! that he and Andrew Cosby had -- that of doing high-concept genre books -- had really taken off. And they had gotten to a point where they needed to staff up. Right after I was hired, we announced Mark Waid as E-i-C. From the point Mark came on board, the company has expanded slowly but surely, and most importantly, in editorial and under Mark's editorial guidance. Right now, we have Matt Gagnon as managing editor, who is doing a terrific job and has spearheaded the Farscape line. Then there is Ian Brill, who is heading up the Warhammer books and several other projects. Last but not least, there is Paul Morrissey, who is heading up the Disney books, which include our Pixar and Muppets lines.
Chip: Mark is one of the greatest writers comics has ever seen. The guy has so much range. Go back and read his original Flash run. Then read Kingdom Come. Then read Potter’s Field. This man knows how to write, and his level of quality, consistency and diversity over the last 10 plus years is astounding. Now that BOOM! 2.0 is coming to an end, and the company is running at a nice clip, it's only right that we let Waid have some fun writing some new books for BOOM!
In March, he's writing The Incredibles: Family Matters, which is just amazing. After that ... well, I can't say. All I can say is that it is going to shake the comics industry to its core.
7. When can we expect the core-shaking to commence, or at least when will it be announced?
Chip: Sooner than you think!
JK: What were some of the genres fans said they wanted to see Mark tackle?
Chip: Basically the fans came back with every genre you could think of. You know the success of BOOM! stems from us doing what other companies don't. We do high-concept genre books that exist somewhere between the Big Two and the indie art comics scene. It's a space that we just flat own. And I think that's part of the genius of Ross and Andy's original vision for BOOM! You know, why would you want to do an ongoing superhero comic and compete with the Big Two? They are experts at that. They do that every day. You'd be crazy to compete with that. Which is why what we do at BOOM! works so well. They don't do what we do. We don't do what they do.
JK: So let's talk about some of those books ... Farscape #1 came out on Christmas Eve, and you announced a second printing on Monday. So I'm guessing sales at the retailer level exceeded your expectations?
Chip: Yes, Santa came early this year! Okay, seriously... Farscape #1 has done great. And while it looks like the weather stopped some stores from getting their copies on time. But even with that hiccup, the reorder activity was so tremendous that we sold out and now are going to a second printing. We are all really happy about how well this book has performed for us.
JK: The reaction to these sorts of announcements always fascinates me. While the publisher obviously wants to play up the fact that the book sold out from the distributor -- which is what we're talking about in this case, correct? Not that the book can't be found on any retailer shelf anywhere in America -- you typically see comments about how the book probably had a low print run, someone didn't anticipate demand, etc. As a sales and marketing guy, what's your perspective? And beyond orders from retailers, what goes into the decision to overprint something?
Chip: When a sell-out happens at the distributor level, obviously we want to get the word out to the fans so they have a chance to get a copy. As a sales and marketing guy, I want everyone who wants a copy of the book to get a copy of the book. We had strong initial orders from retailers for this book and tried to meet the expected demand. But sometimes you can't anticipate just how strong the fan reaction is going to be.
JK: What are the plans for Farscape after the initial mini-series?
Chip: We're doing a follow-up called Farscape: Strange Detractors. Rockne S. O'Bannon is back writing with Keith R.A. DeCandido. On this series, we have newcomer Will Sliney on art. It's looking great.
JK: Are you guys hearing feedback from Farscape fans? I remember fans of the show being pretty dedicated. Are retailers seeing a different set of customers coming in for the book?
Chip: The Farscape fans have really been driving the success of the Farscape #1 comic. We have really great relationships with the fan sites and have become close personal friends with a ton of the 'Scapers out there. I suspect retailers are seeing a lot of new faces in their stores because of this book.
JK: Another area that's been relatively successful for you guys, but may be under the radar of some comic fans, is the Warhammer franchise. Who is the average customer for these books? Has there been crossover with gaming fans?
Chip: The Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 licensed comics have been a big success for us. Now that the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning MMORPG is out, I think the general populace has a better understanding of the different Warhammer universes and the following they have. Comic fans love these books, and Warhammer fans seek them out. It's an awesome sight to behold!
JK: What's the Book of BOOM! in the online game?
Chip: We are doing a promotion with our new trade paperback, Warhammer: Crown of Destruction, that will have a scratch-off so you can get an online item in the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning game. This item is aptly titled the Book of BOOM! which gives you the power to go... BOOM!
JK: Was that your idea, or something Electronic Arts asked to do?
Chip: It's something that grew up organically with the relationship we have with them. BOOM! did the graphic novel pack in for the Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning MMORPG and counting those sales, we had a graphic novel that did as well as Watchmen last year.
JK: Any updates on the Disney stuff you guys are doing, both Muppets and Pixar?
Chip: In March, You'll see the debut of all new Incredibles stories written by Mark Waid in The Incredibles: Family Matters. Did I say all new stories? Let me say that again: all-new Incredibles stories! By Mark friggin' Waid. You can't beat that.
And that's not all, folks. We are coming out with Cars: The Rookie, which goes into the untold origin story of Lightning McQueen. Add to that, Roger Langridge doing The Muppet Show .... well, it's going to be a great month for Disney/Pixar fans.
JK: You sent over some ads that ran in the latest Previews, featuring the first Disney and Pixar titles. So Mike Mignola and Michael Avon Oeming are doing covers for Incredibles? How did that come about?
Chip: Did Oeming knock that cover out of the park or what? It's ... just... incredible. (Couldn't resist). Everyone is a big fan of Oeming's work here at BOOM!, and we just contacted him out of the blue and viola, you get the best bunch of variant covers ever. Mike Mignola's cover is actually a variant poster from the original release of The Incredibles movie. We just knew we had to use it for the variant cover.
JK: Who is working on the Cars title?
Chip: We have some great newcomers on this book, Alan J. Porter is writing with art by Albert Carreres. You'll be seeing much more from them in the future. Fans of the film will l-o-v-e this book!
JK: Are you working with Disney to get them into the parks or their stores? And in general, what's it been like to work with Disney?
Chip: Working with Disney is a dream come true for all of us at BOOM! And they have been great to work with on these books. While I can't get into specifics about specific business deals, we are working on getting these titles out to as many places as possible.
JK: Something else in the latest Previews that jumped out at me was Caped, as I don't remember hearing much about it before seeing it here. What is it?
Chip: I have a press release just about ready to go on that one. Basically, it's an awesome superhero funny book in the vein of Hero Squared. Caped follows Jimmy Lohman, a superhero's assistant. As the copy says, "Millions would kill for his job, he's just not one of them." It's written by South Park's Josh Lobis and Darin Moiselle, and is just brilliant.
JK: As a smaller comics publisher with some pretty big-name franchises outside of the world of comics, what are some of the things you're doing to bring in new fans? How do you turn a gamer who buys the Warhammer comic into someone who buys your other books, for example?
Chip: I want as many people reading comics as possible, and I think as an industry we are all guilty of preaching to the choir and not thinking outside the box in terms of promotion and developing content to bring in new readers. This is a particular passion of mine and of BOOM!'s in general.
I feel like our video game scratch-offs that we are doing with the Warhammer series and Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning MMORPG go a long way to helping in that cause. Managing Editor Matt Gagnon and I recently did a big presentation to Farscape fans at the recent Farscape Creation convention. We are always thinking about innovative ways to get the word out about comics. Just look at our Hexed promotion.
JK: If a first-time publisher came up to you and asked for advice on how to market and sell their comics, what are the, say, three key things you'd tell him or her to do?
Chip: I only have one piece of advice: Look at what everyone else is doing and do the opposite.