Diamond Comic Distributors’ sales charts for March 2016 made one thing very clear: the new “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” series from BOOM! Studios is a major hit. Issue #1 of the series, with a main story by writer Kyle Higgins and artist Hendry Prasetya and multiple variant covers, notched the No. 2 spot for the month with an estimated 119,536 copies sold to retailers, beyond only DC Comics’ high-profile “Batman” #50.
Naturally, the success of “Power Rangers” — issue #0 ranked at No. 147 in its second month — helped buoy BOOM! Studios as a whole, placing the Los Angeles-based publisher at No. 5 in both unit share and dollar share, outpacing Dark Horse Comics for the month. While Dark Horse is one of Diamond’s five “Premier Publishers” placed at the front of the monthly “Previews” catalogue among other benefits, BOOM! Studios is not. It’s rare for a non-Premiere Publisher to finish in the top five, and the only other time BOOM! did it was in May 2015, thanks to a huge bump due to “Bravest Warriors Tales from the Holo John” being included in that month’s Loot Crate shipment.
Earlier this month in Seattle on the weekend of Emerald City Comicon, CBR News sat down with BOOM! Studios’ founder and CEO Ross Richie, President of Publishing and Marketing Filip Sablik and Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon to discuss what the success of March means for the company, and why, even though “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” contributed to a massive chunk of the publisher’s sales that month, they attribute the No. 5 spot to the growth of the company as a whole, not the strength of just one series.
“It’s gigantic,” Richie told CBR of BOOM! Studios’ success in March 2016. “The company’s 11 years old this year, and this is something I started in the spare bedroom of my apartment with a computer and a telephone. I frankly did not think the level we’re at now was possible.”
Sablik said he sees some parallels between BOOM! Studios’ situation and the position IDW Publishing was in six years ago. In March 2010, IDW placed third in unit share and fourth in dollar share, and that same month was named Diamond’s fifth Premier Publisher, following Marvel, DC Comics, Image Comics and Dark Horse Comics. IDW was also 11 years old in 2010, and while there’s no indication at this point if Diamond will add another Premier Publisher, it’s clear the folks involved at BOOM! aren’t viewing this as a one-month spike.
“This hasn’t happened — a non-Premier beating a Premier in market share — since 2010,” Sablik said, with the exception of the aforementioned Loot Crate-powered May 2015. “In the last four years, there are only two publishers that have gained market share year over year, every single year, if you look at the year-end charts. One of them is us, the other one is Image. It feels good, because it feels like it’s the result of a positive response to the work that we’re doing, as opposed to market conditions changing, or anything like that.”
Though “Power Rangers” has been a major hit thus far in 2016, the folks at BOOM! are careful not to tie too much of their hopes to just one property. The publisher’s identity has shifted before — from 2009 to 2011, Disney comics were a big part of its line, before losing that license completely — and the emphasis is placed on the diversity of its current books, specifically original series such as “Klaus” from Grant Morrison and Dan Mora; “Lumberjanes,” currently written by Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh and illustrated by various artists; and “Jonesy,” by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle. “Lumberjanes” and “Jonesy” are both part of the BOOM! Box imprint, a line of quirkier and more inclusive titles headed up by Watters (who is also the head editor of the publisher’s all-ages imprint, KaBOOM!).
“From the very beginning, when Ross started this company, we’ve talked about all the different genres that were missing in the comic book industry at the time, and how we wanted to do a lot of different things, and publish comic books for everybody, which is one of our big goals,” Gagnon said.
Though licensed comics have long been a major part of the BOOM! Studios identity — and remains so to this day, with “Adventure Time” and “Regular Show” as longtime pillars of the KaBOOM! imprint — the stated goal within the publisher is to do the right ones, not just the ones that are available.
“You would be amazed at how many licenses we pass on,” Richie said.
“Our line is very curated,” Gagnon added. “We’ve talked about this in the past — we only take on licensed comic books that we have passion for, that we have people on our staff that are actually excited about the comics that we’re making. That’s a prerequisite for us to take on a licensed title. There has to be passion behind it, there has to be authenticity. That’s one of the big things that separates us as a company.”
Given the early success of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” an expansion is inevitable — and given that the franchise has had nearly 20 different incarnations on TV since its debut in 1993, the opportunity is certainly there. One spinoff has already been announced, the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink” miniseries, written by Brenden Fletcher & Kelly Thompson, and illustrated by Daniele Di Nicuolo.
“In general, I kind of had a cynical eye towards licensed product,” Sablik said of his attitude when joining BOOM! Studios in 2012, after serving as publisher of Top Cow. “Plus, the licensed comics I’ve read were not very good. I remember these guys sitting down and saying, ‘Look, if we’re going to do a “Planet of the Apes” comic, it is going to be the best damn “Planet of the Apes” comic book that could possibly exist. If we’re going to do a second one, it better be at least as good as the first one, or we shouldn’t do it.”‘
Sablik said the goal is for series, like “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Pink,” to “live up to the promise” of the main Power Rangers series, and hints there is very likely more to come in the future.
“It’s been around 20-plus years, and every couple years it gets completely reinvented,” Sablik said of the “Power Rangers” franchise. “What’s amazing about the possibilities is, you could go do a Power Rangers project that’s completely in a different part of their mythology, that’s aimed at different readers. The Power Rangers series we’re doing is very much for people that were kids when the series came out. That’s a very different tone than if we were to do a series that was currently on the air and that’s aimed at kids.”
Though the next couple weeks will reveal if BOOM! Studios’ March momentum has continued, the company is confident about future releases, including the June-debuting “Lucas Stand” from “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter and co-writer Caitlin Kittredge and artist by JesÃºs HervÃ¡s; “Kong of Skull Island,” due out in July from the team of writer James Asmus and artist Carlos Magno; and “Goldie Vance,” a BOOM! Box young adult detective series from writer Hope Larson and artist Brittney Williams that launched earlier this month.
“If you look at the last four years, all we’ve done is consistently grow,” Sablik said. “Three years ago, we were the No. 7 publisher. Last year, we became the No. 6 publisher. This year, we would like to be the No. 5 publisher.”
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