Giffen & Richie's "Dominion" Returns

In addition to becoming a verb, Google also offers people ways to waste a whole lot of time when the supervisor isn't looking. For instance, if one were to google Ross Richie Dominion, he or she would find a lot of articles about an Image comic from 2003. There'd also be hits about Diana Ross being a bitch to the rest of the Supremes, but most of them are about this Image comic, by Ross Richie and Keith Giffen, called "Dominion."

Fast-foward three years and Ross Richie is likely known better in the comic book industry not not for writing, but instead as the publisher of Boom! Studios, the upstart publishing company that's played home to Giffen & DeMatteis' "Hero Squared," "Warhammer 40,000" and much more.   Richie's Boom! Studios has emerged as a successful indie publisher and he's bringing "Dominion" back to print this February, this time as both creator and publisher.   CBR News spoke with Richie about his plans for the series.

Boom!'s been going strong for a couple years now and, while you've always been present online and in the publisher's column in the actual comic books, "Dominion" is the first Boom! comic to have your name on in it in such a possessive manner? Our first book shipped - "Zombie Tales" #1 -- in June of 2005.  So it's been about 14 months.

It's all Keith's fault.  Years ago, prior to BOOM!, I was friends with Keith in a very casual way.  Then he called me up and said, I'm doing a book at Image -- plotting and drawing it -- and you're writing it. But Keith, I've never written anything before!  How do you know I don't suck?  I promise I suck.  You'll be fine.

Unfortunately for the world at large, I was right and Keith was wrong.

The book was called "Dominion" and it was launched on the cover of Previews alongside "Invincible," "Firebreather," and some other books, in a sort of interconnected universe from Image Comics.  Keith and I lasted two issues before we called it quits.

I wanted to entitle it, Keith Giffen's Dominion but then I realized when I did that, that I'd have to add my name, even though it really doesn't deserve to be there.  So Keith and the comics public have to put up with it, sorry!

Truth be told, I'm not really an extrovert who loves all the attention.  That's why I publish.  I like being behind the scenes.  At most comics shows, I hide my name badge so customers at the booth have no idea who I am.  It's much more fun that way. Why is now the right time to bring it back to the stands? Simply, it was a good time to bring "Dominion" back and finish what we started.

That being said, we're starting over from the ground up, doing something completely new, in a brand new wrapping.  So if you're unfamiliar with it, don't let that scare you off. We're at square one here.

Does it feel good to be able to bring back a series of your own? There are so many stories of comics (usually creator-owned stuff at the big two) getting canceled due to bad big two numbers and disappearing into a rights quagmire.

Starting up BOOM! is definitely about controlling my own destiny, there's no doubt.  Not working as an editor for someone else, not waiting for anyone to sign off on anything, that's for sure.

That being said, I really look at everything at BOOM! as my own series -- whether I created it or not, and most of that comes from the fact that I originally approached most everyone and everything I'm publishing to get it rolling.  I originally approached Keith Giffen and Marc DeMatteis about doing a Beetle and Booster Bwah-ha-ha funny book and they brought back "Hero Squared."  I pitched to Andrew Cosby and Johanna Stokes the original conceptual framework of "The Savage Brothers" (believe it or not, the original idea was Duke Nuke 'Em in a zombie apocalypse a sort of Zombie Hunter character -- thank God they took it in another direction) and Cosby came back with that idea.  I called Nelson with the idea for "Second Wave" and off we went.   Certainly there's lots of stuff that came to me, like "Talent" and "Tag," but being there at the origin point of picking an artist and talking with a writer pre-script phase generates a sense of excitement.  I'm the midwife to all of this stuff, so I end up getting emotionally attached.  They're really all my children, y'know?

In the same way, I can recognize that my strength isn't in the writing of something.  I've got ideas, I've got some editorial skills, and I obviously publish.  In essence, I love coaching but I know that if the team needed me to get on the field and play, I'd suck!

Which is to say that really, I don't get any more of a charge out of launching "Dominion" as I do seeing a sequence in "Second Wave" that Nelson and I talked about and went over and conceptualized.  Or being blown away by how cool the latest "Cthulu Tales" is coming out.

I just read an "Entertainment Weekly" article on the possible side-effects of "Heroes" (movie and TV producers realize they don't need existing properties). What's your take on the possibilities, good and bad?

A great idea is a great idea, whether it's a comic or a new concept. The idea and the execution will win out.  I have experience in the movie trenches working on Matt Wagner's "Mage" as well as Troy Nixey's "Trout," and just sold "Talent" and "Tag" as movies.  It's not about people figuring out they don't need the comic book, it's about creating something compelling, exciting and a project that motivates a network or studio to get behind it.

We've got some great interest in "The Savage Brothers" as a TV show (and film interest as well) and a new thing we're doing called "Black Days." No one's walking around saying, Why are we buying comics?  Let's just make the same thing up ourselves!

Great entertainment is great entertainment, no matter where it comes from.  Good stuff wins out, both in movies, TV, and comics.

I have a friend -- a comic shop owner -- who greedily devours anything set in space with Keith Giffen's name on it. Giffen's already doing "Jeremiah Harm" at Boom! (which sort of set off this Cosmic Keith period of his career). What do you like about Keith Giffen and his space stuff, as opposed to his comedy stuff (like "Hero Squared" and the "What Were They Thinking" series)?

Keith's five-years-later "Legion of Super-Heroes" is one of my favorite series ever -- Joe Casey and I talk about how brilliant it was all the time.  Keith has a flair for sci-fi that's unmatched and very exciting and interesting.

I think Keith was really influenced by Jim Starlin's work on "Warlock" and "Captain Marvel" back in the 1970s, and by Jack Kirby's cosmic "New Gods" and "Thor" as well as the "Fantastic Four."  You can see it in his work.  But he also infused it with a more modern, contemporary sci-fi bend that made it cutting-end, and he continues to put new, fresh ideas into all of it.  It's quite powerful stuff.  We're seeing it now on "Annihilation," as everyone's surprised at how well that series is selling and how awesome it is.  Keith's a genius.

As far as the comedy stuff goes, it's just a whole different ball game and not even comparable.  It's like saying, Which period of U2 do you love - 'Actung Baby' or 'Joshua Tree?' -- you win either way, and comparing the two is pointless.

Back, specifically, to "Dominion," it sounds like the superpowered people are bad, given their powers by this intergalactic alien infection. Can you talk about that aspect without spoiling?

Sure.  That's basically the riff.  The idea is that perhaps it's an infection, or perhaps it's a virus -- that's the thing about viruses that's so fascinating.  Bacteria is a life form, but viruses are like these undead things.  They're half-alive, functioning as something that's alive in the environment they need to reproduce and moving and operating like that, but when they go dormant they don't die, and can lay around for thousands of years dormant, just waiting to be unleashed. Like they have an off-switch.

So imagine this -- if earth has viruses and bacteria, what kind of life exists out in space?

When I think about bacteria aliens, I think about John Carpenter's The Thing and maybe The Andromeda Strain, neither of which sounds at all like "Dominion," but both of those are (to some degree) modern science fiction classics. What do you like about the genre?

Two of my favorite movies of all time!  Man, Carpenter's "The Thing" is just recently getting what it's due.  What a genius film.

I actually think you're closer to the mark than you think you are. Tonally, they're a big influence.  I think we're closer to "The Thing" and "Andromeda Strain" than, for instance, other sci-fi like "The Fifth Element" or "Stargate" or "Blade Runner."

Both of those films have a sense of horror, of looking out in space and seeing that what's out there is terrifying.  I think our approach on "Dominion" will be very cinematic, married to a dread for what's out in the universe coming here.  And once it gets here, being hungry and insatiable.

What I love about the genre is that it's our future.  Around the turn of the century, in the early 1900s, the Old West was literally just settling down.  Our grandparents' reality was very close to that.  My great-grandmother literally lived in southern Texas and lived first-hand the raids Pancho Villa in the region.  Can you imagine armed Mexican cavalry invading America nowadays?  Crazy, isn't it?  So it doesn't surprise me that in the start (with "The Great Train Robbery") to the middle (ending with "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" and "The Wild Bunch") of the 20th century the most popular narrative was a western.  People could relate to it.

What we can relate to now is computers, internet interactivity, and a future that will probably drive us to the stars.  Bio-engineering and the crowded mega-cities of "Blade Runner."  "The Matrix."  It's all about us figuring out our futures -- it's our hopes and fears and the underbelly of our psyches and ids.  The cool thing about sci-fi is that when it's grounded and relatable, it's totally enthralling.  We feel like this is what's just around the bend, we're taking a trip to tomorrow.

What's the process behind "Dominion?" Do you and Giffen hash out the plot, give it to Michael Alan Nelson to script, then work from there? How much input does Nelson have -- has he ever changed anything you really didn't want changed?

Yeah, Keith and I did a lot of conceptual work on the original series that I'm porting over here.  And Nelson and I have a long working relationship from "Second Wave" and the new "Fall of Cthulu" that I'm putting into play.  I'll be kicking out chunks of ideas to him, and seeing his response.  It's a sort of call-and-response relationship. There's a reason "Rue Morgue Magazine" called Nelson the next Brian K Vaughn or Robert Kirkman.

Was there ever any conflict of interest with "Dominion," between Ross Richie, creator, and Ross Richie, publisher?

None.  We're promoting the book as much as any other.  It was presented to Diamond just like the rest of my line, but happened to get a Featured Item because they liked it. Are there two hats or just one? For instance, when picking an artist, did you have a more specific vision of "Dominion" than you had with books you didn't have such a large hand in creating? No, not at all.  Picking an appropriate artist for any book is critical.  Ultimately, as the owner of the company, I'm shelling out my cash to finance it, and picking an artist is one of the most critical choices I make.  So it was a choice just like that, along with any other I'd make.

Are you planning on doing any more of these more creative projects in the future?

Maybe one a year.  But it's a lot of work publishing comic books and picking up the phone and meeting with Hollywood when they call.  So I'd prefer to take it easy and slowly.

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