NYCC: Boom! Studios Panel Report

Things were a bit chaotic in the New York Comic Con meeting hall as the Boom! Studios panel began, as several major events were scheduled at the same time. As in years past, crowd control became an issue, and security was forced to bar any more people from entering. Consequently, the Boom! Panel was sparsely attended early on. Even the star panelist, Boom! EiC Mark Waid was prevented from entering, though he eventually made it in, as did more members of the audience as the panel progressed. The presentation was interrupted repeatedly with loud bursts of cheering from events across the hall, and upon arriving, Waid joked about having to deal with security. Then, along with his fellow panelists Ross Richie, Publisher, and Chip Mosher, Marketing & Sales Director, he turned to the slideshow showcasing Boom's new and upcoming products.

First up, the panel showed off the extensive promotional campaign they launched for their new series "North Wind," by screenwriter David DiGilio. There had been some controversy over one particular aspect of this campaign, namely the simultaneous release of the comic in stores as well as on MySpace comic books. Some retailers felt this would hurt their sales, but as Mosher pointed out, the first issue of "North Wind" sold out on its first day, and the fourth issue has seen an increase in orders of 30%. Said Richie, "Our goal is to reach other markets and get more people reading comics." He went on to relate an example of how this strategy was working, saying he was told by a retailer that one person who came in just to get "North Wind" after seeing it on MySpace, and thereafter became a regular customer of the store. Said Richie, "If we did nothing else right, that was worth it." A "North Wind" trailer was also created and featured on MySpace TV. Mosher announced that Davis Entertainment, a film production company, has picked up the rights to "North Wind" and plans to bring it to the big screen.

Mosher said he believes the promotion has extended its benefits beyond "North Wind," and explained that they've seen an increase in orders for other debut issues of new Boom! series, including "The Foundation," a series based on the historical premise that the prognosticator Nostradamus became a wealthy man from the many volumes he sold of his books of prophecies. The series postulates that Nostradamus used this wealth to set up a foundation dedicated to preventing the very disasters he foresaw.

Boom's Cthulu franchise was discussed next. The current "Fall of Cthulu" series is coming to a conclusion with issue #14, to be followed by the new "Fall of Cthulu: Godwar ,"which will bring many of the events of the saga to a head. The anthology series "Cthulu Tales" was also mentioned, and Waid said he likes it particularly because the anthology format allows for them to do so many different kinds of stories. "We can go from the macabre, to outright gory horror, to even more funny stuff," said Waid. He cited Steve Niles, Tom Peyer, and William Messner-Loebs as among the contributing writers.

Another Boom anthology series, the newly ongoing "Zombie Tales," was the subject of the next slide. Niles and Messner-Loebs will also be contributing to this anthology, as well as Joe Lansdale, who is doing a story that will stretch across the first three issues. Also contributing will be Brian Augustyn and Mark Sable, along with Academy Award-nominated screenwriter Kim Krizan, who also happens to be Mosher's wife, as the panel kidded him.

A series the panel seemed very enthusiastic about was director Adam Rifkin's "Shmobots," a comedy about a group of robots created by low-bid contracting and who consequently have flaws in their programming that make them a bunch of lazy slackers. Mosher was so entertained by the name of the series alone that he implored the audience to say it out loud with him, which they did. The panel emphasized that the series is not for kids, and instead directed the younger set to Marc DeMatteis' "Stardust Kid," also by Boom!

The panel next talked about the horror/comedy series "Scream Queen." Written by Brendan Hay, who has also written for the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, it takes the typical slasher film premise of the psychotic murderer and his innocent female victim, and turns it on its head, by having the slasher fall in love and try to win the girl's heart with his own idea of "acts of kindness." Waid gave examples of these as eliminating the rival for head cheerleader, and disposing of a professor who gives bad grades.

Novelist Gary Phillips will be penning the series "High Rollers" which features a look at inner-city gang life in Los Angeles. Waid said it was "like The Sopranos, but instead of a bunch of rich white guys, we're taking a look at life in the inner city." Richie also compared the series to HBO series "The Wire," "but focusing strictly on the gangs, not the police."

Another series the panel seemed particularly excited about was the forthcoming "Challenger Deep." The high concept of this book is based on the real world discovery of so-called "methane ice" deep on the ocean floor, which is essentially a pocket of highly combustible gas trapped in a thin layer of ice. Waid explained that scientists believe if this gas was ever ignited, it could cause serious structural damage to the Earth itself. Going off of that premise, the series will feature a thriller storyline centering on desperate attempts to stop a submarine crew from carrying out a planned self-destruct sequence that could ignite the gas.

Next up was the long-delayed series, "The Station," which centers on the death of an astronaut in what appears to be an act of sabotage. "It's a locked room mystery in space," said Waid. Editorial difficulties had caused its solicitation last year to be cancelled, but the panel gave credit to Waid for coming in and straightening out scheduling problems in his new position. They then assured that audience that they have all the issues completed so there will be no further delays.

Boom! has also acquired the rights to produce a comic adaptation of what they call "The REAL Fantasy Football", "Blood Bowl." Slated to become a 5-issue miniseries, the game is produced by British company Games Workshop and is a parody of American football, only with far more lethal rules. Author Matt Forbeck, who has also written several "Blood Bowl" novels, will be penning the series.

Boom! is continuing their line of Warhammer comics with "Warhammer: Condemned by Fire." Like "North Wind," Boom is using the electronic world to promote their comic, by means of including a special code in the comic that will allow users to participate in the beta test for the forthcoming "Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning" game.

At this point in the presentation, Mosher showed a slide featuring his own book, "Left on Mission," and in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, spoke about it as though it was written by just another of the company's writers, citing the rave reviews it is getting on the web, which led to much kidding about self-promotion from the other panelists.

The panel saved the biggest announcement for last; Boom! will be producing comic books based on the cult favorite television show "Farscape." Waid showed admirable restraint, as he clearly had a big name attached to the book that he knew the audience would love, but could not reveal it at this time. "Think Joss Whedon writing 'Buffy' comics. That's what this will be to 'Farscape,'" said Waid. According to Mosher, the series will be released "before the end of year, all around the world."

With that, the panel took a few questions. Asked about their increasing use of writers from other media, Waid said, "We don't just let anyone come in here and turn their screenplay into a comic. I wish I could tell you who, but a very well-known screenwriter came to us and expected to do just that, and was shocked when we instead tried to show him what a comic book is supposed to be. He couldn't believe we wouldn't just slap his name on it and go with it, like some other companies. We literally have people from other media knocking on our door. They want to write comics. And if anything, we're even tougher on them, because we want to make good comics."

Finally, asked about the future of the "Hero Squared" franchise, Waid reminded the audience that the "Hero Squared: Love and Death" 3-issue miniseries, which will conclude the epic, is due out soon. Several more collections of "Hero Squared" and its spinoff "Planetary Brigade" are due as well, but as for new material, Richie explained, "'Hero Squared' is very much creator-driven. So its future will be determined by the schedules of its creators," Marc DeMatteis and Keith Giffen.

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