When BOOM! Studios decided to rebrand its line of kid-friendly titles, it did so with a bang. The announcement that BOOM! Kids would now be known as kaboom! was followed promptly by the revelation of its first new title, an original "Peanuts" graphic novel that will see print in late March. Other attention-grabbing acquisitions included a new series by "Muppet Show" cartoonist Roger Langridge, a comic based on the PBS series "Word Girl," and "Space Warped," a space opera parody. CBR News spoke with BOOM! publisher Ross Richie about the changes, working with Charles Schulz Creative Associates, and the shape of the new line.
Richie told CBR the name change from BOOM! Kids to kaboom! reflects a better understanding of the range of readers who may be interested in the line's all-ages titles. "We had theorized for a while that we need to change it up for two reasons: one, we were seeing adults apologizing at conventions for buying the kids' comics for themselves, and we wanted to remove this barrier. Seeing women in their 20s at Emerald City Comicon say, 'I know the "Incredibles" comic book is made for kids, but it looks awesome and I love the art and I'm buying it anyway' -- that ain't right. Let's remove the perceived barrier," Richie explained.
"We also knew on the other end that kids that can buy with their own dollars -- let's say 8 year olds for instance -- didn't consider themselves kids, so they were not sparking to the name," he continued. "A lot of our content is great for this age group, so let's get rid of that barrier.
"And through the process, what we ended up seeing was that our organic desire as a publisher hewed more towards being 'all ages' than a strict 'kids' publisher. So why not reflect that? Why not show everyone that our focus is shifting and changing?
"'Peanuts' is really an excellent showcase for this. It's a true all-ages brand that kids love and senior citizens embrace and everyone in-between. It's perfect for our launch."
Richie also noted a change in publishing focus associated with the rebranding, citing some of the already-announced properties that will be added to the line. "I think you can see immediately that we're not just diversifying from the Disney brand, which was all that we had published before under 'Kids,' but that we're going into original content," he said. "Sure, we have 'Peanuts' and 'Word Girl' which are licenses, but we have new original content that we'll be taking to the mass, newsstand, and direct markets.
"I think what we saw was the market embraced us and embraced our creative point of view, and it felt right to branch out and grow the imprint beyond 'the Disney publishing part of BOOM!.'"
Perhaps the biggest announcement associated with the changeover was the new "Peanuts" project, titled "Happiness is a Warm Blanket," which ties in with at DVD release of the same name. "It was really cool. United Media controlled the rights to 'Peanuts,' saw our BOOM Kids! work and responded really well to it, and was interested in us taking on the characters. Super exciting, a massive professional compliment. It was really exciting," Richie said of this project's origins. "But then Charles Schulz Creative Associates bought the rights from United Media in the formation of Peanuts Worldwide, and I frankly didn't expect them to have the same goals or attitude that United Media had. To my tremendous surprise, they loved comics, understood our world and were incredibly excited to put this at the forefront of their agenda.
"They are an incredible team and an amazing pleasure to work with. Really dedicated to quality and excellent partners."
With the announcement of new "Peanuts" material, however, there is of course a necessary consideration of Schulz's legacy and remaining true to his vision. The new animation and original graphic novel are based on a story by Schulz and adapted by Craig Schulz and Stephan Pastis, with art by Bob Scott, Vicki Scott and Ron Zorman. "Our responsibility is simple: quality," Richie said. "We are working hand-in-hand with Charles Schulz Creative Associates and they are approving anything we do. Our team is invested in doing quality work that they can be proud of, as well as content we can be excited by."The team there carries the legacy of Schulz forward, and I think they are doing an amazing job."
â€¨The "Peanuts: Happiness is a Warm Blanket" OGN will be a direct adaptation of the DVD release, and, Richie notes, will mark the first time BOOM! has had a retail tie-in. "'Farscape' was canceled before we did the comic books, '28 Days Later' is between movies and things like 'Do Androids Dream' have existed already for decades," Richie said, naming some of the publisher's other major licenses. "So this is a new experience for us!"
Though the "Peanuts" book was only just announced, it will be in stores in late March, rather than the more usual practice of being solicited now for a release in May or June. "Diamond is offering the series to retailers in their regular mailer called Previews Plus. It's a process familiar to Direct Market retailers," Richie said of the book's direct market distribution.
Regarding the other series teased along with the kaboom! launch-Roger Langridge's "Snarked!," "Word Girl," and the French import "Space Warped," Richie was willing to reveal very little. "'Snarked!', 'Space Warped,' 'Word Girl,' all of these things are under wraps and we'll reveal them in time, but I think it brings a different, more diverse face to our all ages publishing efforts, giving it a different flavor and feel," the publisher said. "And the material we have planned to follow up form here is in the same vein -- creative, original, vibrant, fun, spirited comics that you don't have to worry about handing to a smaller member of your family."
"Snarked!" may be of particular interest due to Langridge's well-regarded run on "The Muppet Show" for BOOM! and the too-brief "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" at Marvel. Asked about the style of the new series, Richie said, "I think you'll see a lot of stylistic flourishes that are familiar from his 'Muppet Show' work, but he's putting a different spin on things. Again, I'll leave it to another day to reveal more, but if you're a fan from any of his work, I think there's something in 'Snarked!' for you."
Though kaboom! will move BOOM!'s all-ages line beyond Disney, those comics will remain a core piece of the publishing program as "Duck Tales" joins other Disney Afternoon series "Chip 'N Dale Rescue Rangers" and "Darkwing Duck," along with classic titles like "Walt Disney's Comics," "Mickey Mouse" and "Uncle Scrooge." The license for Pixar titles, as previously announced, now sits with Marvel. The strength of the new lineup, from Disney to new licenses to original content, gives Richie continued confidence in kaboom!'s potential. "Publishing always morphs, changes, grows -- that's what I love about it (amidst many other efforts) -- it's exciting and fun and that's where we are today," Richie said. "Things could transform tomorrow, but that's the state of kaboom! as we know it right now!"