It's been a little over a year since Ross Richie launched Boom! Studios, the only comic book publishing company (proudly) sporting an exclamation point in its title, and in that time Richie has watched, often times as amazed as anyone else (if not sometimes more so), as his fledging little upstart has...well, for the lack of any better analogy here, exploded onto the comic industry scene like few independent publishers before it.
In a relatively short period of time, Boom! and Richie have successfully managed to carve out a reliable reputation for working with some of the biggest name comic creators in the field - Keith Giffen, Mark Waid, Dave Johnson, J.M. DeMatteis - not to mention a number of Hollywood "Hot Shots" - "Transformers: The Movie" and "Rush Hour III" screenwriter John Rogers and Andrew Cosby, Creator of the original Sci-Fi Network's TV series "Eureka" TV - to produce some of the most imaginative, entertaining, and at times just plain old fun to read comics currently to be found on the stands of your local shop.
So it should come as no surprise then that Wizard Magazine named Boom! Studios its "Best New Publisher" of 2005 - but what is surprising, however, is that Wizard announced the awards in its November issue of last year, and Boom! only began publishing at the end of June, which meant that the company had only been in business for about five months prior to Wizard's award.
With a full year under its belt now, CBR News caught up with Richie to get the good, the bad, and the ugly on Boom!'s first year in the biz, and also to look ahead a little towards what's on tap for Year Two.
CBR News: Talk about what you've learned in the past year about comic book publishing, Ross; anything that you know now that you wished you'd known when first starting out?
Ross Richie: Something that I didn't know at the time was how uncommercial anthologies were. So what did I do with Boom! - launch with an anthology, "Zombie Tales!"
Good thing I didn't know that, because it sold great.
Diamond called me up after "Cthulu Tales" and expressed amazement at how successful the anthologies that Boom! creates are.
I guess in retrospect, I'm glad I didn't know. If I'd have known then what I know now, we'd have never done that. And it's become a Boom! staple, and a big part of our line. Go figure!
The other aspect that I didn't anticipate was having such a diverse line-up. "Hero Squared" is a skewed superhero piece, then there's all the horror comics we're publishing, the thriller vein we're doing with "Talent," the straight-up comedy of "What Were They Thinking." It's so all over the place. I was basically trying to publish what I liked, and thought there was a market for. As a result, I think the company has a broad presence in the market that's unusual and distinct.
CBR: And as far as where you envisioned Boom! being at this time last year, is the company there yet, exceeded expectations, fallen short, what?
RR: I'm pretty happy where we are. I will always want to do more, with more, be more aggressive, have more happen. But you've got to let the company grow organically and be itself.
I have two minds - I can't believe how big the company is, as editing and publishing the first issue of "Hero Squared X-Tra Sized Special" nearly killed me. Just one comic! So doing things like Amano's "Hero" and such now is just incredible. But the second mind wants to do more exciting projects, more fun and innovative ideas. We've got some big surprises to announce at San Diego, some great big projects that will have some hearts racing. We'll be showing a different side of Boom! very soon.
I am amazed at how we've been accepted by the retailers and fans, and grateful for their support.
CBR: What have been some of the big successes for you thus far?
RR: As I mentioned, the "Tales" books are a great foundation. I expected "Hero Squared" to be a flagship for us, and it is, while I was grateful for the sister book "Planetary Brigade" to get such a great reception, too.
"Talent" is getting a lot of attention for the movie deal, and that's great, but even more I think that on a critical level, "Talent" blew people away. That book has some real magic, a brilliant creative team, and a real level of quality. A lot more people are reading Boom!, I think, because of "Talent," and that's a great thing. It turned some heads.
CBR: Any surprise, completely-out-of-left-field hits to add to that list?
RR: "X Isle" was a huge hit that I didn't see coming. Fans and retailers have really embraced it. "What Were They Thinking" - each new issue outsells the previous one. It's a very rare thing in comics for sales to go up.
CBR: Getting back to the "Tales" books for a moment, "Pirate Tales" is the next anthology that you're doing and that's scheduled for release sometime in September. What can fans expect from "Pirate Tales?"
RR: Giffen's got a raft made of human bodies and cannibalism. Stokes has a tale of female empowerment. Nelson tells us a piece of epic romance, while Rogers gives us a modern day pirate tale (??!!!). Joe Casey's got a brilliant piece of formalist work - using splashes and pin-ups - and Christopher Golden is going to let a little bit of that brilliant "Talent" success shine. It's gonna be a lot of fun...
CBR: And what about for the coming year then, what's on tap that you're particularly exited about?
RR: That would be telling! Seriously, we've got... hmmmmm... a big license to announce, from a company that does about six times the sales volume of Marvel Comics.
We're also in the works of bringing more big-name comics creators to Boom!, creators we haven't worked with yet, and at the same time we've had some staggeringly big Hollywood people come forward and demonstrate interest in publishing with us.
I think next year will see us really raising our game.
CBR: That brings up an interesting question, Ross: So far, Boom! seems to have acquired a reputation of mainly working with a select handful of creators (notable Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMattteis, Andrew Cosby, and Michael Alan Nelson), so for the coming year will Boom! be looking to expand on that current roster? Maybe bringing in a few less-familiar names into the bullpen?
RR: Each project requires a distinct group of creators. You can't be close-minded. There's a number of creators you didn't mention, like Mark Waid and Joe Casey and Dave Johnson and John Rogers and Johanna Stokes who are people we're going to.
What I'm interested in is building a profile for always, dependably, delivering a really well-written story with some snappy art. However we get there, we'll use those means to do it.
If a few familiar names pop-up and reoccur, then so be it!
CBR: It seems that no comic book publisher can successfully manage to escape the problem of late shipping titles, and Boom!'s fallen victim to it a few times in the past year itself, which fans, retailers and publishers alike all seem to universally disdain, but which nobody really seems able to prevent at times. What steps does Boom! employ to try and keep titles from shipping late as often as possible?
RR: We actually ship extremely on-time. Especially for an independent.
How do we do it?
Bi-monthly. That's probably why you think the books are late. I find that most creators nowadays can't actually do a book in 30 days, so I give them six weeks. Soliciting bi-monthly gives us a bit of extra time to stay ahead.
We shipped a book into the stores every week since January. That's a lotta books! "Second Wave" is up to issue #5 and "Harm" #4 is scheduled to ship any week now.
"Talent" is clicking along just great, and I just got copies of "Hero Squared" #2.
So it might look like we're late, but ask your retailer to check his invoices - we're not shipping any late product.
CBR: What about Boom!'s trade paperback program - because, excluding the "Trencher" collection, and the recently collected "Hero Squared" mini, you don't really seem to have one yet, which means that a lot of your past product may be unavailable to readers wanting to get their hands on it. Are there plans in place to eventually start compiling the monthlies and minis into trades at some point down the line? And, if so, when?
RR: That's a really smart question, and very sharp of you to notice.
Yeah, we're saving up the back catalog so that we can launch it precisely and correctly. I've been eyeing March of 2007 to get things rolling for the TPBs.
CBR: So, in the mean time, how does Boom!'s reorder policy work then? Do you try and keep your books available for reorder as long as possible (because on your website many individual issues are listed as out of stock)?
RR: Absolutely, we aggressively overprint, often by a wide margin. What I've been amazed by is how we've consistently sold out. We ship reorders immediately, and I think that's encouraged retailers to really reorder the stuff. It's there for them, and in that second and third and fourth wave of reorders, they've cleaned us out.
I want to sell out of individual issues. We've been lucky enough that people want them. There's been a big escalation on this side of our business, I printed so many "Gian Monster's," I thought we'd never sell out-but in January, they were gone!
CBR: As a sort of a follow-up then, if a book does completely sell out of its print run, what criteria determines whether or not Boom! goes back to press on the issue?
RR: If the reorders we're getting after we're sold out are huge, we'll do another. Expect another printing of "X Isles" #1 and "Tag" #1. The first issue orders were strong, and the reorder activity was crazy. So I want them in print as the bi-monthly issues of "X Isle" #2 and "Tag" #2 keep things going. We'll increase print runs even more on subsequent issues to keep up with demand.
"Jeremiah Harm" #1 is a perfect example of this: After shipping 12,000 copies into the direct market, we went back to press for #1 and sold some more!
CBR: Currently, you seem to be putting out about four books a month, this time next year would you like to see that number increased to eight, or are you satisfied with where things are at right now?
RR: We need to see what's working and what's organic. If the market wants more, we'll grow. If they're not interested, there's no point. So far, it's been very gradual and natural. And I'd like to keep it that way.
CBR: Would you like to see Boom! move towards publishing more OGN's in the future like Amano's "Hero" and the "BLVD Sketchbook" or is the monthlies format followed by an eventual compilation into a trade at some point down the line the one that you prefer?
RR: I'm not saying we won't do OGNs, but I believe that the primary model for comics is serializing monthlies first, then collecting into TPBs.
I would expect the majority of our output to be from that model.
CBR: Any goals set for where you'd like to see Boom! this time next year?
RR: Better. Better looking comics, better written, with more excitement.
I am proud and happy with what we're doing, but I always believe you can raise your game and improve. We have the best creators, doing the best work, and I believe that Gianluca, myself, Ed Dukeshire, and Marshall Dillon can all work harder, do more, and make this company better.