Shannon Watters is currently Senior Editor at BOOM! where she oversees a wide range of titles, and she's perhaps most identified with a number of titles aimed at younger readers ranging from "Adventure Time" to "Lumberjanes," which she helped write. The books have been notable for the talent she's hired from the world of webcomics and independent comics and the many new voices brought into comic stores.
Next week, BOOM! is releasing "The BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape," and Watters spoke with CBR News about her work, the two imprints she oversees (BOOM! Box and KaBOOM!), scouting new talent, and what she hopes that the lines can be and the kind of readers they will encourage.
CBR News: Shannon, you're a Senior Editor at BOOM! and you oversee the KaBOOM! and BOOM! Box imprints. What exactly does this entail?
Shannon Watters: I generally describe it to people that you're a producer role for comics. When they hear you're an editor, everybody asks, oh, so you fix the spelling? [Laughs] I'm like, "Sure, that's one thing that I do." In my role I source projects, I go out on the internet and I go to shows and I check out what people are doing and what people are up to. A project like "Adventure Time," I'm responsible for "casting" the talent and driving the tone and the direction of the comic from beginning to end. You set the tone and the creatives behind it and then once that's all in place, you shepherd it into creation. You help people along and you beat scripts into shape, you beat pitches into shape, you do the copy editing side, making sure everything is spelled right. [Laughs] You wear a lot of hats when you're an editor.
The thing people will take away from that answer is that there's a job that involves surfing the Internet and reading minicomics.
Exactly! What a ball we're having all day. [Laughs]
Monthly publishing is nothing but a barrel of laughs -- terrifying stress one hundred percent of the time. It's a heck of a thing, comic book editing. I've known that comic book editing exists since I was probably 14. I've told this story before, but Chynna Clugston gives shout outs to Jamie Rich in a lot of issues of "Blue Monday." It's a great, great, great series. Jamie was Chynna's editor and whenever Jamie was on her to finish a page, she'd have little notes in the margins about Jamie yelling at her. [Laughs] That's when I knew what comic book editing was. It was one of those things where you know it's a job that exists and you don't really know what it means, but it's a job that exists. Sometimes you get really, really lucky and you have the good fortune to work hard once you get lucky to be able work even harder and stick around for a while.
Editing is one of those things that's largely invisible, but a lot of the job is, you have ten books a month, they have to be out on this date. Editors may get credit for discovering, but a lot of the job is making sure the trains run on time.
That is a huge part of our job! [Laughs]
It is, and it's not easy, either. You do that, but you are also actively scouting talent in a way it seems like few editors are.
I hate to say I've been lucky, but a few months after I got promoted from assistant editor to editor, we got the "Adventure Time" license. We structured "Adventure Time" in a way that lent itself well to indie cartoonists and webcartoonists. That world is more my bread and butter than what you might call mainstream comic books. I learned comic book editing under Mark Waid and Matt Gagnon when I was an assistant editor. That was my first hardcore mainstream education outside of the standards -- your "Dark Knight" and your "Killing Joke," etc. It was my first real engagement with superhero comics and mainstream comic books. I worked on "Irredeemable" and "Incorruptible" and I was really proud of that, but since I was in high school my taste has always been the American indie scene and the webcomics scene. Because "Adventure Time" was built for the involvement of those kinds of artists and writers and creatives, we got the opportunity to go after a lot of those people that I really admire and whose work I was a big fan of who might not ordinarily find themselves on the shelf of a comic book store.
I consider it a really important part of my job because I feel like a kid who read "Adventure Time" is not just going to put down "Adventure Time" and call it a day. Well, maybe he or she is, but when I was a kid, I wanted to know everything. I looked at the ads in the back of my comics and was like, that looks really cool, I'm going to go get that. I had a gateway drug comic and it all spun out of that. I really want to kids to read "Adventure Time" and then read "Dinosaur Comics." Or see a cover that they really like and seek out that person's personal work. You don't want to create a kids comics culture that's just predicated on them buying "Adventure Time" because they love "Adventure Time" and then being done with comics. You want to create a situation where you have turned these kids onto this art form and now they're checking out everything-or they're making their own comics. Not everything is going to be to everybody's taste, and so scouting new talent and interesting talent and people who are doing interesting things is just so, so important. Getting those people's stuff in front of people's eyes is essential and one of my favorite things about my job. I devote a lot of time and energy to that and a lot of time and energy to thinking about who's going to bring the best to a certain book or concept. I'm lucky that I get to that. I'm really lucky BOOM! encourages me in that way.
I know that BOOM! has a relationship with Cartoon Network, but how does something like "Bee and PuppyCat" or "Over the Garden Wall" happen?
Something like "Bee and PuppyCat," obviously we've worked with Natasha [Allegri] before and we have a relationship with Frederator so that was a no-brainer. Sometimes it's us seeking a license out. Sometimes it's them approaching us. With Cartoon Network, we have a first look deal on everything new that they make, so we get right of first refusal for everything that they release. Once we decide to do it, it's very collaborative. Cartoon Network is a really cool licensor when it comes to the comics. A lot of the people who make these shows are really intensely creative and involved in comics communities. For example, Rebecca Sugar of "Steven Universe" showed at SPX since she was a young teenager. She was a minicomics maven and a general comics badass before she had her own show on Cartoon Network. These people have friends in comics and have specific ideas of what they want their comic to be. Cartoon Network actually allows us to talk to them and integrate that. It makes for interesting comics because you're not just necessarily doing one-shot non-canon, non-continuity on-model stuff. There's nothing wrong with that approach, but hopefully when somebody picks up a "Steven Universe" comic, they also check out Jeremy Sorese's amazing comics and Coleman Engles's amazing comics as well.
Do you think of the books as sharing a sensibility and approach?
I would say so. I guess when you are shepherding something you have a style. I don't know. I would say to a certain extent just because I'm helping manage a lot of it. As the sensibility the people have, but a lot of these people also share my sensibility.
KaBOOM! has a new comic coming out from Roger Langridge. His book is a different thing than these licensed titles. How do you work on a series like that?
Something like "Abigail and the Snowman," Roger has been working on for a really long time. Editors Rebecca Taylor and Cameron Chittock have been taking a lot of point on that. Roger is such a skilled storyteller. Roger has an incredibly whimsical sensibility and is just he's a master at structure so that's one of those situations we have a lot more of at BOOM! Box where the creator's sensibility is really the driving force behind the whole book. Again, as an editor, you are working with the creator on story, look and feel-it's much of an auteur-driven sensibility.
Are you hoping to do more series like that for KaBOOM!?
Absolutely. I would love it. That would be swell.
When BOOM! Box was announced, the impression from outside was that it came out of the success of "Adventure Time" and other books and it felt like an effort to make an imprint that spun off that sensibility and approach.
I think "Adventure Time" was a nice catalyst for what BOOM! Box became. Because I was working with all of these incredible people on all of the KaBOOM! stuff, I wanted to have a place for them to do their own things. To give them the means and the space to be creative and get that work into lots of hands. That's what BOOM! Box came out of. So in a way, it did.
BOOM! Box targets an audience a few years older than KaBOOM!, and it's a weird lineup of books.
It's meant to be all over the map. We joke that the slogan is "keep comics weird."
There's not a line that connects "The Midas Flesh," "Lumberjanes," "Teen Dog," and "Cyanide and Happiness."
The kind of comics that BOOM! Box publishes are the kind of comics that you make for the love of comics. It's not a horror line or a superhero line. It is comics that are meant to be driven purely for the sake of the idea and the fun of it. Which is a weird description. Comics for the fun of it.
I would say they're united by a sensibility, though. It's fun and weird and uncynical.
Uncynical is the biggest thing, I think. Not just in comics, but in the world, being sincere is deeply uncool. [Laughs]
Being sincere is just deeply uncool and I think that's kind of ridiculous. Loving something and creating something is the most intense, rad, magical thing you can do. I never want the work that I help people to produce to feel disingenuous or cynical. The world's a pretty rough place and you can get really cynical entertainment lots of places. I just don't want to be making comics like that. I think that's what BOOM! Box is about. Trying to make uncynical comics.
"Lumberjanes" is doing well and was quickly made an ongoing, rather than a miniseries. Did you have to change anything for the eighth issue because of that?
No. We had a really clear idea of what the eight issues were going to be, but "Lumberjanes" was really set up to be a series that could go on forever if we wanted. It's one of those group adventure tales where as long as there are more adventures, this could go on forever. The first eight issues are one adventure and there are a lot of little details that didn't get explored that we're going to explore moving forward. There's that outhouse that a bunch of dinosaurs came out of, which was a funny throwaway joke. Literally in the first issue we had an out of order sign on the outhouse for the express purpose of it being this crazy place. That's going to feature in an arc.
So we'll have more of the yetis, for example?
Exactly. All these things we had in the back of our minds when we were developing it and so now we're just we're getting to explore this stuff. We never really thought we were going to get to use it, but now we get to, so that's pretty exciting.
Will Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen stick around going forward?
The girls are all taking turns at taking a break, because everything was at breakneck speed for a while. I'm going to be helping Noelle and Grace for certain portions with the writing. Brooke is taking a three-issue break so she can take a breather because her art is incredibly detailed and it's really intense to keep on a monthly schedule. She'll be back with #13. The team is great and we love them so hopefully everybody sticks around in the capacity that they are able to.
You have "BOOM! Box 2014 Mix Tape" coming out. Should we pause and explain to the under thirty crowd what a mix tape is?
[Laughs] The "BOOM! Box Mix Tape" is an anthology! It's basically along the lines of what we've been talking about. It's a lot of really goofy original concepts that get 1-4 page shorts that are just fun and funny and have different cartoonists doing weird stuff. There are shorts from BOOM! Box 2014 properties -- original content, in continuity -- for "Teen Dog," "Lumberjanes" and "Midas Flesh."
Then there're previews of what's coming out next year from BOOM! Box. There's the first ever "Munchkin" short previewing the "Munchkin" comic that we are starting in January. That's by the game's artist John Kovalic and it's really funny. If you like "Munchkin," or just Bugs Bunny slapstick humor, you'll really like "Munchkin." And then a preview of "Help Us Great Warrior," which is going to be great!
"Help Us Great Warrior" is this take on the magical girl genre. It's this little tiny warrior and she protects the world and protects this village from monsters and marauders and she thinks she's just the hottest shiz. She's like if a valley girl were Conan, basically. [Laughs] It's really funny. Madeleine Flores came up with it and she is so talented. This series is just so hilarious. If you're a fan of "Lumberjanes" or "Sailor Moon" or anything where the girls are unapologetically badasses, you'll love that.
What exactly is "Munchkin?"
"Munchkin" is a table top game, a card game, and it's basically like D&D without all the roleplaying stuff to distract you. [Laughs] It's basically like D&D in its purest form. The whole intent of the game is stealing loot and gathering treasure and outwitting your opponents. There are races and monsters, but playing it is so fun because there's a lot of, I stabbed you in the back, I jumped over you and kicked this door down. There's a lot of goofy, slapstick, "Spy vs Spy" stuff you can do when your guiding principle is to keep it as ridiculous as possible.
What are your ambitions for BOOM! Box? What do you want to do going forward with the imprint?
BOOM! Box has really exceeded my wildest expectations already. I want to use BOOM! Box as a place where people whose voices aren't necessarily always heard in the mainstream comics sphere get a chance to tell their stories. Hopefully there will be a lot more of that. A lot more of comics that you might not necessarily see in a comic book store getting into people's hands and interesting people's work getting into people's hands. I mean that's what it's there for -- to put cheerful comics into people's hands. I just want to keep doing that.
"BOOM! Box 2014 Mixtape" hits stores December 24.