Talking Boom! Studios with Ross Richie

[Boom! Studios]Over the past six months comic fans have read about a number of new comics publishers coming on the scene. There's another to add to that list, but it's a bit different than the rest.

Boom! Studios makes its debut this May, headed up by Ross Richie. You may remember his name from previous interviews on CBR. For the past year he was part of publisher Atomeka, but has split from them and started his own publishing company, the first projects of which will be the follow-up mini-series to "Hero Squared," which we told you about back in November, and a collection of the Image Comics series "Trencher" by Keith Giffen.

First, a bit more background on Richie. His association with the comics industry goes way back. In the early 1990s he worked in the marketing department of publisher Malibu Comics. Since then he's played the role of Hollywood Producer, setting up a variety of comic book and non-comic based films at Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Sony and Paramount. But now he's focusing heavily on comics publishing, something he says shares a lot in common with producing. "You get an idea for a certain kind of comic book/movie in your head, then you go out and secure a team to put it together, then you take it out and convince people it's something worth checking out," Ross told CBR News Thursday.

But why the split with Atomeka? Along with partners Dave Elliott and Gary Leach, it appeared that things were moving along nicely. "I think we were moving in different directions and had different goals -- even different visions for the company," said Richie. "It's been theirs for fifteen years, and I'm the new kid -- only appropriate that I move on and do my own thing.

"Dave Elliott is incredibly bright, and I am aghast that he's not at Marvel or DC entrenched with a Bob Shreck, Diana Schutz, Dan DiDio, Karen Berger, Axel Alonzo-type career. His skills are vast and impressive. Garry Leach is just hands-down the best cover artist working out their right now, and shockingly talented as an editor as well. I love the Leach, he cracks my ass up.

"Dividing projects was fairly easy, as inside the company everyone had their own things that they were really excited about and were managing. There wasn't any disagreements over whose was what."

With Richie's attention now squarely focused on Boom! Studios he says his goals for the new company is to create a mainstream alternative. "I want to give top talent from Marvel and DC a place to do their own thing and really cut loose," explained Richie. "I'm doing full-color books with the same production values (at times better production values) than the majors.

"I was shocked that Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis weren't supported by DC, especially given the size of a hit that 'Formerly Known As The Justice League' was. They re-created a franchise again for the company, but DC wasn't really interested in working with those guys and giving them a flourishing environment. I don't have any problems with DC. I have friends that work there, they're an amazing company. But I was just blown away that someone wasn't giving these guys more creative freedom and enabling them to do what they do so well. So I made a place for them at Atomeka, and now with Boom!

"During that process, they've proven to be a dream to work with. They've gone above and beyond. The experience was so totally fun and unique that it's what gave me the impetus to do Boom! If 'Hero Squared' hadn't been the hit that it was, and the creators the kind of up-standing, good-hearted guys that they were -- this includes colorist Matt Nelson and letterer Ed Dukeshire -- I probably wouldn't have taken this chance. They made it a real joy.

"The hope is to do it again and again and again with different projects and different creators.

"I'm not interested in playing the market share game. I don't mind starting out small. I just want to do great books with creators I enjoy and give them a venue to cut loose. And market the hell out of it so that the audience knows it's there. A little piece of turf where the creators find their voice and flourish.

"If I'm doing it right, it'll grow."

With those goals in mind, Richie has aggressive plans for 2005, although he did have to stay quiet about them until they're ready to be announced publicly. Those plans include a series of trade paperback collections of more familiar works like "Cyberella," "Seekers: Into the Mystery" and the previously mentioned "Trencher" collection. Also making the move from Atomeka to Boom is "G.I. Spy", which will see publication this July. There'll also be a number of new, original products coming from Boom!

"The one that I think everyone's excited about is Mark Waid's new creator-owned project," said Richie. "He's got some of the script done, and when I first read it, the material blew me right out of my chair. It's one of the best pieces of writing he's ever done. Brilliant stuff.

"I'm currently on the hunt for a perfect artist. And I'm taking my time, because it's got to be just right."

But what about this crowded publishing market we're in? There's publishers like Speakeasy, Alias and the recently announced Red Eagle Publishing out there all trying to get the same group of comic fans to buy their product. "I think that Boom! is a totally different beast. Red Eagle is adapting fantasy novels -- perhaps they're filling a void left by Crossgen. I think that Speakeasy and Alias are similar to each other in their approach, as they're both companies that are aiming to be mini-Image Comics. They offer creators an open door to come in and almost self-publish, as they handle administration and impute a fee for working with their company.

"I'm a lot more dictatorial than that. I'm very focused and specific about what I want to publish. Generally, I approach the creators and say, 'I want to do this. Can we make it happen?' And then I let them do what they do best. But I've got a very specific battle plan.

"I'm also not interested in launching at a large size. Alias launched at 12 titles. I know those guys and think they're very bright and doing some great things. But I'm launching small. Taking it slow. I'd like to show the retailers and fans who I am, and establish a relationship, before offering a whole line of books.

"A Boom! book will be different in that you'll probably recognize one of the creators on the project as someone who's working for Marvel or DC right now. And I think the project will appeal to a Marvel or DC reader that is reading that creator's work right now."

As for generating new projects, Boom! Is not accepting unsolicited story submissions. "Great way to read someone's idea and get sued. No thanks," said Richie. But he is looking for pencilers, inkers and colorists, encouraging them to send their stuff on over. "Generally speaking, I generate new projects with the telephone. I've got a specific idea and I hunt the creative people down and put together the team, then the marketing plan."

Look for more on Boom! Studios in the coming weeks here at CBR.

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