A few weeks ago we learned that BOOM! Studios, publisher of everything from Mark Waid's Irredeemable series and Farscape to Disney/Pixar comics like The Incredibles and Cars, was branching out into the alt.comix arena. Their new imprint, BOOM! Town, will publish and market "literary comics," selective reissues of out-of-print works and merchandise.
Their first few projects include:
- A Too Much Coffee Man mug.
- A political satire/collection of prose pieces and artwork called Repuglicans.
- I Thought You Would be Funnier, a collection of Shannon Wheeler's rejected New Yorker cartoons.
- A reissue of a set of 36 trading cards by R. Crumb that were originally released by Kitchen Sink Press in 1991.
- A reissue of The Grasshopper and the Ant by Harvey Kurtzman.
The line is being overseen by BOOM! publisher/co-founder Ross Richie and their marketing director Chip Mosher. I interview Mosher via email over the last week about the new imprint, what their plans are for it and the online reactions to one project in particular. My thanks to Chip for his time.
JK: For those who missed the initial launch of BOOM! Town, can you explain what you guys are hoping to accomplish with the imprint?
Chip: Most of BOOM!'s success has come from doing what's not expected -- kids' comics don't sell (BOOM! Kids), don't do comic books based on TV shows that aren't on the air anymore (Farscape, Muppet Show), how can you take the entire text of a seminal novel, not revise it and convert it into graphic novel form (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)? You will usually see BOOM! ask, "Why not?" and then find success our own way. BOOM! Town fits in with just this notion. Doing a "lit comix" imprint is just not something people expect of us. But it is something we are passionate about. Look, material like Persepolis and Fun Home changed the business. As much as this past decade was the decade Watchmen became a movie and sold millions of copies, it was also the decade that the children of Maus blossomed. FUN HOME was Time Magazine's 2006 book of the year, not comic book of the year, but BOOK of the year! What we are calling "lit comix" and what other may call Alt/lit comics (or whatever)... the audience for this type of material will grow and increase as the business becomes more widespread and mainstream.
JK: Why go with a separate imprint for this material, versus just publishing it under the BOOM! Studios banner?
Chip: A couple of years ago we published Katheryn and Stuart Immonen's web comic collection Never As Bad As You Think. It was a great book, came out, and just didn't perform the way it should. People didn't "get it" because it came out under the BOOM! Studios banner. And yet I think if it came out for Fantagraphics or Top Shelf or Drawn & Quarterly, people would have instantly "got it." The Immonens are doing their next webcomic with Top Shelf, and that totally makes sense. But that whole experience really made us realize, if we are going to do material like this, it can't be under the BOOM! Studios banner.
With that, we also know that we are going to be publishing material, like Repuglicans, that we would never publish under the BOOM! Studios banner. It's important for us externally to differentiate the Studios line, that is editorially driven in house by Mark Waid, with the BOOM! Town line, that is more creator driven and driven by what projects are brought to us.
JK: How did you personally become involved with the imprint? Don't you already have a day job at BOOM!?
Chip: Everyone here wears a ton of different hats at BOOM! When we sat down and looked at the line, Ross and I both agreed that it would be an initiative that we would take point on. Ross and I also have a huge affinity for this type of material. We both bought the Optic Nerve mini-comcs off the stands as they appeared. I get excited when the new volume of Berlin hits stores. One of my favorite books right now is Elijah Brubaker's Reich. And, back in the day, when Shannon Wheeler was my landlord, I used to help him out when he was starting out publishing. So these types of comics are something I deeply love. I know that they usually don't get marketed correctly. So I feel I can bring the best of both worlds. And, right now, BOOM! Town is in its nascent year, doing one or two projects a month, so it's a workload that Ross and I can easily handle.
JK: You've teamed up with two well-known independent comics creators, Denis Kitchen and Shannon Wheeler. How did these partnerships come about?
Chip: Lord, I've known Wheeler for 20 years. I was hanging out with him before he created Too Much Coffee Man and after Too Much Coffee Man. I was there when he won the Eisner. It was a fabulous time. So he and I go way back, to the point where I used to rent a shack behind his house and live there, so he was also, at one point, my landlord - but that is another story. In any case, he and I would always bounce marketing ideas off each other, and I would help him with press releases and stuff. Denis I met when I did a short stint at Graphitti Designs in 2003. We've been friendly ever since. Denis and I struck up a conversation at a party in San Diego this year about working together, and now, six months later we are. I bought almost everything Denis published back in the day. He's one of the truly great people in comics who has great taste, and it really is a dream come true to be working with him. With these types of comics, it is more than anything, about good personal relationships, which is another reason I am the point person.
JK: You're also doing a book called Repuglicans. How did this project come about?
Chip: Repuglicans is a book Denis brought to us and it is the brainchild of artist Pete Von Sholly. Pete's doing 61 "portraits" of current high profile Republicans and associates and political humorist Steve Tatham is providing commentary. It's a book of political humor - sort of a Garbage Pail Kids meets the Republican party! Obviously not something that would be appropriate to publish under the BOOM! Studios banner, which is another reason to create the imprint.
JK: You released a press release about the book -- which isn't a comic, I understand, but a prose book with illustrations -- earlier this week. What do you make of the response to Repuglicans so far?
Chip: You know, I had the press release in the can for awhile and was just waiting for the final cover art -- we were doing some tweaks. The cover came in at the same time that the Captain America #602 kerfuffle hit the internet. I actually held the press release until after the weekend to try and avoid any comparisons, but that didn't work. I could have held off longer, but the book is solicited this month, and I only have a short window to market this book that basically expired this week.
It's funny that people think I am smarter than I am in marketing the book so close to Captain America #602!
That said, you know, the book is satire. People getting on comment threads threatening to stop buying all of BOOM!'s books or excoriating Waid is... it's like threatening to stop watching the USA Network show Burn Notice because you hate what they do on parent company NBC's SNL Weekend Update. The two don't have anything to do with each other and are in completely separate arenas. If you disagree with Fox News' point of view, do you stop watching The Simpsons?
On the upside, I think that some of the more conservative fans that have tried to stir things up on comment threads have really brought attention to the project. Truth be told, it's hard to get attention for a politically-leaning book -- not a graphic novel or a comic book, but a book -- in the direct market. People are in comic shops generally to buy comics, not prose books, so it's typically difficult for something like this to get the spotlight.
Many commentators have asked for "equal time." But we're not a news organization who can pull in a conservative commentator and give him a 5 or 10 minute segment to give the other viewpoint. Repuglicans is a BOOM! Town book. It was brought to us by the creators. If you want a Demoscum book, bring it. No one brought us that. It's as simple as that. We have no bias against publishing something that makes fun of Democrats if it's funny -- there's plenty to make fun of there. It's just no one brought that to us.
In 2008 we published a book by Stephen Baldwin called The Remnant, which was an action adventure book that takes place during The Rapture, an event that is a big part of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Christian theology. It's certainly something that no other comic book company would have the fortitude to publish. And we did. And it was a great book. But no one demanded we do an action adventure book from a Hindu or Buddhist viewpoint.
And, by the way, if someone did bring us something like that and it was good... I am proud of the diversity of publishing we have at the company -- we do a lot of different projects and I like to think we do them well. With Repuglicans, we view it in the tradition of MAD Magazine, and that kind of wicked satire can raise people's ire from time to time.
JK: Are you guys talking to other creators as well? What can we expect from BOOM! Town in the future?
Chip: We've had a pretty great response from the launch. I think people are excited that there is another publisher out there that is open to this kind of material. So that is exciting, as is being able to work with people that we wouldn't have the chance to with under the Studios imprint or the Kids imprint. June see us distributing The Grasshopper and the Ant by Harvey Kurtzman. This is a book that Denis published with his company Denis Kitchen Publishing 10 years ago, that we are giving people another chance at. It's a fabulous book. A rare, completely solo Kurtzman effort, with Kurtzman at his prime. So make sure you get it!