February was a bad news/good news month for Boom! Studios: The bad news: They lost the license to publish graphic novels based on Disney/Pixar movies. The good news: They picked up new licenses for a Peanuts graphic novel and Word Girl comics, and they also announced a new property by Roger Langridge, the critically acclaimed writer and artist for Boom's Muppets graphic novels. The Los Angeles-based independent publisher also announced it would be renaming its Boom! Kids line kaboom!
The bad news came on February 16, when Marvel announced that Disney, its parent company, would publish a monthly all-ages magazine called Disney•Pixar Presents that would feature stories based on the Disney/Pixar films Cars, Cars 2, The Incredibles, and Toy Story 3, among others. Boom has been publishing graphic novels based on those properties for the past two years.
Boom created the books as work for hire, so Disney and Pixar own the rights to all the work. In fact, the first issue of the magazine includes a story that was published by Boom as Cars: Rally Race, according to Comic Book Resources. However, Boom will continue to publish other Disney properties, including a line of comics featuring standard Disney characters (Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Uncle Scrooge) as well as Darkwing Duck and Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers comics.
Boom rolled out the good news in a series of press releases the following week, starting with the announcement that they would be publishing a Peanuts graphic novel, Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown. In an e-mail interview, Boom founder and chief executive officer Ross Richie explained how the property came to them. "Originally, United Media approached BOOM! from seeing what we did in the publishing space and wanted us to do Peanuts content," he said. "It was a tremendous honor to have one of the greatest comic strip companies of all time approach a young, scrappy upstart like BOOM! to take on one of the greatest enduring properties of the 20th century.
"But then United Media sold the rights to Peanuts Worldwide. Peanuts Worldwide is a relatively new company that sees Charles Shultz Creative Associates teaming up with Iconix to manage the Peanuts empire now. Typically when deals like that happen, the new company doesn't care about the plans the old company had. My first reaction when I heard the news was, 'Well, there goes that deal.' But much to my amazement, creating new comic book content was at the forefront of Peanuts Worldwide's list of things they wanted to do."
Richie said the graphic novel is an adaptation of the forthcoming animated feature of the same name, which will be released to DVD on March 29, the same day the graphic novel hits comics stores. The story is written by Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts, and adapted by Craig Schulz and Stephan Pastis, with art by Bob Scott, Vicki Scott and Ron Zorman. The book will be 80 pages, full color, and is priced at $19.99.
Last week's announcements also include Space Warped, which appears to be a Star Wars parody; Snarked!, a comic by Roger Langridge; and the Word Girl comic. Richie had less to say about these properties, although he did have this to say about Snarked!: "When I started to read the proposal I started laughing out loud. It's the perfect project that is all-ages for the fans that found him through The Muppets, but at the same time if you love his stuff from Fred the Clown, that sort of sensibility is still shining through."
Richie said the fact that Boom! announced the new properties immediately after the Pixar news broke was a "quirk of fate." "We had our announcements triggered for the week before Emerald City Comic Con, which kicks off the 2011 convention season, and Marvel announced their Pixar Magazine the week before," he said. "ECCC is nearly a hometown show for BOOM!, we get a terrific reception there, so we wanted to unveil before the show and be in a position to talk to the fans at the convention."
As for losing the Pixar licenses, Richie said, "To quote my friend Stan Lee, 'The Old Order Changeth!' Marvel is a terrific company and I count many of their senior management as friends. The team leading the company right now have revolutionized our sector in the past ten years and are some of the most forward-thinking and innovative people in the space. I am really excited about what they plan to do and where they plan to go from what we've done."
Although the Peanuts book is a graphic novel, Richie said that generally, the stories in the kaboom! line will be serialized in individual comics and then collected into trade books, as is the case now. The line is aimed at both bookstores and the comics direct market, where Boom has established a firm foothold—the company just received Diamond Comics Distributors' Gem Award for Comic Book Publisher of the Year (under 4% market share). "I also expect growth in libraries and schools with this different product mix because traditionally they are a bit of a harder sell with Disney content, which is often seen as too commercialized and merchandized for the education sector," Richie said.
Renaming Boom! Kids as kaboom! was done to reposition the books for a wider audience, Richie said. "BOOM Kids! was designed to publish children's comics—kaboom! is designed to be a true all-ages imprint, and for that reason Peanuts is the perfect launch title, the sort of material that adults and kids read alike," he said. "Roger Langridge's Snarked! is along these lines, as is Space Warped and Word Girl. I put the Word Girl announcement on my wall on Facebook and immediately there were a zillion adults commenting, 'My child loves this show but I'm buying this comic book for myself!' The title mix will be broader for kaboom! than it was for BOOM Kids!
"Also, what we found was listening to Direct Market comics shops and the book market was that kids shy away from products labeled 'kids.' If you're 8 years old, you don't consider yourself a child, so you stay away from a product from a manufacturer with a 'kids' stamp on it. We'd also go to conventions and see consumers in their 20s and 30s buying from the BOOM Kids! table and making allowances about how 'they didn't care that this was published for kids.' With a different imprint name, there's no reason to be self-conscious about it anymore!"