“The worst idea in the world is to start a comic book publisher,” said BOOM! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie with a laugh, noting that his publishing gamble is about to mark a decade of producing original comics.
Founded in Los Angeles in 2005 by Richie, the indie comics powerhouse started with a few original titles from creators like artist Keith Giffen, who first encouraged Richie to start his own publishing house. Boom! began to attract considerable attention the following year, when it started publishing comics based on the popular Warhammer fantasy game.
Today, the company releases about a half-dozen graphic novels, and some 40 single-issue titles, each month. By mid-2015, Richie said, the trade paperback, graphic novel, and hardcover output will be closer to between seven and nine books a month.
Boom! publishes original comics and original graphic novels, not just collections or periodical compilations. The company approaches the book trade and the direct market—i.e. comics shops—with distinct strategies, Riche said: “We see these as two separate businesses.” The direct market is about selling weekly or monthly single-issue periodicals, he explained, while the book trade is about marketing to “key buyers, garnering reviews, social media engagement, and mainstream media coverage.” BOOM! is distributed to the trade by Simon & Schuster in North America, and Titan Comics in the U.K. and Ireland; Diamond Book Distributors manages the publisher’s international English-language book business.
The company also has strong ties to Hollywood. In addition to optioning books with Universal and Paramount, the house has a first-look partnership with 20th Century Fox to turn its comics into films and TV, as well as a deal with the Cartoon Network to turn CN programming into comics. The 2013 Universal Pictures movie release 2 Guns was based on a BOOM! comic/graphic novel, and the studio has optioned four projects for TV and another five projects for film, including the popular children’s graphic novel series Rust, published by BOOM!’s Archaia imprint.
Archaia was already a well-regarded indie comics publisher when BOOM! acquired it in 2013. Since the acquisition, its output has increased, with more single-issue releases and trade reprints than the company had been capable of in previous years.
In addition to Archaia, which publishes literary children’s and YA fantasy and adventure, and BOOM!, the publisher’s core book line, the publisher comprises two more imprints. Launched in 2009, KaBOOM!, owes much of its success to the strength of licensed properties including those from Cartoon Network. KaBOOM! also publishes original series such as the children’s adventure/mystery Capture Creatures by Frank Gibson and Becky Dreistadt, and Abigail & The Snowman by Roger Langridge, about a young girl and her sophisticated Yeti, which was released in December. .
The fourth imprint, BOOM! Box, launched in 2013 and is dedicated to more experimental material. Its biggest hit to date is Lumberjanes, a comic focusing on the friendship of five teen girls at a strange summer camp rife with supernatural adventures. Richie said the comic connects with “an audience that’s been excited by Tumblr” and highlights the explosion of inventive comics and graphics found on the social media platform.
Indeed, Richie points to a “huge change” for the better in the comics industry over the past decade. “The business has become much more receptive to small publishers,” he said, but challenges remain. “We still want it to be more accessible to a more diverse group of people.”
Boom! recently started a Twitter campaign called “Push #ComicsForward,” an effort to foster the conversation about diversity in comics. Richie is emphatic that the purpose of the campaign is not “to shill comic books,” but to “point out like-minded opinion and thought leaders in the business.” Should comics, he asked, “have more lead females? Do we have enough black heroes? Latinos? LGBT? Does the business reflect the world we live in now?”
The movement, he said, is bigger than BOOM!: “This is talking about where we think the future is, and focusing our energy on pushing the business forward. We believe comics are for everyone.”