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AICN COMICS C2E2 AFTERMATH: Ambush Bug catches up with BOOM! CEO & Founder Ross Richie!

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Q’s by Ambush Bug!

@’s by BOOM!’s Ross Richie!!!

Ambush Bug here with another interview from the floor of this year’s Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo (aka C2E2). This time I had a chance to talk with Ross Richie, founder and CEO of BOOM! Studios. Here’s what Ross had to say as I caught up with him at the food court at the con…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): All right, so I’m here at C2E2 with Ross Richie. What is your official title at BOOM!? Are you the publisher? Is that what it is?

ROSS RICHIE (RR): I’m the Founder and the Chief Executive Officer.

BUG: Okay, Founder and CEO. So tell me a little bit… I know you just got off the train and I’m getting you with a mouthful of pizza, but what’s it like being in Chicago and the Chicago Comic Con?

RR: I love Chicago. I’ve always loved Chicago as a town and a city. I love any excuse to be able to come here. We were talking about it earlier; Chicago has always been a nexus to great comic book publishing whether it’s the undergrounds back in the late 60’s and the 70’s or First Comics back in the 80’s. So I love the legacy and I used to go to the Chicago Comic Con, the old Chicago Comic Con back in the 90’s. You know, it started I think in the 70’s, but I used to go back in the 90’s before Wizard bought it, yeah. I have such fond memories of hunting back issues at the show 20 years ago, I love it. I’m excited to be here.

BUG: Great. Well you have new issues and new series coming out from BOOM! What’s the newest thing that you want to tell everybody about right now?

RR: Well, we’re really excited about a new series we are launching on May 9th called HIGHER EARTH. It’s from Sam Humphries who is famous for OUR LOVE IS REAL and has been white hot. He just signed on to Ultimate Comics: Ultimates with Jonathan Hickman and so he’s a very exciting writer with a really cool idea. The premise is that Sam says we will never explore space, because the next habitable planet is too far away. Once we use up this earth’s resources, the next planet is too far away for humans to actually be able to survive space travel and get there and so what he theorizes is in the future we will raid the parallel earth next door. So the “higher earth” of the title is the earth that has conquered 99 other earths and it’s lording over this kingdom of parallel universes and our lead character is a foot soldier who fought for the Higher Earth, but has now been discarded onto a trash planet, which is the lowest earth where all of the other earths dump their garbage. Now he’s got revenge on his mind and he is going to jump between the parallel universes and get a little payback.

The artist on it is Francesco Biagini who is the guy that has been drawing ELRIC for us for the past year. He’s a super talented amazing artist so I’m very, very excited about it. I’m really proud of the book. It’s coming out and it’s a dollar for the first issue, and it’s a full first issue. It’s not eight pages or anything, it’s a 22 page story for a buck and the orders are extremely healthy. We are super excited about it.

BUG: Great. Well I’ve been a fan of BOOM! since you guys first started out. What’s your secret of survival? I’ve seen so many companies come and go over the years, so what’s your secret?

RR: (Laughs) Well I think part of it is I just really tried to focus on doing one book at a time. Back in 2005 when I launched the company I launched with one book and then once we mastered that we built up to doing two books a month and built a team that can exercise editorial control and do high quality books. Other than that it’s just trying to publish with a sensibility of “What could fans be excited about?”

We had a lot of luck when we launched KaBOOM!. Traditional comic book publishing says that you can’t do All-Ages comics and we were able to prove that wrong and so we were lucky with that and with PEANUTS now and with ADVENTURE TIME and those have been doing really, really well, which is very cool. So part of it is just trying to never bite off more than you can chew, having a very reasonable expectation about not having delusions of grandeur, having respect for your audience and then just really trying to make each book good, because that’s our resume. If the books start to suck, then… You’re a fan. I’m a fan. We don’t buy things that suck and then your books don’t sell and your company goes out of business.

BUG: It seems like you have a good balance between licensed properties and also kind of your own stuff. How do you balance that out?

RR: You know, I wish I had a really smart sophisticated answer, I just don’t. You have opportunities with 20th Century Fox with PLANET OF THE APES… I met them at The Licensing Show and they said “Hey, what do you think of doing PLANET OF THE APES comics?” At this point RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES didn’t even have a start date and there wasn’t a script to read and I said, “It’d be great if we could do stories set in the old continuity, because I’m a fan of those movies” and 20th Century Fox was very supportive.

Sometimes these companies won’t necessarily let you do that. I mean, I think licensing is very complex and a lot of times fans are like “Why did such and such make a decision to do this series?” and what they don’t know is that the company licensing the material might have issued an edict that it had to be done a certain way. As a publisher I can empathize sometimes with other companies’ series knowing that they don’t have the ability to call the shots. They might have been forced to do the Tim Burton continuity on THE PLANET OF THE APES for instance and so Fox was great to give us that latitude to be able to do the original continuity. It was a great opportunity and we grabbed it.

Of course I’m a huge ELRIC fan. The Michael Moorcock comic is a seminal influence on me, so being able to do that was a terrific honor and then of course working with Clive Barker was a life-long dream. We were talking to Clive about doing some other projects and we had a series of meetings with Clive and we were not originally setting out to do HELLRAISER and then Clive felt comfortable with us. You know, Clive is based in LA and we are based in LA and so we had the luxury of being able to get together and then Clive said, “Hey, I really want to do this” and you know, when you get that opportunity you just jump on it.

A lot of publishing comes from seizing an opportunity. When Sam brought us HIGHER EARTH we instantly fell in love with it and decided to make it a priority. How quickly can we get this onto the publishing schedule as a big priority for us, make it good, and not compromise on the quality? Publishing isn’t nearly as sexy as fans might think it is, you know? You’re just trying to do the best you can to land these huge franchises and do the best job you can because it represents your philosophy, your public face, your brand.

BUG: Definitely. Well about HELLRAISER, it’s one of the books that I really follow. I’m a fan of the old HELLRAISER comics and I think the new HELLRAISERS and the direction that they have taken it in has been a really interesting way of switching roles with Kirsty and Pinhead. So how closely is Clive involved in writing the stories? I know his name is on the cover, but does he plot it out? What’s going on with that?

RR: Yeah, Clive is intimately involved in every single aspect about it and I’m sure as a Clive fan you know that he is really meticulous and has a high sense of standards for quality. As a HELLRAISER fan you might have heard him comment on some of the HELLRAISER sequels. He’s very uncompromising and I think that’s what drives him to be such a terrific artist and the reason why we are such fans of his material. Clive came in and sat down and he said “Look,” he was talking to me and my Editor-In-Chief Matt Gagnon and he said, “Guys, I’ve only touched the character twice: I wrote the original HELLRAISER novel THE HELLBOUND HEART and I wrote and directed the first film and this would be the third time I’ve ever done anything with the character. Do you want to do this?” Our response was “Of course.” He said, “Look I’ve got a lot of things going on, so I’m going to need a co-writer.” It all originates from him… It’s his idea to do Kirsty as Pinhead. It’s his world. He goes in and works on the scripts at every stage, the plot, the dialogue, everything and so it’s a very close hand-in-hand collaboration and you know that character is so huge for him.

It’s interesting because there’s been so much merchandising with the character that you would think he would have a more distant relationship with it, but a lot of that has been done outside his purview and so he was energized by the opportunity to directly work on the comics. And it’s very important to him, you know Clive’s a huge comic book fan. Clive is a Wednesday customer. He has a pull list. He goes down to the comic book shop every single Wednesday.

BUG: That’s awesome.

RR: He’s the real deal and he’s just been terrific. We love him to pieces. He’s been amazing.

BUG: Cool. Has there ever been an opportunity for him to do his own… I know he’s an artist himself, would you ever have him do his own artwork on a comic or something like that?

RR: We did on the first issue and it was the sales incentive for retailers. It had a painted cover by Clive and then it was autographed by Clive on the back.

BUG: Okay, well let’s move on from HELLRAISER. I know you have a ton of stuff there. What else is coming out from you guys?

RR: Well we’ve got a new series that we are doing in June called EXTERMINATION and it is written by Simon Spurrier who is doing CROSSED: WISH YOU WERE HERE right now as a web comic and has done some great stuff for Marvel like X-CLUB, a terrific writer. It’s a really fun premise. The idea is it’s an alien invasion story, the aliens have invaded earth and they’ve won already and the resistance, this is a world that has super heroes, and so in the resistance… I’m going to kind of short pitch it, how people say, and “IRREDEEMABLE is what if Superman went wrong.” This is “What if Batman teamed up with Dr. Doom to take down an alien invasion?” These superheroes and supervillains have decided that they have bigger fish to fry between the two of them.

BUG: A common enemy, I guess.

RR: Exactly. And that they have to deal with this… They need to put aside their differences, but what’s going to be fun is like “How’s it all going to sort out if they ever get rid of this alien menace? What sort of deals have you done that you have to deal with and struggle with?” We are very excited about that.

BUG: Yeah, that sounds really cool. I like the premise there. So what else? What else do you want to tell us?

RR: Well you know we are wrapping up IRREDEEMABLE and INCORRUPTIBLE. Mark Waid is finishing the story the way that he wants to tell it. We got the final two pages of IRREDEEMABLE in this week before we came to the show. If you like that book let me just warn you, you are so completely not prepared for the finale. I was completely shocked myself and I’ve been with that book since inception, so it’s pretty staggering. I know that I’m overstating it, but I promise you the internet will crack in half, I mean people are really going to be debating this ending. It’s very audacious.

BUG: Nice. So with him finishing up those books is he still going to be involved with BOOM!? I know he’s been involved for a very, very long time with you guys.

RR: We have something coming up. It’s going to be fun. He’s doing his digital comics initiative and so I think he’s really focusing on that stuff, but we do have something coming up that we are going to be doing with him. Then we have another Sam Humphries book, you know Sam did OUR LOVE IS REAL and it’s called FANBOYS VS ZOMBIES. It just launched this month at the beginning of April, another dollar issue, full issue, 22 pages of story. It’s drawn by Jerry Gaylord. It’s a really simple concept, it’s fanboys vs. zombies. It’s the San Diego Comic Con, the zombie outbreak happens, and a group of fans are like “This is awesome, because we are completely prepared for this.”

BUG: Very cool.

RR: Yeah, so it’s a lot of fun. It’s a real light book. It’s real humorous and I don’t mean that in the “wocka wocka” way, I mean like really authentically funny and so that’s been a book that’s done really well for us and then I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention SUPURBIA, which has been a big hit for us, which is terrific. You know Grace Randolph who does the videocast on Bleeding Cool “Think About The Ink.” She created and wrote it and Russell Dautermann, who is actually one of the designers that did some work I think on the CAPTAIN AMERICA movie, is drawing it and did amazing stuff and you know the first issue sold out. We did a second print and the second print just sold out and now we’re in a third printing. So what we have decided is that after the final issue of the mini-series is done we are going to do it as an ongoing.

BUG: Very cool. Well I want to let you finish your pizza. I know you just got to the con, so…

RR: Let me hit HYPERNATURALS before I lose you.

BUG: Okay.

RR: So one last thing, we just announced Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning are doing cosmic superheroes at BOOM!

BUG: I saw that poster. So that’s what they are doing right now?

RR: Yeah, it’s called HYPERNATURALS. The core concept is in the future mankind exists in a federation of planets and a team protects them, which is a superhero team. Now the superhero team is kind of managed almost like an NFL team where there are young recruits who aren’t ready to go into service yet and then there are the guys that did their time and they are kind of retired and they might be a little banged up, they might be a little psychologically scarred from having defended the galaxy. So the current Hypernatural team vanishes and it turns out that some of the rookies who aren’t ready and some of the veterans who really don’t want to go back are going to have to step in to the fray.

BUG: Well I’m always excited to hear about the stuff that is coming out from BOOM! You guys seem to be doing so many different fun things and it seems like you’re having a lot of fun doing it, too.

RR: Thank you. We are trying, you know. We’re trying to have fun and hopefully that translates to the fans and they enjoy what they see and the other thing that we are doing this year that’s new is we’re doing these one dollar full first issues that are 22 pages long… We are doing it for FANBOYS VS ZOMBIES, HIGHER EARTH, and EXTERMINATION -- for HYPERNATURALS the first issue is our Free Comic Book Day entry, so it’s free; it’s not even a dollar. I know it’s an economic climate where everybody’s wallet is strained, but hopefully everybody will be able to have a chance to try it out.

BUG: Well thanks for thinking of all of us with tight wallets, too. (Laughs)

RR: Absolutely. I get it, man. I’m there with you.

BUG: Well thanks for your time, I appreciate it. Have a great con and enjoy your pizza.

RR: I appreciate it. Thanks, dude.

BUG: Find out more info on BOOM! Studios on their website here!

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in October 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released in March 2012.

Editing, compiling, imaging, coding, logos & cat-wrangling by Ambush Bug
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G

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