Originally appearing at comicbookresources.com on Saturday, April 26, 2014
By Alex V. Hernandez | Guest Contributor | @TheAVHernandez
BOOM! Studios discussed their dedication to creating original comics at their Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo panel Friday.
“One of the things that separates us as a publisher is our commitment and our passion for doing original projects,” said Matt Gagnon, editor-in-chief for BOOM! Studios. “I believe that is the best way for us to push our industry forward — by doing things that people haven’t seen before.”
Onstage with him were James Tynion IV and Paul Jenkins, two creators who said they were drawn to BOOM! because of the creative freedom the publisher afforded them.
“I’ve wanted to tell original stories my entire life,” said Tynion, who is currently co-writing “Batman Eternal” at DC Comics and working on the ongoing, creator-owned series “The Woods” with artist Michael Dialynas at BOOM!. “It feels like you guys have a very strong understanding of all the different audiences of comics.”
An example Tynion gave was the process he went through shopping around “The Woods.” He said a lot of publishers liked the idea of the story but turned him down because the series didn’t fit into an easily definable genre.
The premise for the “The Woods” is that a Midwestern American high school is mysteriously transported to a far off alien planet. The students and teachers have no idea where they are, how they got there or if they’ll ever find a way home. Because the teachers are too terrified to venture outside the school, the students take it upon themselves to venture out into the alien planet’s woods and see what’s out there.
Tynion said his series features adventure and horror elements mixed with overarching themes about growing up and entering the adult world from a teenager’s point of view.
“It’s a lot of things,” said Tynion. “All of the things I’m interested in as a writer in one, singular series.”
Gagnon said that the initial pitch and the depth of Tynion’s story is what led BOOM! to give “The Woods” an ongoing series.
And while Tynion said he knows where the story is going and where it ends, as he plays within the world he’s created, he’s come to a point where the story is talking to him and leading him in surprising new directions.
“It’s so enriching,” said Tynion. “I’m working on the second arc of the series now, staring with issue five, and there’s whole elements that I never even considered.”
He said a lot of this was thanks to his conversations with Dialynas. Tynion said he had a two-hour conversation with the artist that completely changed how the series would approach the wildlife on the planet.
“Michael [Dialynas] asks me all the right questions,” said Tynion.
Jenkins said the freedom to explore where a story takes its creator without editorial interference or pressures from the film industry is what drew him to BOOM!.
He said when BOOM! approached him to write “Deathmatch,” they pitched it to him as “The Hunger Games” for superheroes. Jenkins said he asked if he could make it something more than just characters killing each other off. He said both he and the publisher ended up using that series to test each other out.
“We started doing it, and the fans love it, and I found myself in a great place creatively,” said Jenkins.
He said the last time he felt this way was when he was working for Marvel Knights during the period when Marvel Comics filed for bankruptcy in 1996.
“It sounds horrible,” said Jenkins. “But what happened was they were struggling, and they turned to people like me.”
He said during that time the editors at Marvel gave him complete freedom with complete editorial respect, because they wanted to try something new with their characters.
“It was all about character and storytelling,” said Jenkins. “But at a certain point that model changed because Marvel and DC are very much geared to the film industry.”
He said it became harder to tell the stories he wanted to tell because of the increased focus on things like character crossovers and embargoes.
Jenkins said he realized while working on “Deathmatch” that BOOM! was a publisher that would let him tell the kinds of character-driven stories he enjoys creating.
“I realized that I’m home,” said Jenkins. “I hadn’t felt like this since the days of Marvel Knights.”
Gagnon said that the trust Jenkins is talking about comes from working with people who BOOM! editors connect with and believe in. He said “Lumberjanes,” written by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson with art by Brooke Allen, was a perfect example of these values.
Gagnon said BOOM! approached “Lumberjanes” co-creator Noelle Stevenson after reading her webcomic.
The series is a comic book about five friends who go to summer camp and get involved investigating weird paranormal monsters and surreal supernatural events. Gagnon said BOOM! Senior Editor Shannon Watters introduced him to Stevenson’s online comic “Nimona,” and this eventually led to BOOM! publishing “Lumberjanes.”
Gagnon said that the editors at BOOM! saw that there were people working on webcomics, but no one had asked them if they wanted to work on printed comic books.
“No one had come and asked them before,” said Gagnon. “That was the beginning of what was a very cool publishing strategy. As for how we find these people, a lot of the time it’s just reading their comics and responding to them.”
He said readers of BOOM! comics could expect to see a lot more of that coming up.
“There’s obviously a tremendous amount of talented webcomic [creators] that are out there doing stuff,” said Gagnon. “I don’t even think we’ve even scratched the surface of what we can do at this point.”