Los Angeles comics publisher Boom! Studios has been releasing info on their re-branded Boom! Kids imprint this and last week, and the big news is the March release of the first Peanuts original graphic novel Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown as the debut title of kaboom! (formerly teased as Boom! Kids 2.0). (Click on the image to the right for a preview, which immediately sold me on the previously unthinkable idea of buying something Peanuts-related that wasn’t directly written and illustrated by the late Charles Schulz.)
Not to be confused with the Mexican comic book studio ¡Ka-Boom! Estudio or the short-lived 1990s comic book series by Jeph Loeb and Jeff Matsuda called Kaboom or the Texas comic book store KABOOM Comics or the Virginia Beach comic book store Kaboom Collectibles or the Australian comic book store Kaboom! Comics, Boom’s kaboom! will also include Snarked! by Roger Langridge, who recently wrapped up an excellent run creating The Muppet Show Comic Book, as well as a licensed comic based on the PBS Kids animated series Word Girl, and a French Star Wars parody imported as Space Warped. The line will also retain their classic Disney comics Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Donald Duck and Friends, and Uncle Scrooge as well as the Disney Afternoon comics DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, and Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers. (Disney has decided to pull the comics based on Pixar movies such as The Incredibles, Cars and Toy Story in-house where Marvel Comics will publish Disney•Pixar Presents, a magazine currently slated to reprint the Boom!-produced stories.)
Boom! publisher Ross Richie spoke with Comic Book Resources about kaboom! and the Peanuts graphic novel, and I was struck by his explanation for why the re-named Boom! Kids. From that interview:
“We had theorized for a while that we need to change it up for two reasons: one, we were seeing adults apologizing at conventions for buying the kids’ comics for themselves, and we wanted to remove this barrier. Seeing women in their 20s at Emerald City Comicon say, ‘I know the Incredibles comic book is made for kids, but it looks awesome and I love the art and I’m buying it anyway’ — that ain’t right. Let’s remove the perceived barrier,” Richie explained.
“We also knew on the other end that kids that can buy with their own dollars — let’s say 8 year olds for instance — didn’t consider themselves kids, so they were not sparking to the name,” he continued. “A lot of our content is great for this age group, so let’s get rid of that barrier.
“And through the process, what we ended up seeing was that our organic desire as a publisher hewed more towards being ‘all ages’ than a strict ‘kids’ publisher. So why not reflect that? Why not show everyone that our focus is shifting and changing?
I think that realization and change is significant, and it’s smart of them to listen to this and act on it. Many of the strongest material for young readers is in fact enjoyable for a wider cross section of people. It’s why Pixar movies are so successful. It’s why many of the classic Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoons are so timeless. They don’t just speak to a narrow demographic. (As an aside, DC Comics has been publishing Looney Tunes comics for years.)
It kind of ties in with part of a new interview conducted by colorist Chris Sotomayor (Captain America, Hulk) with comics writer Kurt Busiek (JLA/Avengers, Astro City) (via The Beat). In talking about what’s lacking in the comics industry, Busiek said, “What we’re doing wrong is that we’re putting so much of our energy trying to make comics that will keep the existing audience on board, by concentrating the thrills, the hype and the excitement in ways that make the work forbidding to newcomers. And at the same time, not doing enough outreach to new audiences.” He goes on to break down how to bring in new audiences:
The four-part mantra of how to reach a new target audience remains true: 1. Publish material they will like. 2. Publish it in a form they’ll be willing to pick up. 3. Distribute it to places they will see it. 4. Tell them it exists.
When we reach out to new audiences, we often do only one of the four — and sometimes none, and then complain that it’s not possible.
Fortunately Boom! is doing it differently (and there are others too). They get that speaking to the same narrow audience is death in the long term. There’s nothing wrong with being a cult hit or making a product for a very specific audience, but when the majority of a publishing line is developed with that approach, there can only be finite interest.
Those four steps should be plastered on every comics publishers walls.
All the news that’s fit to shove through internet tubes. Here’s the world of comic books and graphic novels in LA and beyond over the last week or so, with some commentary:
= Rebranded Eagle Rock comic store Comics vs. Toys gets profiled on how it came into existence. Answer: From the ashes of two neighboring Eagle Rock comic stores Another World Comics and Mini-Melt Too. In a time when stores are closing and people in less populated areas are lucky if they have a store within a 3-hour drive, it’s amazing to think that two stores existed side by side for a year. I shopped at this store for maybe a year when it was still the Meltdown Comics satellite shop Mini-Melt Too, after Another World Comics had already closed, and really appreciated co-owner Ace Aguilera going out of his way to get me the comics I liked, which can skew off the beaten path at times. It’s one of those small but great stores that LA is lucky to have in abundance. Read it: Eagle Rock Patch
= And speaking of stores closing, the LA Weekly looks at the slow death of the Borders in Westwood. The Borders company will give severance pay, but hasn’t told the store employees their last day. Apparently it will be when the store has been picked clean at severely discounted prices. Read it: LA Weekly
= Two 24-year-old Los Angeles men, Farhad Lame and Navid Vatankhahan, each have to pay $750, complete 10 days of community service (picking up trash), and remain on probation for 3 years for selling fraudulent passes to this past summer’s Comic-Con International: San Diego comic book and pop culture convention. They pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in San Diego Superior Court. They had sold a pair of 2-day passes to 2 women for $120 each on Craigslist. The passes ended up being photocopies of exhibitor badges, so naturally the women weren’t allowed in. Both men were arrested on the last day of Comic-Con. Read it: Sign On San Diego
= For you creative types, comics lettering and calligraphy innovators Comicraft, based right here in Los Angeles, had their annual New Year’s Day Sale, and “secretly” extended it through the holiday weekend. Maybe it’s still happening when you visit. See it: ComicBookFonts.com
= Comics Alliance wrapped up their Digital December, a month long look at the state of digital comics with excellent interviews with nearly every major player and articles by David Brothers and Laura Hudson: Read the rest of this entry
You’d think that with their over $4 billion purchase of Marvel Entertainment a year ago this week, the Burbank-based Walt Disney Company would have brought things in-house for comics featuring Disney characters. Instead, Disney has licensed a small but highly acclaimed line of comics to Los Angeles comics publisher Boom! Studios over the last year plus. And with their Boom! Kids line, Boom! has helped resurrect the all-ages corner of the comic book industry, something that many feared was a lost cause. Not only is this good news for increasing variety, but it’s absolutely crucial in making sure that another generation doesn’t slip by without learning and internalizing the language of comics. Read the rest of this entry
Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?
Here’s some brand new stuff that came out the week of November 4 that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.
Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.
The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics is an unprecedented collection of the greatest comics for children, artfully compiled by two of the best-known creators in publishing and the field of comics–Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly.
This treasury created for young readers focuses on comic books, not strips, and contains humorous stories that range from a single-page to eight or even twenty-two pages, each complete and self-contained. The comics have been culled from the Golden Age of comic books, roughly the 1940s through the early 1960s, and feature the best examples of works by such renowned artists and writers as Carl Barks, John Stanley, Sheldon Mayer, Walt Kelly, Basil Wolverton, and George Carlson, among many, many others.
Organizing the book into five categories (Hey, Kids!; Funny Animals; Fantasyland; Story Time!; and Wacky & Weird), Spiegelman and Mouly use their expertise in the area of comics to frame each category with an introductory essay, and provide brief biographies of the artists. The TOON Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics is essential reading for kids of all ages.
Great for kids, and the supplemental essays and historical context should make this entertaining for parents, too. The artists mentioned in the blurb were masters and are still huge influences to modern comic and graphic artists. And it’s sturdy enough for repeated reading. The publisher link above includes a great preview that shows just how charming and delightful this stuff will be to experience. Lots of fun!
Donald Duck and Friends #347 – $2.99
By Fausto Vitaliano & Andrea Freccero
32 pages; published by Boom! Kids
The Quack is back in this first BOOM! Kids issue! He’s no double “o” seven, he’s Double Duck! Donald shows us his dashing, adventurous side as a secret agent on a mission to stop a dangerous ice-melting machine and save the world from rising oceans! This is a Donald Duck like you’ve never seen! A brand new start at a brand new company for one of the world’s most iconic characters and longest-lived, most-published comic book series!
Speaking of those influential artists, you can pretty much draw a direct line from Carl Barks to this new issue (translated from the original Italian edition). Another great comic for kids. Here’s a 5-page preview.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective Sherlock Holmes returns in all-new adventures! Sherlock finds himself involved in a mystery that has him fighting for his very life and Watson putting the pieces together to either save his friend or condemn him! Written by Leah Moore and John Reppion with reverence and a modern edge, artist Aaron Campbell completes the Victorian mood under the striking and iconic John Cassaday covers. Also contains bonus material such as script pages, annotations, a cover gallery, and a complete Sherlock Holmes short story by Arthur Conan Doyle with new illustrations.
I’ve been looking forward to this. It’s supposed to be a pretty faithful take on Sherlock Holmes. There’s a 10-page preview at the publisher link above.
One man’s heartfelt and irreverent record of his time on this rock, Zak Sally’s unflinchingly veracious book, Like a Dog, is both direct and oblique, which we find rather miraculous considering the messy and murky waters of human experience it manages to navigate. Like a Dog is among the few comic book testimonials burdened by the yen to understand and articulate the mundane and the magnificent. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing and crying as you claw your way through each hard fought page!
Of all of Sally’s creative pursuits (including a career in music spanning 15+ years), Like a Dog is the one he’s been working a lifetime toward. This hardcover book collects the best of his acclaimed short stories from the past 15 years, created in between band tours and recording sessions, published in his Eisner-nominated self-published seriesRecidivist (the first 2 issues of which are reprinted here in their entirety) and in publications like Mome, The Drama, Your Flesh, Dirty Stories, and more.
Like a Dog spotlights Sally’s uncanny ability to create emotional havoc out of claustrophobic images, situations and dialogue. Stories like “Don’t Move,” “The War Back Home,” and “Two Idiot Brothers” share little in common on the surface but are united by Sally’s forbidding style, creating a sense of dread that permeates almost every page.
Sally also turns his eye towards nonfiction in Like a Dog, including “At the Scaffold,” the story of the imprisonment and trial of Fyodor Dostoyevsky for allegedly subversive behavior, and “The Man Who Killed Wally Wood,” a story about Sally’s brush with a former publisher of the legendary comic artist (who, contrary to the title of this strip, took his own life after a long battle with alcoholism). It also includes two collaborations: “Dread,” written by NEA Fellowship recipient, Edgar Award finalist, and O. Henry Award winning author Brian Evenson (Altmann’s Tongue); and “River Deep, Mountain High,” co-created with fellow cartoonist Chris Cilla.
Like a Dog also includes extensive “liner notes” by the artist, previously unpublished material, an introduction by John Porcellino (King Cat), and other surprises.
I really loved Zak Sally’s Sammy The Mouse, so it sounds like I have a good reason to buy this. And so do you. To give you an idea of what’s in store, there’s a neat Flickr video of someone flipping through the book, which serves as a de facto preview of sorts, and there’s also a 10-page preview as a PDF file.
Stumptown #1 – $3.99
By Greg Rucka & Matthew Southworth
40 pages; published by Oni Press
Superstar writer Greg Rucka (WHITEOUT, DETECTIVE COMICS) embarks on his first creator-owned series since the Eisner Award-winning QUEEN & COUNTRY!
Dex is the proprietor of Stumptown Investigations, and a fairly talented P.I. Unfortunately, she’s less adept at throwing dice than solving cases. Her recent streak has left her beyond broke—she’s into the Confederated Tribes of the Wind Coast for 18 large. But maybe Dex’s luck is about to change. Sue-Lynne, head of the Wind Coast’s casino operation, will clear Dex’ debt if she can locate Sue-Lynne’s missing granddaughter. But is this job Dex’s way out of the hole or a shove down one much much deeper?
Burn – $9.99
By Camilla D’Errico & Scott Sanders
160 pages; published by Simon & Schuster’s Simon Pulse; available at Amazon.com
Burn was once human.
He also had a family and friends, until a metallic angel of death took everything from him. This mechanical monster, Shoftiel, was one of many living machines made to help humanity that revolted and declared war on their creators. It tore through Burn’s home and wreaked havoc on his city until the buildings collapsed, crashing down upon them.
Emerging from the rubble, Burn and Shoftiel discover their once separate bodies have become one — neither human nor machine, but a freak union of both. Internally their minds are caught in a raging battle for control. Just as mankind must struggle against the sentients for survival, Burn must find the strength to overcome Shoftiel’s genocidal programming to retain whatever’s left of his humanity.
Here’s a 5-page preview (you have to click through a bunch of “who cares” before you get to the actual story).