NEW LINE OF COMIC BOOKS
Last year, when Boom! Studios announced it would be delving into the world of children's comics books, the announcement seemed a little hollow because no titles were announced.
It's not hollow anymore.
Boom! Studios has announced a deal (see full press release below) with Disney that will allow the publisher to create comic books based on the Disney/Pixar and Muppets properties. Planning to roll out the first wave of comics in 2009, Boom!'s agreement with Disney gives the company the rights to comic books and graphic novels based on movies like Toy Story, The Incredibles, and this summer's Disney/Pixar theater release Wall-E.
While few creative names have been attached to the new titles, Boom! Editor-in-Chief Mark Waid will be writing the initial four-issue story arc about The Incredibles, with Darwyn Cooke as a cover artist. The launch of the Disney/Pixar titles is planned to include The Incredibles, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Cars and Toy Story, with the first Muppets title concentrating on characters and the format of The Muppet Show. New editor Paul Morrissey will oversee the new line (loof for an interview with him later today).
Newsarama talked to Waid about the announcement and his new Incredibles comic. And as we talked about the problems and opportunities inherent in launching a kids line, the creator discussed distribution, format and whether there's a market for comics for kids.
Newsarama: Mark, what can you tell us about how this deal came together?
Mark Waid: It's been in development for a couple of years. Of course, the writers strike put a spike in everything for everyone for awhile across all media. But everything is back on track and we were able to make this work.
NRAMA: What is the deal exactly?
MW: The deal we put together with Disney is Pixar and Muppets. The Pixar end of it gives us reign over creating new properties and new material based on the Pixar movies. So I think our six launches are Incredibles, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Cars, Wall-E, and Finding Nemo.
NRAMA: What are the goals for this line of comics? Is this something you hope brings kids into comic shops, or are you looking at other ways to distribute these new titles?
MW: We're not fooling ourselves. We know that, while it would be wonderful to sell these by the carload in direct market comic shops across the nation, that is unlikely. We would love for them to order enough to choke a horse. We'd love for them to order enough for every child who comes within five miles of a comic shop, but that's not reality. Reality is, can we team up with world's most trusted name in family entertainment to push these books into big box retailers, into bookstores, into outside distribution as well as comic shops.
NRAMA: And so far, you're the only guy attached to one of these titles, right? You're writing The Incredibles?
MW: I'll be writing The Incredibles, which doesn't seem like much of a stretch for a guy who's written Fantastic Four. When the properties came available, that's the one I seized on immediately. I sort of jumped on that like a junkyard dog and made everyone else get away from it.
NRAMA: Just admit it. You're a superhero guy.
MW: Ah, you caught me. I can't take my toes completely out of the superhero pool. So yeah, this gives me a chance to work out my superhero jones. And also, it's comedy! I love writing comedy. We've got some great ideas that have been approved by the Pixar organization and Disney. Obviously, they're faithful to the Incredibles property, but they're giving us a little bit of latitude as far as storytelling.
They understand that we're trying to produce good stories. We're not just trying to do coloring books. We're not just trying to do pin-ups.
We're not limited by strictly what's in the movie. We can hopefully introduce a few new characters and a few new villains and play it out from there.
NRAMA: Will this take place after the Incredibles movie then?
MW: Yeah. So I have to figure out a way to use that damn baby!
[laughs] But yes, if there was an Incredibles 2, then I suppose this would be Incredibles 1.5, essentially.
NRAMA: When you're writing for kids, do you have to specifically keep kids in mind, or are you just thinking all ages?
MW: I'm thinking all ages. I mean, I could be wrong and could be preparing myself for a giant smackdown by a big Mickey Mouse-gloved hand, but kids don't want you to write down to them, and I don't think there was anything in the Incredibles movie that felt like it was written for kids. That was written for all ages. I don't find it to be that hard. I've been reading enough superhero comics over the ages that I tend to slip into that voice pretty easily.
NRAMA: Is the art in the Pixar comics going to be more 3-D, since the movies are?
MW: No, actually, Pixar asked for it to be a little more traditional comics line work, and I think that's a show of faith. They understand that comics storytelling is different than film storytelling. They're saying to us, we understand that comics is a different medium. We need to do whatever we can do to make it visually look like the characters in terms of the likenesses and the colors and the pallet and all that stuff, but in terms of the actual 3-D model rendering, they specifically asked for us not to do that because they want us to do our own thing.
NRAMA: What is the planned format for this initial release for kids?
MW: The plan is, like much of the Boom! publishing plan, is to roll things out in a four-issue mini-series that will be collected in a trade paperback. Our new editor Paul Morrissey can speak more to what we're doing with those. To immediately launch as a digest could conceivably do wonders for our overall distribution, but it cheats the comics retailers who have a hard time selling that kind of material.
So I think the debut of this material being in traditional comic book form is because we still want to be our comic book retailers' friend.
But what we do with that material beyond, we're still trying to hammer down. It will be in trade paperback form, but the format hasn't been determined.
NRAMA: Does this deal include future Pixar properties?
MW: As near as I can tell from the labyrinth and 1,000-page contract, it allows for that possibility. But nobody's counting their chickens before they hatch. Let's see what we can do before we make plans for the little bunny that opens up Wall-E and stuff, although I would write that comic in heartbeat too. I don't think I've laughed that hard in 10 years, probably. But the plan is to do the first six and see how that goes.
NRAMA: Now how does the Muppet part of this deal work?
MW: The Muppets will have its own feel to it separate from the Pixar line, but it's part of the Disney deal. We'll be doing a book called The Muppet Show and beyond that, we'll probably do something along the line of what they're doing with the movies where the Muppets will be part of an established story or setting.
But our ace in the hole with the Muppets stuff is Roger Langridge.
He's so good. He just loves the Muppets. He did some of those Marvel comics last year, and he's been doing his own British comedy stuff for years. But he just loves the Muppets, and he was doing the Disney Adventures stuff. So we're excited to have him on board.
NRAMA: Are there any other artists you can tell us about?
MW: We have several people in mind, but it's all under consideration right now and we don't have anything else to announce. Again, Paul is the one working more directly with the creators.
NRAMA: But we know you're writing Incredibles. So Paul works for you in an editorial capacity, but as your editor, he's also kind of your boss, isn't he?
MW: I know! It's awesome! I love to watch his head short out as he tries to tell me what to do. It's awesome! But Paul was a find. He's one of the Tokyopop layoffs who came highly recommended to us by everyone I know who's connected with the Tokyopop group. And so far, he's been great. He's got a great eye for art. He's got a good eye for story. And most important, he's got a great Rolodex for names we now have access to, so that only helps boost our talent pool.
NRAMA: Pixar announced a kids line last year in San Diego. Do you see this Disney/Pixar launch as part of a bigger initiative for you guys to do more kids comics? Is the idea to start with Disney and make the distribution deals, then roll out other comics?
MW: That's absolutely it. This is the cornerstone foundation of essentially a kids line of books. That's the goal. Why not start with some of the most proven kids properties in the world? Clearly, the market desperately needs something like this. And when I say market, I don't necessarily mean comic shops. They don't seem to have much success selling to their fan base stuff that is targeted to kids. As much as they're trying, they don't seem to be having a lot of success.
But children's publishing is still a giant, burgeoning part of the publishing picture in terms of bookstores and in terms of outside media. And not many people are doing this. Not many people are doing graphic novels for children.
NRAMA: Yeah, talk to Jeff Smith about whether there's a children's market.
MW: [laughs] Exactly! You know! And all of the sudden, I can't even see Jeff 'cause the pile of money he's sitting on is so high. If I can send messengers up to facilitate communication, I'd love to talk to him some more about this. But we're all in agreement that the children's market is a market worth tapping into. That sounds opportunistic, and I don't mean this is all so we can make a million dollars. I mean that, because we all love children and the idea of books and comics in the hands of children, it's really a very passionate goal of ours.
NRAMA: With the internet and electronic entertainment becoming more central to what kids are doing these days, can comic books be enticing enough for kids? We hear people say all the time that video games and DVDs are tough competition.
MW: I'm not sure that five or 10 or 15 years from now that traditional format comics will be read by anybody. I would like to think so. But clearly electronic distribution is advancing faster than we ever could have dreamed it would. And the acceptance of that delivery format is great. On a nostalgic level, it makes me kind of sad. But I'm 46 years old! What do I know? I'm more interested in what the new audience wants. When comics were first introduced in this format, it was because they looked at the existing distribution. And at that time, what existed was newsstand distribution. And they did something that physically fit in with that distribution process. But that distribution process is completely different now. There are no newsstands! Newsstands don't exist! That's not a distribution system.
But I do think the material — words and pictures together in an entertaining format, regardless of the form in which its deliver — I think that is a proven format that kids will still be interested in.
The other truism I come back to is, forgetting the physical format for a second, every time I hear someone argue that kids can't read comics because they have to compete with video games and cable television, I just bang my head against the wall because in 1945, you know what comics had to compete with? Kids going outside! And riding their bicycles and playing stick ball. There's always been stuff for comics to compete with, for Christ's sake. You suck it up, you don't whine about what we have to compete with. You just make it as entertaining as you can. If you build it, they will come.
Following on the heels of THE INCREDIBLES comic book release, BOOM! will be publishing all new stories featuring favorite Pixar characters from TOY STORY, CARS, FINDING NEMO and MONSTERS INC. New stories featuring this summer's blockbuster hit WALL-E will follow shortly thereafter.
"It's nothing short of an honor to work with Disney Publishing Worldwide and Pixar for this project," said BOOM! Studios co-founder Ross Richie. "We found kindred spirits in the creative counterparts we have at both companies, and have just really had a fantastic time finding the right writer and artist combinations to do the source material justice. I think young and old alike are going to love these books!"
BOOM! Studios (http://www.boom-studios.com) is a unique new publishing house specializing in high-profile projects across a wide variety of different genres from some of the industry's biggest talents. In its inaugural year, Wizard Magazine named BOOM! "Best New Publisher." Founded by the creator of the TV show EUREKA, Andrew Cosby, and his partner Ross Richie, BOOM! Studios continues to be on the leading edge of comic and graphic novel publishing.