With several knockout series hitting the shelves including Kieron Gillen’s Once and Future, Si Spurrier’s Coda, and James Tynion IV’s Something is Killing the Children (as well as winning Best Continuing Series and Best Humor Publication at the Eisners with John Allison’s Giant Days), it’s an understatement to say that BOOM! Studios has had a banner year. Of course, that wasn’t enough though, because Friday at New York City Comic Con just went to show how many amazing things the publisher literally has in-store for those just discovering BOOM Studios, and excited fans looking for more.
The discussion was up by BOOM’s President, Publishing & Marketing Filip Sablik, alongside their Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon. Things kicked off with Sablik first letting the audience know a little bit about BOOM as a publisher; explaining that with the big, bold name comes big, bold ambition.
“Ross Richie — who founded BOOM! Studios — started this company in the spare bedroom of his apartment. Even though he started from somewhere so small, he dreamed of scaling it to the size of his dreams. From those humble beginnings we’ve been able to continue to stretch and grow.”
Sablik spoke further about the ambitions that Ritchie upheld: wanting to find a medium for comics where they could be easily shared among friends and new readers. Unlike movies, music, or novels, comics used to be very limited in their content; really only giving way to those whose interests were niche or centered around superheroes or romance. Sablik presents that that’s the reason BOOM! exists.
“We want to be the place where you can find comics to share with people the way you would movies, tv shows, songs, or novels.”
After his heartfelt introduction, it was time to introduce the panelists, including writers James Tynion IV, Gaby Dunn (Bury the Lede), Si Spurrier, Lev Grossman (The Magicians), and artist Royal Dunlap (B.B. Free). After everyone had settled in, Sablik handed over the mic to Gagnon, who put up the first sets of slides to talk about Tynion’s Something is Killing the Children; asking whether he knew when he began writing the book that he would have so much success with it.
“I had this title in my back pocket. I originally saw this with Erica Slaughter as a character who would be a part of one-shots where she’d come in, slaughter things, and leave,” replied Tynion. “By the time I wrote the first few scenes, I figured out that it wasn’t a one shot. It was when I was writing the third issue that this wasn’t even going to be just five issues. This is one of the first times where the story is dictating itself to me and I just let it. I fully expect that whenever I write a new issue it’ll pull me in a different direction. It’s unlike anything ever written.”
With Something Killing the Children being so directly focused on horror surrounding children, Gagnon asked Tynion about his ability to time the book and why he chose now to write the story.
“There’s a lot of things that are really scary and wrong in the world right now,” replied Tynion. “It’s something that I remember about how I felt as a kid and the way that the world felt wrong. Wrong in the ways that I could see, but the grown-ups couldn’t see. Thats the fantastic element. A child dealing with horrifying things that he knows he saw, but no one will understand. There’s a person who can face it and help him face it. That’s me taking Erica Slaughter — who is very much a comic character — and having her come into a story that’s more real and grounded. She’s unreal entering the real. Thats the power of it.”
Gagnon then put up the next set of slides and moved the panel’s attention to Dunn, who was ready for her chance to talk about her debut graphic novel Bury the Lede. Dunn was an especially interesting panelist; not only having gotten her start in prose, but also having experience as a journalist, investigative reporter, and tv script-writer.
“I always just say I’m a writer because being a writer you should be able to be in any medium. I just go okay, what is this? Is this a comic, movie, podcast…? Sometimes the same story will come to you and sometimes it’ll change or become something else,” said Dunn enthusiastically. “I love graphic novels but I thought I couldn’t do it if I couldn’t draw. Then I worked with [BOOM Studios] and it was like “oh wait someone else draws it!” It’s great to be able to tell this story in the visual medium. Artists are good at their thing and I’m good at my thing. It can’t exist without everyone’s brains doing things all together and that’s just so cool. I’m not a precious person about my work either, so I like being able to hand over my work and be like oh thats how your brain sees this. Let’s do it together.”
Gagnon then pushed for Dunn to talk about her career, which lead to the idea behind Bury the Lede.
“Oh! I worked as a crime reporter for The Boston Globe,” said Dunn. “Its this experience where you’re doing things you wouldn’t normally do. You’re waiting outside hospitals to talk to shooting victims. You’re going to people’s doors and talking to parents about their dead kids. It gets twisted. I wanted to write about that experience.”
Next to be in the spotlight was writer of Coda and The Dreaming, Si Spurrier, who was immediately questioned by Gagnon about what fever dream caused him to come up with the foul-mouthed mutant unicorn featured in Coda.
“Well…I mean, if Coda is Mad Max, then that makes the pentacorn the cool car,” remarked Spurrier, raising a laugh from the audience. “For reasons that are beyond me, one day I was thinking about how stupid unicorns are. They just wouldn’t work. The only plausible reason for a horse to have a stabby implement is to be like the thing that allows birds and lizards to cut their way out of an egg. I just thought it would be funny to make my hero ride one, honestly.”
After some hardy laughter from the audience, Gagnon introduced Dunlap — who had apparently just graduated from college recently.
“I went Columbus College of Art and Design and I majored in illustration. They were growing their comics program but they had comics classes offered. I had the pleasure of working with Amy Chu and G. Willow Wilson.”
Last to have his proper introduction was acclaimed best-selling author of The Magicians, Lev Grossman, who was animated when talking about his fanbase shifting from prose to comics; saying that it drags people over from the literary side with a gateway drug-like quality.
“How’s your beautiful literary sensibility now?!” Grossman joked.
After each creator had their moment to speak about their book, Gagnon took things in a new direction by bombastically announcing the new series coming in February 2020 — Alienated — written by Si Spurrier and illustrated by Chris Wildgoose. As a surprise, Wildgoose — who had been secretly sitting in the audience — was invited on stage to join the panel.
When asked about Alienated, Spurrier mentioned that this was new territory for him; that writing within the real world was something entirely different.
“I just wondered…what if E.T. hadn’t been found by a good two shoes kid? What if instead, E.T. was found by a trio of troubled teens? What if E.T. wasn’t a little brown turd guy but a slathering, ineffable God-entity? It’s the story of three outcasts who find an alien God and use it murder a bully, essentially.”
“It’s less dark, weirdly enough,” added Wildgoose. “I’m going very colorful this time around. We threw a lot of color into the characters for a change.”
While the audience was still reeling from the excitement and the panel was coming to an end, a massive boom of music came over the speakers and Gagnon began to play a video up on the screen.
The video turned out to be WWE star trio The New Day — comprised of Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods — announcing their breakout graphic novel, WWE: The New Day, to be written by Rise of the Black Panther author and pop culture critic Evan Narcisse, Austin Walker, and illustrated by Daniel Bayliss. As an added surprise, Walker had also been hiding out in the audience and was invited to the stage to talk about the book.
“There should be a comic for everyone…and that includes wrestling fans,” said Bayliss. “There’s lots of genres and lots of stories to tell. [The New Day] are a hilarious, smart, and fun group of guys. [WWE: The New Day] will connect with a lot of people. They couldn’t have been those people 20 years ago in the world of pro wrestling. They would’ve been asked to dumb it down; so instead they rejected that idea and spent the past five years gaining a massive audience by being big dorks and great performers and doing cool stuff along with a deep and well-felt sense of who they were as people.”
The panel ended with bandanas being handed out to everyone in the audience with Erica Slaughter’s smile from Something is Killing the Children on them. Gagnon and Sablik encouraged everyone in the audience to don their new swag and take a picture.
And what a picture it was!