By Ricardo Serrano Denis
Friday’s BOOM! Studios panel carried with it a message that many seem to forget when talking about comics. “Comics are for everyone, so we make comics for everyone.” As far as mottos go, BOOM’s can’t be beat. It faithfully reflects the publisher’s vision and the reasoning behind their creative decisions, which were in full display in the panel. This ties into the publisher’s imprints, Kaboom! (kids-oriented), Boombox! (YA), Archaia (high concept stories aimed at girls and fans of the indie scene), and BOOM (think pieces tailored for adults). The imprints take the publisher’s motto and treats it as a kind of company-wide narrative that speaks to inclusiveness and diversity as a statement rather than a business model.
The panel was moderated by BOOM’s editor-in-chief, Matt Gagnon, in conversation with Greg Pak (Mech Cadet Yu), Delilah S. Dawson (Ladycastle), Claudio Sánchez (Armory Wars), Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes), and horror fiction legend R.L. Stine (Goosebumps).
First up was Lilah Sturges, discussing her new Lumberjanes graphic novel, titled The Infernal Compass. Other than admitting that she’d be bad at getting merit badges because she’s bad at outdoors stuff, Sturges expressed falling in love with the cast of characters she’s writing given their powerful sense of strength and identity. She recognized how amazing the work environment was given the initial fears one brings when working with characters so loved by both their creators and the community.
Sturges, did say that she would win a merit badge for “smashing the patriarchy,” which was met with an agreeing roar from the audience. Lumberjanes seems to be in good hands and will be expanding upon its metaphors and power representations of identities across all spectrums,
Gagnon then brought up The Magicians’s creator Lev Grossman to talk about his journey into comics and the shift in creative perspectives it presents when moving from prose writing to comic book writing. Grossman immediately reminded the audience that he’s always been a big fan of comics, especially Watchmen, Miracleman, and Dr. Strange. When talking about Dr. Strange, Grossman made the obvious link between the character’s treatment of the mystic arts and how it got him to appreciate the world, myth, and story of magic for his The Magicians books.
The Magician’s comic, which is written in collaboration with Sturges, will be focusing on Alice, a character that many consider to be the series’ unsung heroine. The BOOM series will be titled Alice’s Story and will follow Alice’s earliest days as Brakebills student, revisiting memories readers already know about but from a different perspective.
Claudio Sánchez’s Armory Wars was discussed as the new CD release digs into the lore of Coheed and Cambria and how the band’s music weaves myth into the comic’s world-building structure. The band’s records express a degree of imagination that make music and comics reading a singular but mystifying experience that enrichens the whole package.
Sánchez commented on how a trip to Paris influenced the story and the characters’ personalities. Accoreding to the writer, it was an experience wrought in fears and dealings with shyness. Admitting he isn’t very sociable in public, Armory Wars was designed to work through these topics in a way that pit introspection with massive universe-spanning conflicts.
R.L. Stine took the stage to announce his new horror comic Just Beyond: The Scare School, a story that continues Stine’s tradition of scaring younger readers. “We just love scaring kids,” said Stine while presenting the book.
Just Beyond is an original graphic novel that sees three students from Scare Middle School stepping into places just beyond reality, hence the title. It deals in moving out of the real to get a glimpse at some truly terrifying things, all while being pursued by a cyborg creature called Drogg. The story promises to explore the horrors of middle school and the things that hide in empty hallways and hidden rooms, especially if you don’t carry a hall pass.
Delilah S. Dawson’s presented herself as Labyrinth girl and a fan of violent, dangerous women in dark worlds. She will be releasing Sparrowhawk for BOOM, a story of a girl of mixed race, and mixed worlds, called Artemesia that struggles to find her place in the high-style lifestyle that forced on her in Victorian London. And then comes the Faerie Queen that pulls her into another realm, a deadlier realm than Victorian England, which has the destruction of the world Art comes from. Art must decide whether the save the world that has shown her nothing but hate.
Dawson mentioned the book started as a YA prose book that quickly communicated the need for images. Keeping her “dangerous women” comment in mind, we can expect Sparrowhawk to be a strong voice for female characters that face equally insurmountable challenges in all walks of life, whether their fantastical or not.
Finally, Greg Pak was announced as the new voice of Firefly, an announcement that came with the approval of the crowd. The license needs little introduction as it keeps growing with the comics community due to the unfairly short-lived Fox series. Pak seemed excited to step into a world created by Joss Whedon in that it allows to let loose with witty banter and comedy while also crafting an action-packed sci-fi Western.
Pak mentioned he has hesitant to take the job, initially. But his love of Westerns and the Asian elements that are such a big part of the Firefly world (Pak is Asian-American) convinced him it was a story he needed to write. “It’s just a fun comic to write,” said Pak, which says a lot about what to expect.
The panel closed with the big reveal for Buffy’s new creative team. Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora will officially bring Buffy the Vampire Slayer to BOOM, after Dark Horse lost the license. Bellaire surprised the comics world with her supernatural horror book, Redlands. The book follows a group of witches that are forced to confront predatory patriarchy and male violence bred out of fear. These witches look to put the fear back into the hearts of those who dare keep women in a state of subjugation and ignorant conservatism.
Bellaire’s horror comic signals a possible sharing of politics between Redlands and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it makes her the ideal candidate for this new phase in Buffy history.
BOOM seems to be making it clear that they want push imagination, creativity, and inclusiveness as a statement of cultural responsibility. It’s a call to arms directed at the industry to value the potential of imagination as a vehicle that can bring in even more comics readers than ever before into the medium we so love.