2013: Interviewing Ross Richie
"The Company Name's Not Whimper!"
Years ago, Ross Richie started a little company out of his apartment -- for the sake of the myth, let's make it a little apartment -- and boldly named it Boom! Studios.
They had one book -- and it was a good one. J.M. DeMatteis and Keith Giffen took their "bwaa ha ha" brand of comedy adventure writing which had made Justice League International one of the best books of the eighties, and applied it to Hero Squared. They told the tale of a young slacker and film-school dropout who comes face to face with an alternate universe version of himself -- one who had gained superpowers and become the Earth's greatest superhero, though still hiding tragic personality flaws. It was funny. It was moving. It was great.
And thus Boom! was born, expanding and attracting the attention of many with original books, licensed books (including the best Muppet titles you'll ever read, if you can now find them). Today, they're a varied line that features horror, superheroes, thrillers and a great kids line, Kaboom! that publishes my son's favorite book, Bravest Warriors, though everybody at Illusive Comics and Games has to argue that Adventure Time is as good. Hey, they're both Boom!
This year, Boom! turns the tables, not licensing from Hollywood, but instead launching into Hollywood with Universal Studios' adaptation of their graphic novel Two Guns. On the heels of that, just a couple of weeks before Comic-Con, Boom! Studios made public their purchase of Archaia Comics, themselves pretty well known for a quirky book called Mouse Guard.
And so on a Friday afternoon at Comic-Con, Boom! founder Ross Richie sat down with me to talk about the company past, the present and that ever brightening future...
Derek McCaw: I'm here with Ross Richie, Chief Executive Officer and... what DO you call yourself?
Ross Richie: Chief Executive Officer and Founder. Or as I like to say, it's my fault. (laughs)
Derek McCaw: That's good that you get to say that, and that you're willing to say that.
Ross Richie: Of course.
Derek McCaw: When we were first trying to nail down this interview time, it was just about your big movie, Two Guns, coming out.
But since then you've made another big move, so we've got a couple of things to talk about. Let's start with the big news of the last couple of weeks, which is the purchase of Archaia. What led to that move?
Ross Richie: I think Archaia was in a place where it had excellent content. They had had a really bad year -- these are all things we've talked about publicly -- and they were working really hard to right the ship. Put it back on track.
When we looked at the company, we thought, "this is a great way for us to grow." Because they don't do what we do.
What I like to talk about is, eight years ago, in my own spare bedroom of my apartment, I started this company with a computer and a phone. And what I figured out was that I had never published a comic book, I'd never edited a comic book. Now I'd worked for Malibu Comics and I was a marketing guy at Malibu.
Derek McCaw: I didn't realize you worked for Malibu!
Ross Richie: Absolutely!
Derek McCaw: That was my favorite imprint.
Ross Richie: Thank you! I wish I could claim anything, but I just sold it.
Derek McCaw: Those were great books.
Ross Richie: Thank you very much. I'd never edited, I'd never published, and so I focused on doing one comic book a month, which was Hero Squared, that I could be proud of and really really worked. And once I figured that out, how do I do two a month? And then how do I do three a month?
And now we're here, where we're doing over 25 books a month, and how do we continue this growth? One of the ways to continue, besides doing one more book a month, is to add another company. And with that other company, their material complements ours.
We're sort of a very mainstream positioned company. You look at Six Gun Gorilla, you look at Polarity, you look at Mike Carey's Suicide Risk or Clive Barker's Next Testament, none of those are Archaia books.
"All this great artistic material.."
And then you look at Archaia with A Tale of Sand, The Reason for Dragons, then there's Spera and Mouse Guard, of course...all this great artistic material, and it's a very different flavor. It doesn't cannibalize what we already have, but instead extends it to people that we haven't reached yet.
That's a part of it, to build out and grow. And my joke is, the name of the company isn't whimper. So we're not going to go be a boutique, that's focused on three or four comics a month. We're going to see how we can take over the world, because we're Boom!
It's what we do.
Derek McCaw: And it is. That makes sense. Yet we do hear rumors of companies circling each other. Disney owns Marvel, Warner owns DC, do publishers have to swallow each other up to survive?
Ross Richie: Oh, no. The market's up. Market's up great. The number I heard is twenty (percent in sales). I haven't looked at the web today. Everyone's doing fantastic. Everybody's having a great year, it's not just Boom! I mean, Boom's having a killer year, which is awesome.
Image is having a great year, Dark Horse is having a great year, IDW is just crushing it. All those guys are my buddies. Every time I see Eric Stephenson at a convention, I give him a fist bump and say you're just crushing it, because he is! He's doing an excellent job. Mike Richardson is a friend of mine, he's done a phenomenal job.
And that's what we need. In this space, we need talented people to do amazing things. I think in particular, when you're in independent comic book publishing, the moment a fan realizes that there's exciting stuff outside of Marvel and DC, and they open up to some stuff that isn't superheroes -- and I am a HUGE fan of superheroes, I have ninety long-boxes in my garage, just ask my wife --
"...there's exciting stuff outside of Marvel and DC.."
Derek McCaw: And you started with Hero Squared..
Ross Richie: Yeah! So at the core of it, I'm not bagging on superheroes, and I'm not on bagging on Marvel and DC. They're phenomenal places. I'm friends with Dan DiDio and I'm friends with Dan Buckley. They're great and they're awesome and they've always been kind to me.
But at the core of it, if Dark Horse is doing well and Image is doing well, and IDW and Dynamite, what it's doing is it's saying to the marketplace that there's other exciting places.
Derek McCaw: And I know you're old school, because the last time we met was when I handed you a book with a story I'd written from Monsterverse, and you knew Kerry Gammill...
Ross Richie: That's right!
Derek McCaw: You were the kid back in Texas running around at conventions... I feel like there's a whole bunch of people that came out of Texas and became comics guys, most of them West Coast, which is odd...
Ross Richie: Hey, Texas is the West, right? We're West at heart. We're not going to go back East. I love New York, it's cool, but we're Westerners.
The thing everybody forgets is that three of the biggest cities in the United States -- three of the top ten biggest cities -- are in Texas. There's Dallas, there's Houston, and there's San Antonio. According to the last census, San Antonio is bigger than Dallas. Everybody forgets. That's where I'm from; it's a really big city.
At the core of that, just on a population basis, you're going to generate a certain amount of people who are... I mean, it's just numbers! I mean it's our intense creativity that makes us awesome. I mean it's the water we drink in Texas. (laughs)
Derek McCaw: ...and some people say Texans are crazy...
Ross Richie: Oh, we ARE crazy. Is being crazy bad? Because that might not work out for me. I am really crazy.
Next Up in Part Two: Let's talk 2 Guns!