Comic publisher BOOM! Studios has the same intent it always had in making fun comic books for readers of all ages. But this year, they have begun being more vocal about their identity with a “We Are BOOM!” campaign that is slowly making its way across the comic con trail.
To discuss this new campaign, the publisher itself and what is behind a good BOOM! title, Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer talked exclusively with Filip Sablik, a comic book industry veteran and current Vice President of Publishing and Marketing for BOOM!
Cosmic Book News: Tell us all about the reasoning behind the "We Are BOOM!" campaign and why it is hitting conventions this year.
Filip Sablik: Some of it stemmed from conversations Founder Ross Richie, Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon and Managing Editor Bryce Carlson were having before I came on board last July. They had been discussing the core values of BOOM! and what made BOOM! unique in the comic space. At the same time, I've been in the industry for over 12 years now and I've known Ross and the BOOM! team since the company started in 2005. When Ross first started talking to me about joining the team, I quickly realized that my perception of the company was dated and frozen at an earlier iteration of BOOM! I still saw it as a small, indy start-up as opposed to an established Top 10 mainstay publisher. These two conversations converged and one of my big goals coming into BOOM! was to reposition the company in the industry and shine a light on all of the amazing accomplishments we'd achieved in the first seven years of the company's history. The convention circuit (BOOM! is doing 24 this year) seemed like a terrific venue to take this message to the fans, press and retailers.
CBN: How is this different from BOOM! panels at cons in the past?
Filip Sablik: In the past, BOOM! panels were probably very similar to other comic publishers' panels. The details vary from publisher to publisher, but in my experience, the format of a comic publisher panel is fairly uniform. The reps and creators get up on stage and walk through their new series, show off cover art, and make some announcements about projects that will be released three to four months from now. All and all it amounts to talking through a series of press releases with a Q&A session at the end. We wanted to re-architect how we did convention panels more in the vein of keynote addresses we admired. Rather than talk about what we are going to do in the future, we focused on who we are, why we do what we do, and what we've accomplished. At the core of it, it's about sharing what we believe with the audience. We think that if someone is in the audience and our beliefs resonate with them, they're likely to try one of our titles. Again, it's less a re-branding and more of a repositioning of the company.
CBN: Filip, you are a comic book industry vet. Tell us how you came to BOOM! and why.
Filip Sablik: Because Ross Richie is a relentless recruiter! On a more serious note, it's because I was inspired by what Ross, Matt and the entire team are trying to build with BOOM! It's a company with limitless ambition, but that under-promises and consistently over-delivers. It's a place where everyone comes in every morning excited to make awesome comics and is actively trying to build the comic company of the future now. It may sound naive or overly grand, but it's those lofty goals that fuel us every day. My first week at BOOM! I was at Comic-Con International in San Diego and I remember texting Ross (who was on the 2 Guns set) and telling him that his team inspired and humbled me with their dedication. I meant it.
CBN: How would you describe BOOM! as a comics company? What is different about the BOOM! product?
Filip Sablik: I could go on about this at length, but in the interest of keeping this interview to a length that someone might want to read ... BOOM! is defined by its accessibility, diversity and spirit of cooperation. That's what we strived to summarize with our 2013 marketing slogan, “We Are BOOM! Come Innovate With Us.” We want to make comics for EVERYONE, which informs all of our publishing decisions from the types of original projects we do, the licenses we take on, and especially our dedication to all-ages publishing. And we believe in cooperating and working together with our creators, our staff, our retail and distribution partners, and our fans. We can be sincerely unapologetic about every project we produce, because it's been carefully curated and executed with passion.
CBN: Tell us about some of BOOM's titles and what you are trying to do with these comics, both for creators and for fans.
Filip Sablik: Again, that's a really broad question, so I'll focus on a couple of examples. Recently, we released the first comic series Polarity by Max Bemis, frontman for the band Say Anything. We believe in Max's talent as a writer and Polarity was a fresh, compelling idea for a comic series. The goal was both to introduce the comic world to Max and also to bring the existing fans of his music into a world that Max is incredibly passionate about. It's about opening up a new door for fans to come into comics. On a completely different note, we recently announced we're bringing back Herobear and the Kid into print with creator Mike Kunkel. I've known Mike since the early 2000s when he launched a critically and commercially successful all-ages comic before there was any kind of space for those types of books in the direct market. It seemed crazy to us that someone wasn't working to help Mike make sure there were continuing Herobear and the Kid stories for new fans to read. This is an original direct market success that needs to continue and can introduce the next generation of readers to the magic of comic books.
CBN: Tell us about the relationship between publisher and creator and how that functions with BOOM!
Filip Sablik: We believe in a 50/50 partnership with our creators. That means when a creator brings a project to BOOM! we become equal partners in every aspect. This philosophy came from a suggestion from creator Keith Giffen in the earliest days of BOOM! Keith told Ross that he needed him to be an equal partner in everything they did so that he would be just as invested as Keith himself was in making sure the projects were successful. That thinking really resonated with Ross and that spirit of cooperation informs everything we do at BOOM!
CBN: Any new projects coming from BOOM! you are excited about?
Filip Sablik: I'm personally incredibly excited about our new original series launching in July: Day Men. It's a series created by our Editor-in-Chief Matt Gagnon and co-written by Matt and Michael Alan Nelson. Matt first told me about the idea on our drive back from Comic-Con in San Diego last year and I immediately thought the project would be perfect with an artist like Brian Stelfreeze. I'd worked with Brian at Top Cow and built up a great relationship, so I followed up with him at Baltimore Comic-Con and the spirit of BOOM! really spoke to Brian (along with the cool concept). It's a really swing at the plate bringing someone of Brian's caliber and pedigree to an original series like Day Men, but everyone here really believes in it. The core idea of the series is that even the children of the night need someone to watch over them during the day. Our main character is one of these "day men" who is newly assigned to his post and will, along with the reader, unravel the politically dense world of the vampires. It's an incredibly rich, elevated take on the vampire myth and I think readers are going to be blown away by the execution.
Cosmic Book News would like to thank Filip Sablik of BOOM! Studios for taking time out of a very busy schedule during convention season to answer our questions. We appreciate the assistance Filip and his staff give Managing Editor Byron Brewer in accessing the talents behind many BOOM! projects for interviews.