Filip Sablik, President of Publishing and Marketing at Boom! Studios, took the stage to introduce to the Boom! Studios: Discover Yours panel. He first outlined Boom!’s mission statement and explained the four imprints at the publisher, Boom! Studios, Archaia, Boom! Box, and Kaboom! It’s clear that they’re putting their money where their mouth is with a comic for everyone.
The panelists took the stage including Greg Pak (Mech Cadet Yu, Firefly), Delilah S. Dawson (Sparrowhawk, Ladycastle), Claudio Sanchez (Amory Wars: Good Apollo), Lev Grossman (The Magicians), Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps, Just Beyond: The Scare School), and Matt Gagnon, Editor-in-Chief at Boom! Studios.
Gagnon took over moderating duties at this point and jumped right into comics. He asked the panelists what they were interested in buying at the convention. Stine said he won’t be spending a dime. He joked that doesn’t come to conventions to buy stuff, but to talk about himself.
First up was Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, the first original graphic novel from this series. Gagnon asked Sturges what her first merit badge would be. She said that she wouldn’t get any because she’s horrible at outdoor activities, but she would like to give them out, specifically a “Smash the Patriarchy!” badge.
Sablik asked the same question of the audience. A young woman said she would get a badge for knitting and was rewarded with the first ever public copy of Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass. We were then treated to the first look at internal pages. Sturges said that because it’s a 100 page graphic novel, they can get deeper into the characters and their feelings which they can’t always do in the single issues.
The discussion turned to The Magicians as Boom! will be publishing the first original graphic novel spinning out of the series, focusing on Alice’s story. Gagnon asked Grossman about why he wanted to bring his creation to comics. Grossman said that he was picturing comic pages when he was working on The Magicians so this was a natural evolution. He cited Watchmen, Miracle Man, and Dr. Strange as influences. Internal pages were shown for the first time.
Sanchez was up next and he was a bit nervous as he also had an album drop this week with his band, Coheed & Cambria. The comic, Amory Wars, extends the experience from the music. A music fan who was unfamiliar with the comics was treated to the first two hardcovers of the series.
Sanchez came up with the idea before the band was even formed. It became a way for him to tell his stories without him giving too much of himself away. When he started working on Amory Wars, he was cleaning fish tanks in a pet store. That’s where he got the color for the comic. The villain of the story is based on someone he worked with there.
Next up the panelists talked about Just Beyond, the new graphic novel series from R.L. Stine. The writer joked that we love terrified kids. An entire generation grew up reading Goosebumps books. Stine revealed that he just signed on to write six more novels in that franchise. Gagnon asked why he loves scaring people. Stine said “It’s a living.”
Regarding Just Beyond, Stine said that it came about because he was looking for a more visual Goosebumps. He was always asked why he didn’t have pictures in his novels. When he was growing up, he would read old EC Comics and Tales from the Crypt, but he wasn’t able to buy them as a kid because his mother thought they were trash. There was a stash at the local barber shop so he went to get his haircut every Saturday to read the comics.
Some internal pages were shown for Just Beyond as well. A young fan asked Stine what his favorite Goosebumps book was. He said it was The Haunted Mask, which is a personal favorite of mine too. I think that was the first one I read. Stine said this was the only Goosebumps book that was based on something from real life. His son Matt got a mask stuck on his head. The young girl’s favorite was Night of the Living Dummy.
Sparrowhawk was up next, described as “teen Victorian fairy fight club.” Dawson said her MO is violent women in dark worlds, but there’s always some whimsy in there. In 2011, she read Savage Beauty and tried to come up with a young adult novel. After getting 40 pages in, she gave up because it needed to be a visual story.
Dawson described the artwork as “Mike Mignola through a fairy world.” The panel talked about the great feeling of receiving new artwork as a writer or an editor. Sturges said that the bad thing is when you go from writing comics for a bit back to prose and realize you have to describe all this stuff again.
Pak was up next with Firefly which was met with a big round of applause. There were lots of Browncoats in attendance. Gagnon said that when they were looking for a writer for this project, they wanted to make sure they found someone that could add to the world. Pak joked that when he first received the offer to write Firefly, he thought maybe he shouldn’t do this because he hadn’t watched the show. He’d seen the movie, but not the TV show.
The ultimate driving force in the project came from editor Jeanine Schaffer. Pak said that they had previously worked together on Xtreme X-Men and things just clicked. After she encouraged him to watch the pilot, he got sucked in and watched the full series. It was right up his alley. Pak said he grew up in Texas in the ’70s waiting for the next Star Wars movies and he’s Asian-American, so there’s a lot there that resonated with him.
Gagnon asked the panelists about collaboration as some of them are somewhat new to the comics world. Sturges said there was rarely any pushback. Sablik teased the crowd with the first chapter of The Magicians: Alice’s Story and several folks leaped up in excitement. It turns out he had more than just that one. Everyone in attendance received a copy.
A fan asked the panel what was the first comic they read. Sanchez said the first one that touched him was part 4 of Death in the Family from Batman, but the first one he read was Arkham Asylum. Another fan asked if the panel had any tips for making comics. Sturges said “Don’t do it. Get a real job.” Pak said to start small and keep your dreams in focus. Make a 2-4 page comic and build up.
Another fan suggested that Pak should watch Cowboy Bebop as it should be right up his alley. Pak said he didn’t want to get it in his head while he was writing Firefly, but it’s on the list.
Someone asked how to get your idea going with the first page. Grossman said he writes something terrible first to get it out of the way. Stine doesn’t write the first page first. He does a complete outline chapter by chapter, then dives in. That way he knows everything that’s going to happen in the book. Sturges said she likes to tell herself the story, starting as one page first, then make it longer and longer. Dawson looks for the moment that changes everything, like Luke Skywalker finding R2D2, then rewinding to find what happened before it.
Gagnon announced a Firefly letter column in the back of every issue that will be named by a reader. This was inspired by the great titles from the episodes of the TV show.
Sablik, who had been walking around the crowd calling on audience members with a wireless mic, asked Gagnon if they could reveal any new details of the new Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic. It will be written by Jordie Bellaire and illustrated by Dan Mora. Some new covers were shown and it’s clear the publisher is very excited about this.