Jeff Matsuda

Boom! Kids expands to all-ages kaboom! with Peanuts

kaboom! launches with Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown

Los Angeles comics publisher Boom! Studios has been releasing info on their re-branded Boom! Kids imprint this and last week, and the big news is the March release of the first Peanuts original graphic novel Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown as the debut title of kaboom! (formerly teased as Boom! Kids 2.0). (Click on the image to the right for a preview, which immediately sold me on the previously unthinkable idea of buying something Peanuts-related that wasn’t directly written and illustrated by the late Charles Schulz.)

Not to be confused with the Mexican comic book studio ¡Ka-Boom! Estudio or the short-lived 1990s comic book series by Jeph Loeb and Jeff Matsuda called Kaboom or the Texas comic book store KABOOM Comics or the Virginia Beach comic book store Kaboom Collectibles or the Australian comic book store Kaboom! Comics, Boom’s kaboom! will also include Snarked! by Roger Langridge, who recently wrapped up an excellent run creating The Muppet Show Comic Book, as well as a licensed comic based on the PBS Kids animated series Word Girl, and a French Star Wars parody imported as Space Warped. The line will also retain their classic Disney comics Walt Disney’s Comics and Stories, Mickey Mouse and Friends, Donald Duck and Friends, and Uncle Scrooge as well as the Disney Afternoon comics DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, and Chip ‘n Dale’s Rescue Rangers. (Disney has decided to pull the comics based on Pixar movies such as The Incredibles, Cars and Toy Story in-house where Marvel Comics will publish Disney•Pixar Presents, a magazine currently slated to reprint the Boom!-produced stories.)

Boom! publisher Ross Richie spoke with Comic Book Resources about kaboom! and the Peanuts graphic novel, and I was struck by his explanation for why the re-named Boom! Kids. From that interview:

“We had theorized for a while that we need to change it up for two reasons: one, we were seeing adults apologizing at conventions for buying the kids’ comics for themselves, and we wanted to remove this barrier. Seeing women in their 20s at Emerald City Comicon say, ‘I know the Incredibles comic book is made for kids, but it looks awesome and I love the art and I’m buying it anyway’ — that ain’t right. Let’s remove the perceived barrier,” Richie explained.

“We also knew on the other end that kids that can buy with their own dollars — let’s say 8 year olds for instance — didn’t consider themselves kids, so they were not sparking to the name,” he continued. “A lot of our content is great for this age group, so let’s get rid of that barrier.

“And through the process, what we ended up seeing was that our organic desire as a publisher hewed more towards being ‘all ages’ than a strict ‘kids’ publisher. So why not reflect that? Why not show everyone that our focus is shifting and changing?

I think that realization and change is significant, and it’s smart of them to listen to this and act on it. Many of the strongest material for young readers is in fact enjoyable for a wider cross section of people. It’s why Pixar movies are so successful. It’s why many of the classic Warner Brothers/Looney Tunes cartoons are so timeless. They don’t just speak to a narrow demographic. (As an aside, DC Comics has been publishing Looney Tunes comics for years.)

It kind of ties in with part of a new interview conducted by colorist Chris Sotomayor (Captain America, Hulk) with comics writer Kurt Busiek (JLA/Avengers, Astro City) (via The Beat). In talking about what’s lacking in the comics industry, Busiek said, “What we’re doing wrong is that we’re putting so much of our energy trying to make comics that will keep the existing audience on board, by concentrating the thrills, the hype and the excitement in ways that make the work forbidding to newcomers. And at the same time, not doing enough outreach to new audiences.” He goes on to break down how to bring in new audiences:

The four-part mantra of how to reach a new target audience remains true: 1. Publish material they will like. 2. Publish it in a form they’ll be willing to pick up. 3. Distribute it to places they will see it. 4. Tell them it exists.

When we reach out to new audiences, we often do only one of the four — and sometimes none, and then complain that it’s not possible.

Fortunately Boom! is doing it differently (and there are others too). They get that speaking to the same narrow audience is death in the long term. There’s nothing wrong with being a cult hit or making a product for a very specific audience, but when the majority of a publishing line is developed with that approach, there can only be finite interest.

Those four steps should be plastered on every comics publishers walls.

New to Comics? New Comics For You! 7/29/09

[Yes, I’m a week behind. Comic-Con was crazy. Pretend you’re a time traveler. This week’s list coming soon.]

[Oh and the previous list’s late-shipping Citizen Rex #1 is now available. So go get it too!]

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff coming out this week that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

The Muppet Show Comic Book: The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson #1 – $2.99
By Roger Langridge
32 pages; published by Boom! Studios

Roger Langridge’s celebrated run on THE MUPPET SHOW comic book begins a new, zany arc! Scooter discovers old documents which reveal that a cache of treasure is hidden somewhere within the theater…and when Rizzo the Rat overhears this, the news spreads like wildfire! Meanwhile, Animal’s acting very strangely—he’s now refined and well-mannered!

Ah the Muppets! Without the voice-acting and puppetry, it’s hard to believe this is any good, but it’s gotten a lot of positive reactions. Should be good for kids of all ages! Here’s a preview for sampling purposes.

Northlanders, Book 2: The Cross + The Hammer – $14.99
By Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly
144 pages; published by DC Comics’ Vertigo; also available at Amazon.com

The second NORTHLANDERS collection, featuring issues #11-16, takes place during the tail end of Viking rule in Ireland. A series of mysterious murders and arsons against wealthy citizens leaves the Viking occupiers worried that a potential uprising might ignite. When surprising details involving the crimes are revealed, though, their jobs become much harder! Once again, writer Brian Wood teams with artist Ryan Kelly (Local) for an intriguing, gorgeously rendered peek at the inner workings of society.

If you haven’t read Northlanders Book 1: Sven The Returned, don’t worry about it. Each volume of this excellent series tells its own story largely unrelated to each other except that the stories are set in the Viking age. If you have even a passing knowledge of Vikings, you know enough. Great stuff but not for the kiddies. Those Vikings didn’t mess around. (And Sven The Returned is excellent.) (Oh and Brian Wood didn’t mind posing with Barbie at last year’s Comic-Con, so he has eternal cool points with me.)

Kaboom – $14.99
By Jeph Loeb & Jeff Matsuda
128 pages; published by Image Comics; also available at Amazon.com

COLLECTED FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!
The ground-breaking adventures of Geof Sunrise and his amazing transformation into inter-dimensional defender Kaboom! Witness the birth of an amazing new hero as he struggles against the forces of Scarlet! The Nine! And his first date! Can Geoff save the world and make it back in time for his own birthday party? Written by JEPH LOEB (Hulk, Ultimates 3) and illustrated by JEFF MATSUDA (X-Men, Batman Strikes!) KABOOM! introduces an amazing world of magic and monsters that has not been experienced before or since this series exploded onto the scene 10 years ago!

Collecting KABOOM 1-3, KABOOM PRELUDE and the KABOOM CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. Tons of character designs and sketches from the dynamic pencil of JEFF MATSUDA as well as a covers gallery with work from TIM SALE, ED McGUINNESS, ROB LIEFELD, ADAM POLLINA, and KERON GRANT!

Underhanded Plug Alert!: Jeph Loeb was interviewed in our documentary Dig Comics, which has just been accepted in the Vancouver International Film Festival!

Wow, that was sleazy. Who would do something like that?

Anyway, quite a few comic readers from the 1990s remember this comic fondly as a fun and adventurous comic with a dynamic art style. Here’s an interview about this collected edition. It includes a closer look at some of the artwork.

Road to Revolution! – $10.99
By Stan Mack & Susan Champlin
128 pages; published by Bloomsbury USA; also available at Amazon.com

You can’t make history without making a little trouble!

Nick is an orphan who gets by on his wits and whatever he can steal. Penny is the daughter of a tavern owner and knows the meaning of honest work. Though from completely different backgrounds and despite their instant dislike for each other they do have one thing in common: They both want the British out of Boston! When a chance encounter brings them together, Nick and Penny see a way to help the patriots. But first they’ll have to earn the trust of some of America’s great revolutionaries, including Paul Revere and Dr. Joseph Warren, and muster the courage to confront innumerable dangers.

Action packed, laced with humor, and visually dynamic for today’s readers, Road to Revolution! cleverly intertwines fact and fiction for an unprecedented view of American history.

This is probably the most interesting release of the week for me. This is the first in a series of books under the banner of The Cartoon Chronicles of America. This book has been getting good reviews. It’s a shame the publisher doesn’t have the book on their website, along with a peak inside the book. Fortunately the writer has a page up on his website at StanMack.com. It always astounds me when publishers go to the trouble and expense to publish something, but then make the creators do all the heavy-lifting of the marketing. To be fair, the publisher probably sent out the review copies, which helps. Anyway, that’s beside the point. This looks like a great book and I want a copy. Great for history buffs who don’t mind having some fiction weaved into the facts.