Comics / Spotlight

Boom Studio, IDW Publishing, Radical Comics – The New Triumvirate


By Hervé St-Louis
July 29, 2008 - 21:07

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For people going to the San Diego Comic-Con every year, it must be a marvellous experience to witness up and coming companies, only to see them fall off the radar a few years later. I haven’t participated in this train spotting activity yet, as I’ve got too few Comic-Cons under my belt. However, if I compare last year’s show to this year, the absence of manga publisher Tokyopop is telling. Last year, however, Boom Studios, IDW Publishing and Radical Publishing were all at the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con.

What has changed in 2008 is that unlike last year, as a press representative, I didn’t dare go to Boom Studios or Radical Publishing’s booths.  Last year, I met the guys at Radical Publishing and they were quite nice. Ditto for Boom Comics. This year, I only went to IDW Publishing’s booth and I didn’t feel welcomed, so I went elsewhere.

It’s strange that many of these conventions were created to help people put a face on creators, and make them more approachable. Yet, in some instances, the very opposite effect is created. it may be my latent comic book reader inferiority complex, but after hearing about the announcements from Boom Studios, I felt like they probably didn’t care about whether I covered them or not.

Last year, I spent 20 minutes at Radical Publishing’s booth. This year, I didn’t recognize anyone from last year. And again, after hearing about the big movie announcement, I felt like somehow, they’d rather have Entertainment Weekly at their booth asking questions rather than that guy from the Comic Book Bin.

Each of what I call the New Triumvirate has perfected their business model. For some, it’s a mix of licenses and original projects. All three publishers share high production values, a definite competitive streak and lots of comic book to movie deals on the way.

Again, call it my latent comic book reader inferiority complex, but I’m not interested in publishers whose exit strategy is a movie deal from one of their comic books. I cared about the Keith Giffen and J.M. Dematteis funny super hero comic books published by Boom Studios. I like Hero Square. However, I don’t like being the test bed of a marketing agent who wants to know if the comic book I bought might be an easy sell as Hollywood’s next blockbuster.

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One of our editors, Andy Doan, has been raving about Radical Publishing’s Hercules series. He got me interested too. But hearing about their movie deal just pull out all interests I might have had for that series. It’s not that I want Radical Comics to fail or not let as much people as possible know about their comic books. Well maybe that is the problem. A movie based on Radical Publishing’s Hercules won’t let people know about the comic book.  They will only care for what they see at the local multiplex theatre.

IDW Publishing licenses G.I. Joe and the Transformers, properties I care about.  Yet, I don’t like the Transformers series they’ve published.

On the human side, going to IDW Publishing’s booth left me with a bad experience. There were about ten people behind their booth, but few of them cared at all about the people passing by. They merely chatted with each other and one had to wave for them to pay attention.

I’ve been behind the booth at tradeshows. My booth was crowded and had more visitors than my neighbour, which had rented the services of three very alluring women dressed in formfitting silver-coloured costumes to attract guys. Why was my booth so crowded? Well, I didn’t ignore my goal. Let as many people as possible know about my company, its products and services. As soon as someone walked by, I would approach them and invite them to come over. Because they would, there were always other people wondering what the buzz was around my booth. More people showed up.  For two days, lasting ten hours each, I met as many people as I could, shook hands and rarely left the stand. Sure, I had some other people helping me, but I did not chat with them. I let them handle the people I could not. I focused on my visitors who had paid good money to see companies like mine. I reached out to any one remotely moving next to my stand.

Many people commented on my dynamism and of course, it lead me to far more deals and opportunities than if I had pulled back and chatted with my associates instead of noticing people passing by.

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When I went to IDW Publishing’s booth, I asked to speak to their marketing/public relations representative. After a few questions, he decided that he wasn’t capable of answering my questions about the company. He passed me on to an editor. As I was about to start asking the editor some questions, he too decided that he wasn’t the right person for me to speak with and showed me some other guy who was busy talking with other visitors. Instead of bringing me to him and introducing me to this other editor, he just said, go talk to him when he’s done and left. Wow, thanks!

By contrast, the booth of publishers, like DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics the marketing / public relations staff met me quickly and stayed with me until I had asked them all my questions. They also made sure they their staff were available should I want to meet some of their creators and editors.

For my part, I have work to do with my latent comic book reader inferiority complex. Just because Boom Studios, IDW Publishing and Radical Publishing sign movie deals, it doesn’t mean that they are not comic book publishers whose job is to make sure I enjoy their products. Feeling like they somehow betray some kind of secret comic book publishing ethics is weird. They are businesses whose other main objective is to make money, even if it means the exit strategy is a movie deal.


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