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Q&A with Boom! Studios' Filip Sablik focusing on comic retailer initiatives, 2018 plans

Planet of the Apes: Visionaries promotional art 
Planet of the Apes: Visionaries promotional art 

Boom! Studios has big plans for the future, as the noted comic-book publisher became a premier publisher with Diamond Comic Distributors beginning this month.  This and other initiatives were announced at February's ComicsPRO retailer meeting in Portland, Ore. by Sablik and Boom! Studios founder and CEO Ross Richie. 

I excerpted my conversations with Filip Sablik, president of publishing and marketing at BOOM! Studios, in my past two Word Balloons columns for The Oklahoman. Today, I'm publishing an extended Q&A with Sablik, which goes more in detail about some of the plans, which should be especially of interest to comic-book retailers. 

Filip Sablik at the ComicsPRO meeting in 2018. [photo by Matthew Price]
Filip Sablik at the ComicsPRO meeting in 2018. [photo by Matthew Price]

Matthew Price, Nerdage: Tell me about some of the programs you have planned for April at Boom! to spur comic shop sales.

Filip Sablik, Boom! Studios: We're moving to the front of the Previews catalog to join the premier publishers like Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, and IDW Publishing. This kind of change to the premier line-up has only happened once before in 22 years, so it's a momentous occasion for us and we want to taking every opportunity to set our retail partners up for success. The biggest thing we're doing for comic shops is giving every store an additional 20% discount on everything we publish that month. It doesn't matter if it's a brand new #1, an original graphic novel, or a long running series like Lumberjanes, the discount will apply across the board. Additionally, we've printed a foldout bind-in for that month's Previews, which will introduce or reintroduce BOOM! Studios to retailers and consumers. The bind-in explains our 4 imprints and highlights the 5 of the best collections from each imprint that we believe every store should have on their shelves. We're giving our retailer partners an additional 20% discount on these top 20 collections as well. There are no hoops to jump through, no minimums, or other qualifiers for this 20% discount, it's just a gift from BOOM! Studios to our partners that helped get us to premier. Our aim is to be every retailer's most profitable publisher in June!

But added discount doesn't mean much without great product, so in April Previews (for June shipping) we're offering up Planet of the Apes Visionaries: Rod Serling, an original graphic novel adapting Rod Serling's unproduced screenplay for the original film that hits stores in August; a new 12 issue series from Giant Days creator John Allison called By Night; Garfield: Homecoming, a limited series where the Fat Cat runs away from home and each issue is depicted by a different artist in their signature style; Sanpaku, the stunning debut graphic novel from Kate Gavino (Last Night's Reading) that you’ll also see in August; the return of Regular Show, and ton of other great material. There's a new launch item from each of our four imprints so I'm confident we have something for any comic reader.

We've also redesigned our Previews section for April to make it even cleaner, easier to read, and effective for both retailers and consumers. We'll be supporting all of this up with publicity, social media advertising, signings and events, and convention appearances between now and June.

 Nerdage: Will moving to the “front of the book” in Previews facilitate any overall changes in how you do business?

Sablik: The short answer is no. For years, we've striven to behave like a premier publisher, even when we were in the "back of the book." That meant being the best partner we know how for our retail partners and putting comic shops first. We work hard to listen closely to our partners and respond to their needs. For the last couple of years, our focus has been producing the highest quality comics with creators and brands stores can count on, shipping those books on time, reducing risk for our retail partners, and driving new customers into stores through social media outreach & advertising, working with bigger brands we've partnered with, and placing press with mainstream outlets to reach new readers.

The most exciting thing about moving to the front of the catalog is the opportunity to reach new retailers and customers. We know from looking at market penetration reports that roughly half of Diamond's retail base doesn't order from the back of the catalog. Being in the front of the catalog is a powerful endorsement to retailers (and their customers) that these are the comic publishers every retailer should be considering and stocking in some fashion. It's a once in a company's lifetime opportunity to suddenly have access to a potential customer pool that is twice the size of what you had the previous month. We believe we have a comic book for everyone and a result are positioned well for this move. We're incredibly grateful to Diamond for giving us this opportunity and validating the hard work everyone at BOOM! Studios has put in over the last 13 years building the company and brand.

Boom! Studios Founder and CEO Ross Richie [photo by Matthew Price]
Boom! Studios Founder and CEO Ross Richie [photo by Matthew Price]

Nerdage: What are some of the most important direct-market initiatives for Boom! overall?

Sablik: I would say the BOOM! Guarantee retail partner program. It is the most progressive and generous program of its kind in the industry and reduces our partners risk when it comes to finding their maximum sales on new BOOM! Studios comics. Retailers can sign up and drop out of the program whenever they like. When they sign up, we send them a free 6 pocket floor display perfect to rack the 6 single issue comics we make fully returnable every month to members, along with monthly point of sales materials. Participating retailers get to discover their upside without any restrictions and then 60 days later they tell us how many copies they haven’t sold and we’ll take them at their word. All they have to do to receive their credit is fill out a Diamond affidavit. No stripping covers. No minimums. No hoops to jump through.

The second initiative we have that puts comic shops first is our Discover Now collection program. With Discover Now, we ship select collections of our hottest new series in comic shops at least 90 days before they are available anywhere else. Discover Now editions arrive in comic shops with exclusive covers as well. These releases are timed with the release of the next issue in the arc so that fans who wait for the collection have to come to comic shops first – and have the perfect reason to follow the stories every month.

Nerdage: What would you recommend retailers who want to improve how they are doing with Boom! do first?

Sablik: I would start by signing up for the BOOM! Guarantee program ( I believe you'll sell more copies of BOOM! Studios books just by placing the floor display in a prominent location in your store, having stock on hand of the six titles we spotlight every month (which are fully returnable), and changing the display out every month as new titles arrive. Every month, we send a direct mailing which includes a double-sided poster and a flyer with sales tips on how to talk to customers about the new titles.

Secondarily, I'd recommend every retailer reach out to our Direct Market Representative, Morgan Perry ( Morgan spends every day at BOOM! Studios working to make sure our retail partners have the resources they need, helping coordinate signings & events, and arming them with the information they need to maximize their success with BOOM! Studios.

Art from "Dodge City." [Boom! Studios]
Art from "Dodge City." [Boom! Studios]

Nerdage: For readers in general: Why might new readers want to sample a Boom! title? 

Sablik: We believe comics are for anyone, so we make them for everyone. Every month we guarantee there is a BOOM! Studios new comic or graphic novel from one of our 4 imprints that perfectly suits virtually any reader or fan. I'd recommend starting with one of our anchor series like Adventure Time, Lumberjanes, Mouse Guard, or Power Rangers, but that's just scratching the surface. Our editorial team works incredibly hard to make every single issue rich with story so fans feel like they really got their value out of the purchase, so we're confident new readers will quickly turn into fans of BOOM! Studios.

Nerdage: Tell me about some of the editorial plans you have coming up that you’re excited about.

Sablik: How much time do you have?

In the BOOM! Studios eponymous imprint, we are launching Power Rangers: Shattered Grid, the first comic book event in the 25-year history of the global franchise, at the end of March. This is a massive multi-series event that is easily the biggest thing we've done with the property. In April, we're launching a new Robocop series, Citizens Arrest, with DMZ creator Brian Wood and artist Jorge Coelho which applies a modern socio-political take combined with the franchise's satirical roots. And then in May, we're launching a year long dystopian high fantasy original series by Simon Spurrier and Matías Bergara called Coda. In the Archaia imprint, we started the year strong with Jim Henson's Labyrinth: Coronation, which will finally reveal the untold origin of Jareth, the Goblin King. This is in addition to numerous exciting, artful graphic novel releases including A Girl in the Himalayas, About Betty's Boob, and Sanpaku in the first half of the year. Over in BOOM! Box, we just launched Dodge City, a personal favorite because it's about competitive dodgeball. And we just announced a brand new series from Giant Days creator John Allison with artist Christine Larsen called By Night that I know is going to be fabulous. Lastly, in our KaBOOM! imprint, we're bringing back Regular Show with a new limited series called 25 Years Later and getting ready to wrap up our longest running series ever with Adventure Time #75. But Adventure Time fans need not worry, we have plenty more planned for that amazing property. I could go on and on about all the innovative work we have slated for 2018!

Art from "Giant Days." [Boom! Studios]
Art from "Giant Days." [Boom! Studios]

Nerdage: What are some hidden gems in your line that you think deserve more attention?

Sablik: It's already a hit, but I'm a strong believer that there's never enough attention shown on Giant Days. It's a gem of a book and a complete unicorn in the comic space. There are also some quieter, more subtle graphic novel releases like A Girl in the Himalayas, Dodo, and Sanpaku which are debuting tremendous new talents and deserve a big spotlight. Lastly, Bodie Troll is incredibly sweet and fun and should be a staple in any middle grade reader's collection.

Nerdage: What else would you like to tell me about?

Sablik: The move to premier publisher this year is a watershed moment in BOOM! Studios' history. It happened because of the support we get from our retail partners. Every year, we strive to be a comic shop's best publishing partner and 2018 is going to be a great year in that respect!

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Matthew Price

Features Editor Matthew Price has worked for The Oklahoman since 2000. He’s a University of Oklahoma graduate who has also worked at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund intern for the Dallas Morning News. He’s... Read more ›