Lost under all the Big Two hype of NYCC was BOOM! Studios’ announcement that it is committed to publishing all 36 issues of James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas’ The Woods. Why is this such a big deal?
These days, it’s not uncommon for readers to voice their concern that their favorite title might get canceled, abruptly and without much warning, before the creators can finish telling their story as originally planned, on their own terms. Now granted, this has always been the case in varying degrees, but reader anxiety is more pronounced today because of a significantly smaller market coupled with publishers’ lower tolerance for titles not hitting minimum direct market sales targets. It’s a real worry for readers—we only need to look at Marvel and DC’s behavior these past several years to see multiple instances of just-launched titles getting the axe before they’ve arrived at their planned conclusion. One particularly notable example is Marvel’s Secret Warriors, a series launched in 2009 with an overarching narrative that writer Jonathan Hickman originally planned to tell over the course of 60 issues, but was ultimately truncated to fit into 28 issues, less than half the intended length. Hickman is politic about the issue of the book missing sales targets leading to its cancellation in a 2010 Comic Book Resources article and he maintains that he is satisfied with the overall quality of the result despite the radical reduction in issue numbers, but he is also candid about how the impending cancellation required that sacrifices to the narrative be made in order for him “to tell the main spine of [the] story” within the abbreviated series length.
There is an obvious way to avoid this happening, of course, and that is with the publisher guaranteeing the publication of the creative team’s planned number of issues for a series. This is exactly what BOOM! Studios did at the recently-concluded NYCC when it made the public announcement that it was committed to publishing all 36 issues that comprise the planned three narrative arcs of The Woods (first issue reviewed at this link), the creator-owned sci-fi/horror comic by writer James Tynion IV (Batman, Talon) and artist Michael Dialynas (Amala’s Blade).
The ramifications of something like BOOM!’s deal with The Woods team could be big for the creator-owned comics community. Imagine the relief creators will feel knowing that their story will be told, just as envisioned. No more having to shorten it mid-run in response to market pressures, no more having to alter the big plan on the fly unless they want to. There will always be other factors that end up getting in the way and potentially undermining that commitment. Things like the publisher’s capacity to withstand flagging sales on a title they’re committed to, issues with content delivery, and so on. But for creative teams who can produce on time and on spec, guaranteed publication agreements like this could be a game-changer, especially with the appeal of BOOM! Studios’ direct development pipeline to 20th Century Fox and the innovative deal it has in place that allows for a 50-50 split between BOOM! Studios and comics creators of the “first-dollar gross” of any 20th Century Fox film adapted from a creator-owned, BOOM! Studios-published comics property.
Of course, not every comics creator can afford to work on a creator-owned comic—even popular comics creators struggle to make any money directly off of the sales of their creator-owned publications—but for those creators who are financially secure enough that they can devote time, funds, and energy on a creator-owned comic, the assured backing of a publisher with the resources and cross-media connections that BOOM! Studios has could be the factor that pushes them to risk working on a creator-owned property over taking on a less creatively-satisfying work-for-hire gig.
I could be jumping the gun with my enthusiasm a bit. This could be a one-time only thing that doesn’t set a precedent, and we don’t really know how ironclad BOOM! Studios’ 36-issue commitment to The Woods is. But for someone like me, who believes that the story is where it’s at, and that good stories need time to develop, this can only be a positive thing.