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From The Scoop: Inside Hero Squared - Part I

From the April 8 issue of Gemstone Publishing's The Scoop:

One of our favorite comics last year was Hero Squared, which came from writers J. Marc DeMatteis and Keith Giffen, the creators behind the 1987 Justice League series and last year's hit Formerly Known As The Justice League. The first Hero Squared project, a special, came out last year from Atomeka. It scored a hit, and rounded up nearly universal critical acclaim. Now DeMatteis and Giffen have moved along with publisher Ross Richie to Richie's new publishing house, Boom! Studios. Next week we'll feature an interview with DeMatteis about Hero Squared and his career. This week, though, we're talking to Richie, who is either a comic book guy turned movie producer or a movie producer turned comic book guy, depending on how you look at it.

Scoop: Are you a comic book guy with a movie background or a movie guy with a comic book background?
Ross Richie: Ha! I'm a comic book guy with a movie background that's a movie guy with a comic book background. From 1993 to 1995 I worked at Malibu Comics. In 1995, I went to work for the Addelson Company (they were movie producers) and did nearly ten years working in that arena, before last year helping to launch Atomeka. And I still do work in that arena, I spent the better part of yesterday negotiating a feature film project with MTV and Paramount. So I guess the answer is, “Yes!”

Scoop: How's the reaction been since you announced Boom! Studios?
RR: I have been quite blown away. I had a lot of trepidation leaving Atomeka, which has a reputation for working with and publishing some of the best in the business. Our first project, A-1 Big Issue Zero, featured the creative team from Watchmen! I mean, c'mon! But so far, the furor that's surrounded the launch of Boom! Studios has been bigger. People are more responsive; people seem to have really embraced the company, on a fan level and also on a professional level.

Scoop: You've signed up quite a few high profile projects. Can you give us a run down of them?
RR: Our main launch project is Hero Squared. It was very successful at Atomeka. And with the recent events in the DC universe [Identity Crisis and Countdown To Infinite Crisis], fans have got a place to go to get their “BWAH-HA-HA.” It's just Giffen and DeMatteis lunacy with no restrictive editorial continuity.

The other project that has really done well that I didn't necessarily anticipate being such a big hit was Zombie Tales. Now, with a talent that features people like Mark Waid, Keith Giffen, Dave Johnson, Ron Lim, Andy Kuhn, Joe Abraham, and the movie guys -- Andrew Cosby (a feature film screenwriter who created the UPN TV show Haunted and has a new pilot on the Sci-Fi network, Eureka) and John Rogers (screenwriter whose credits include Rush Hour 3 and the Transformers movie) -- you'd think I could see that coming. But it really out-performed my expectations, so let's just say there will be more Zombie Tales. The people have spoken!

I'll be finishing off the much-anticipated and much-beleagured Jenny Finn at Boom! with Jenny Finn: Messiah. That's with Mike Mignola on cover and story, Troy Nixey on the interiors, although we're bringing in another artist to help Troy finish the book off. And we'll probably be collecting that into a trade paperback.

Then there's the Mark Waid project. The creative team on that really crystalized this week. So that's exciting. I might be able to announce that soon and put it on the schedule.

We've got a few other fun things, like Aaron Lopresti, the artist from Marvel's Excalibur (which is top 20 X-book that just won't stop being a sales juggernaut), who's doing a sketchbook, some Trencher trades, as well as Keith Giffen goofing on an old Silver Age WWII book and re-writing the dialogue in What Were They Thinking?

And I'm in the process of signing up a few more creators who will really surprise people, and I think really turn some heads. But it's a bit early to talk about it.

I've been amazed by the outpouring of interest on Seekers Into The Mystery, which we're collecting into trade paperbacks. It's been the little project that could, and I constantly get inquiry emails at the website and curious fans that want to know when the book's coming out.

Scoop: The list of talent and titles is pretty diverse. Is there a unifying thread, and if so what is it?
RR: I think the unifying thread is: writer-driven projects from creators that you're familiar with from the Big Two. I want to build a company that the creators can go to when they want to do their own thing -- Marvel and DC are great, but every once in a while you want to own your own project and do something different. And that's the role that Boom! plays.

Scoop: When do your first books come out?
RR: May 2005.

Scoop: What sort of schedule do you have planned for the first few months?
RR: Hero Squared #1 - 3, as well as the first Trencher trade paperback, What Were They Thinking, the Lopresti Sketchbook, and the return of G.I. Spy. We did the GI Spy Preview at Atomeka featuring art from Firestorm cover artist Matt Haley, and that'll continue as a three issue mini-series.

Scoop: How about after that? What are your long-term plans?
RR: I'd love to continue Hero Squared as a series of one-shots and mini-series. The Mark Waid project is designed the same way. Zombie Tales will be doing the same thing. Beyond that, much depends on how these secret projects come together that I'm lining up.

Scoop: Hero Squared got great reviews when the special came out from Atomeka. What are your expectations for the new mini-series?
RR: Joe Abraham's art makes the first issue look like a fanzine. You're going to be blown away. What's more, DeMatteis tells me that it's the project that he loves to write the most -- he can't wait to have a chance to get in there and sculpt the characters.

I think everyone was surprised when we printed up retailer posters for the mini-series. At Atomeka, retailers told me again and again that they wanted posters, so we did 'em. And people were amazed.

Hero Squared is really developing into a smart, multi-layered story -- that also cracks you up. It's really great stuff.

Scoop: You're keeping a blog on the Boom! Studios site. What's it about?
RR: Me goofing around. The real answer is that it's about whatever I want. Maybe someone will enjoy reading it. The nice thing about a blog is that if I only have an audience of like 3, who cares? As long as you're having fun.

Scoop: Anything going on movie-wise?
The MTV-Paramount thingee. But I'll be spending the rest of today putting out fires, hoping the deal comes together. Maybe if we don't spin apart, we'll have an announcement in the next two weeks...

Scoop: Anything else you'd like to add?
RR: There was no way to launch this company without the tireless support of some well-established professionals who should know better: Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis (who is always so kind as to tell me that he thinks he's more excited about my company than I am!), Dave Johnson (who always goes above and beyond), and Mark Waid, among a host of others. I just want to take a minute and tell them all thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

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