INTERVIEW: Ross Richie, CEO & Founder of BOOM! Studios Talks 2 Guns

HeadshotRoss Richie is the CEO and founder of BOOM! Studios, one of the top comic companies in the current market. Since founding the company in 2005, he’s been able to work with talents like Mark Waid, Simon Spurrier, and many others. As Boom continues to grow and expand, they’re now making the jump to producing movies.

The first BOOM! produced movie is 2 Guns, based on the comic by the same named, which hits theaters August 2nd. In order to promote the movie, Ross was kind enough to have a phone chat about Boom, its past and future, 2 Guns, and much more.

Geek Syndicate: In a decade you’ve gone from a guy in his spare bedroom making comics to the CEO of a major comic company. Have you been surprised by all that’s happened in the last decade?

Ross Richie: Yeah, and to put a fine point on it, it’s been eight years. This year is our eight year anniversary. And absolutely surprised. The business changes every single year and you’ve gotta be flexible and adapt. I think the thing that’s kept us relevant is I always look at Boom as a next generation company. I think if you’re in the space and you’re doing something that people are already reading it make you irrelevant. And I’m always trying to think about what’s the next thing that’s coming, how do we take a familiar genre and do a twist, how do we invent a new space in publishing, how do we stay a step ahead.

GS: And you’ve worked with people as diverse as Mark Waid, Sam Humphries , Max Bemis and published comics with them. How has it been working with such diverse and really talented people?

RR: Well, it’s really my focus of interest. I have a wandering eye when it comes to different kinds of content that I consume and enjoy. I was at HeroesCon this weekend and I spent some time running around buying comic books and I laughed how my personal collection is so diverse and kind of reflects what we publish. I think that all sorts of amazing stories can come from diverse, different types of creators and comic books as we know is more than superheroes, so there’s a lot of different stories we can tell.

image001(1)GS: The premise of the interview as a whole is that 2 Gun is coming to movie theaters. And now Boom is making the jump from not just comics, but films as well. What was the decision behind this first attempt at making a film, or is it the first attempt?

RR: We had, I think, sold an option to the Chris Golden/Tom Sniegoski comic book Talent. And so we sold some options prior to that as Boom, but this is the first. And really I’ll tell the hoary old joke that is so familiar to people in Hollywood, which is “publish a comic book, buy a safe, put the comic book in the safe, bury the safe in the back yard, and in the morning Hollywood will find it.” I don’t mean to sound jaded or glib, we’re super excited about the film, but it’s obvious that Hollywood is very excited about comic book content.

GS: The last few years, it seems like all the major movies have been comic movies.

RR: Absolutely. And I love, with 2 Guns, that we’re doing something that is outside of the more familiar superhero genre and deconstructing the sort of classic Lethal Weapon/cop-buddy movie.

GS: Was that kind of the reason to pick 2 Guns, was the fact that it wasn’t a run of the mill superhero movie like so many of the others?

RR: I think that the studios look at comic book material, since The Crow, The Mask, were made in the early 90s, they’re unsurprised when comic book content isn’t superhero stuff. I think that the studios were super excited about this project based on its merits. Universal, and Universal acquired the rights, understood from the first day what kind of movie would be. And, let me take a quick sidebar, and extol Steven Grant, who’s the creator of the comic book, known to most as the writer of the first Punisher limited series, which made that character a superstar, and a guy who’s been in the business for 35 years, and Steven has a sort of wry, cynical viewpoint on the world. It’s very clever and it’s peppered with a little bit of sardonic comedy, but at the core of it, it’s ice cold. I think the studio got the joke of two undercover cops trying to bust each other, which is really what Steven thought was funny and interesting about the material and they were onboard with that from day one.

GS: Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play the leads in the movie. Were you excited to see such talented actors being signed on?

RR: Absolutely. Totally thrilled. It’s a dream come true. They were terrific to work with. Denzel was very concerned the fact that the movie adaptation deviated from the core material. And I tried to explain to him that are were whole sequences that were transplanted from the graphic novel directly onto the screen. The main characters were the same, the main villains were the same, and the main storyline was the same. So it’s actually, in my opinion, an extremely faithful translation. Those two stars were extremely kind and did an incredible job.

GS: If 2 Guns is successful, which I think we all hope it will be, are there any other Boom comics you’d like to see adapted into a movie?

RR: Well, I think the thing that we’re getting a lot of conversation and crackle around is the project we sold before 2 Guns which is called Talent by Chris Golden and Tom Sniegoski. There’s a lot of focus and excitement around that. And we sold a number of options, in both film and in television. To say much more than that, I would maybe give away the next one that’s coming, but we have a lot of excitement in Hollywood and it’s been a lot of fun to get in there and develop these series.

GS: Kind of a last question, as we’re trying to keep it under fifteen minutes. You’ve done a lot in the last eight years. What do you think the next eight years will bring?

RR: One of the things that we’ll continue to be dedicated to is doing diverse kinds of content. And I think you’ll see in the immediate next 18 to 24 months how we’re gonna expand and try to focus on doing things that no other publisher can do. The type of material, the flavor and the approach. And I think a continued focus on science fiction, fantasy, horror, crime, and obviously we do all ages material. Herobear and the Kid was really big for us this year in that category. And expect to see more original material. It’s an exciting time for us. There’s huge growth, and we’re taking the huge growth, focusing it and developing the publishing line, expanding, and being aware that there are many different kinds of fans that are interested in many different kinds of material. Thankfully, the people at the company are not interested in doing the same thing over and over and over again, but changing it up and doing interesting stuff.

GS: This is really the last question. If there was one creator that you could see working at Boom, who would it be?

RR: (laughs) You got me on that one! I sit here and I sit here and worry about who am I gonna say. I’m a longtime Neil Gaiman fan. I know that he’s doing some work for Marvel and I know that he’s got an adaptation of American Gods coming in TV, so I’m not sure he’s got anytime, but I was a fan of Neil from the Violent Cases days, before he even did things for Sandman. That would be a lot of fun.

GS That’s a really good choice.

RR: It would be awesome. The guy does some really unique stuff with great flavor and is a tremendous voice in the business.

It seems I have a little extra time, so I’m going to impose on you with a shout-out to Kristian Donaldson and Rafael Albuquerque who did the covers for 2 Guns and Matteus Santolouco, who most recently was drawing for DC Comics for Dial H for Hero, he did the interior artwork on the series. And I was able to talk up Steven Grant, who certainly deserves it, and has done amazing stuff, but I also wanted to mention we had world-class illustrators, who, by the way, in 2006 were not known the way they are now. I think that it’s something that we’ve been able to do is pinpoint the next generation of talent with the stuff that we publish.

GS: It definitely does seem that way. You have a lot of up-and-comers that make a big name at Boom.

RR: Thank you. I think it’s important to mix things up. One of the things that we’ve been recently doing is the “We Are Boom” campaign at the conventions. And one of the big tenets of the “We Are Boom” campaign is the classic voices are tremendous talents, guys like Steven Grant that have been in the business for 35 years, have survived the changing fads of publishing because they are truly classic voices, and I think Steven is showing that with 2 Guns and the way that people are excited about it. You also need to not close the door to the guy that’s just getting started. We were the first company that published Rafael Albuquerque in the direct market and I think that he’s gone on and done tremendous work and amazing stuff. I think the mashup of those categories is very Boom, especially on a crime comic. What’s fun and interesting to me is not the same old, same old. Let’s do some new stuff.

GS: I thank you for answering my questions. It’s been great.

RR: Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

2 Guns hits theaters August 2.

Reporter: Leo Johnson

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