BOOM! Bar: Licenses, Lettering, and Letting Go

BOOM! Studios logo 2017

BOOM! Bar! Where we talk about the month’s BOOM!, KaBOOM!, BOOM! Box, and Archaia releases, try to spot trends, and think about what BOOM! “is,” as a publisher. Remember last month, when I wondered about how letterers get attached to projects at BOOM! and their substudios? Well, I got some answers. So let’s start with a quick BOOM! Studios lettering Q&A.

At what point in the creation of a new title does a letterer get attached?

Whitney Leopard (Editor, BOOM! Studios): When hiring a letterer, we typically wait until we have art coming in from the line artist. Most of this is to make sure that we’re able to get the letterer to do some samples on top of the art so that we can solidify a lettering style before they letter the rest of the issue or graphic novel.

How regular is it that a team pitches with a letterer already involved?

Whitney: It is pretty common to have an artist letter themselves in a pitch, but I would say more often than not I would prefer to have pitches without any sort of lettering. New creators might try to letter themselves (or hire a letterer) without any experience on what makes lettering successful and then their lettering could end up distracting from the actual content of the comic if it’s done poorly enough.

If an editor is in charge of attaching a letterer, how do they consider who would be suited?

Whitney: One of the joys of working as an editor is the amount of amazing and talented people I have gotten to work with over the years. When tasked with looking for a letterer for a specific project, I will think about people that I’ve worked with previously to find someone who I know is reliable but also to find a letterer that I know understand what we’re looking for with the book and be able to meet that need.

How much responsibility is a letterer given with their part of the process? Are they obliged to check spelling they feel may be incorrect? Are they able to letter a page exactly as they desire, or are they given a tight rein?

Whitney: The scripts should hopefully be spotless by the time they get to the letterer, but that isn’t always the case. Most of the letterers that I work with will correct any glaring errors, or email to double check if an error is on purpose or not. When it comes to laying out the pages, unless we have something very specific in mind then they have complete freedom on where to put the balloons. If we do have something specific in mind then usually one of the creators will draw a thumbnail, or even on occasion, I’ll draw balloon placement on the line art for a particular page. For the most part, we trust our letterers and their experience with the crazy amount of books that they’ve worked on to make the right call and make sure the balloons flow in a way that makes every page easy to read. Doesn’t that clear a lot up for you? It does for me, dear reader. Thanks, Whitney!

The first week of July saw a six-book release slate, and only one of those was not a licensed property (that being Giant Days #40, in which Esther—who loves drama—started feeling nervous about her long-term implicit rejection of Ed, now that circumstances have turned it implicitly explicit. It’s all getting a bit My Best Friend’s Wedding, you mark my words). The Power Rangers event of the summer, Shattered Grid, continued in Go Go Power Rangers #11. This is a very significant issue for Kimberly fans.

Three of the remaining five releases were single issues collections, one was a softcover collection (Adventure Time Comics volume five), and one a softcover Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal colouring book.

Giant Days #40 Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios Writer: John Allison Artists: Max Sarin Cover Artist: Max Sarin Colorist: Whitney Cogar Letterer: Jim Campbell
Giant Days #40, Writer: John Allison, Artist: Max Sarin

Week two had nine releases, including five single issues (two of which were licensed: Garfield and Robocop), two hardcover collections of original comics, one Power Rangers softcover collection, and one softcover “Discover Now” edition of the comic spinoff of the Thrilling Adventure Hour stage show/podcast. One of the original single issues, Ruinworld, is a child-friendly anthro-adventure new this week, and the more adult fantasy Coda is only on #3 so there’s time to catch up if you like to follow a story from its starting point. Spurrier is always a critic-pleaser, and Matías Bergara’s vistas in motion (colour assists by Michael Doig) are quite staggering, so dipping in at #3 probably won’t spoil your dinner too much. Mech Cadet Yu continues to go hard emotionally. It’s a kids’ book, but Evangelion Kids. So make sure you’re around to talk it out after you hand this excellent comic over to the young’ns you know.

Coda #3 Publisher: BOOM! Studios Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Matías Bergara Cover Artist: Main Cover: Matías Bergara Intermix Cover: Julian Totino Tedesco Incentive Cover: Toni Infante Colorist: Michael Doig Letterer: Jim Campbell

Week three put out eleven issues, making it the biggest release week of the month. Either seven or eight of those were licensed comics, depending on whether you count an adaptation of a stage show/podcast as a license or not. The Thrilling Adventure Hour #1 seems to be the first issue of an ongoing series, following the presumably successful miniseries collected in the previous week’s softcover collection. Otherwise, By Night #2 and Fence #8 are the two lone original comic issues published in week three, making John Allison a notable stalwart of the BOOM! lineup as the scripter of both By Night and Giant Days. (Speaking of licenses and spinoffs, Giant Days fans, be aware that Non Pratt’s novelisation of the early days will be available in late August!)

By Night #2 Publisher: BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios Writer: John Allison Artist: Christine Larsen Cover Artist: Main Cover: Christine Larsen
Lettered by Jim Campbell, just like Giant Days, FYI!

Two of week three’s releases are softcovers (Lumberjanes volume 9 and Rocko’s Modern Life volume 1), plus a hardcover publication of Six Figure Crowdfunding: The No Bullsh*t Guide to Running a Life-Changing Campaign by “bestselling Kickstarter campaign manager Derek Miller” and Nicole Pugh, with illustrations by cartoonist Joy Ho. I googled Derek Miller, and there are a bunch of them, and I’m not sure which one this is.

Week four was back down to eight books out, and only one of them a collection: the softcover Fence volume 1. Four of the single issues are licensed: Adventure Time: Beginning of the End #3 of #3, Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack #11, Regular Show: 25 Years Later #2 (All of these seem to be about growing up? Old? Apart?), and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation #5 of #12. And three are original: Bone Parish #1 means Cullen Bunn is back doing a horror comic at BOOM! again, Lucy Dreaming wraps up with issue #5, and Lumberjanes is still going strong at #52.

Lucy Dreaming has been an interesting mini. Max Bemis (script), Michael Dialynas (art), and Ed Dukeshire (letters) have collaborated to create a book that was a little rough-hewn and abruptly changeable, but avoided being milquetoast or precious or narratively cowardly. The dialogue is meta-narratively hand-wavy enough to almost get annoying, but never dwells on a lampshade long enough to really irritate. And in the end it’s completely earnest: you can’t hate women and be worth much. Maybe I cried a tiny bit at the last page. Pre-menstrual? Sure, but it’s all still legit. If you can pick Lucy Dreaming up in backissue singles I think it’d be worth it, as it does do nicely in chunks, but the trade’ll make a decent gift to the teenagers you know if it’s out by Christmas.

Lucy Dreaming #5 (of 5) Publisher: BOOM! Studios Writer: Max Bemis Artist: Michael Dialynas Cover Artist: Michael Dialynas Letterer: Ed DukeshireNow some industry news. There was some trouble on Twitter when one contracted BOOM! cartoonist discovered their work on Cartoon Network merchandise. Unfortunately, it turned out that the BOOM! licensed comic contract that the cartoonist had signed did permit the uncredited use of their contractually created work on merchandise, for no further pay, in an edited form, and without telling the artist. They had no legal recourse for the dismaying experience, and all freelance workers should remember to read your contracts with fine-toothed eyes (and negotiate if it doesn’t sound worth signing). But it would be to BOOM!’s credit if they were able to bargain for better rights for the artists they hire for the licenses they hold.

San Diego Comic ConHere’s a list of some merchandise you missed out on by not being at SDCC! Here’s who you could have met at BOOM! signing tables, had you been there. And here’s a list of BOOM!-hosted panels you could have heard, if you weren’t elsewhere at the time.

And the end. This has been my last BOOM! Bar, sweet BOOM!er babies. Yes! I know! You will miss me and my firm avoidance of any licensed book I’m not already fond of. Well, I’ll always review a BOOM! (or KaBOOM! or BOOM! Box or Archaia) book here and there, and I’ll be back in August with a Valiant PUBWATCH. And starting simultaneously in August, BOOM! (precious BOOM!) will be further watched by our CP Hoffman. A new perspective! It’s very exciting! Will they keep you as informed about lettering as I do? Who can say. But what we can say is: it’ll be interesting, and you should read it.

Okay, bye now! Hope you enjoyed keeping up with the BOOM! books with me. ✌️

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money