Do you think mainstream comics are too derivative and oversaturated with the same old superheroes, or just plain lazy, insincere attempts to grab new or young readers? They have traditionally not been an inviting place for kids or women, even though one of the groan-inducing stigmas of comics for too long was that comics were just for kids, as if it was a bad thing. Mainstream comics have come a long way, but there's always room to improve. But instead of being discouraged with mainstream comics, whether you feel they're not inclusive or genuine enough, look outside and you just might find what you're looking for, and so much more. Making comics that appeal to kids, young girls and women first (and eventually boys and men) is cool, and with every passing year, there are more examples of such titles. Thankfully, Boom! Comics has spent the last few years building a strong reputation for building a diverse line of such books that are inviting to readers of all ages, are LGBTQ-friendly and are candid to their readers – and they're good, too.
Their Boom! Box and KaBOOM imprints have been safe shelters for intelligent and imaginative storytelling, and Boom! Studios manages a balance of original ideas, cleverly expanding popular licenses and showcasing talent. Diversity and alternate lifestyles are not treated as outliers or publicity stunts, but normal and natural, because they plainly are for those living them. Recently, KaBOOM and Boom! Box titles like Giant Days, Jonesy, Adventure Time, Cyanide & Happiness: Stab Factory, Over the Garden Wall, Goldie Vance, Help Us! Great Warrior and Teen Dog have all made waves, but one Boom! Box title in particular, Lumberjanes, has struck a particular nerve, garnering worldwide adoration in 2015, including two Eisner Awards (Best New Series and Best Publication for Teens Ages 13-17), as well as a GLAAD Media Award nomination.
Its success has been the poster child for the imprint, in its commitment in making top-notch comics for readers who have often felt on the outside looking in, whether it be in a comic shop or in life in general. Instead of showing how cool it is to be an adult, for which there are countless, quality titles that do so, Lumberjanes revels in the brief moment of being young, fearless and hopeful. That's something we could all use more of, regardless of whatever it is that sets us apart.
Created in 2014 by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen, Lumberjanes is a colorful, spirited adventure, with infectious positivity. It stars five teenage friends, April, Jo, Mal, Molly and Ripley, who defend a summer camp from the supernatural and paranormal. Nothing is too big for these girls, whether it be sea creatures, hipster-Yetis or three-eyed wolves.
Lumberjanes lays down the red carpet for new readers that the mainstream comics industry has been unable to attract consistently, including adult women, teenage girls and the queer community, featuring one couple (Mal and Molly) and a transgender girl (Jo) in the main cast. It's a sunny counterpoint to the grimness and grittiness that have populated comics since the mid-1980s, and that's cool, because as much as I love my strong, black cup of coffee, I like a bright, vibrant glass of orange juice or lemonade, too.
Yet despite its outreach to under-represented readers, Lumberjanes manages to be inclusive and inviting as any comic on the stands. As a 40-year-old, Filipino-American father of two, I adore this book, because while these elements help shape these three-dimensional characters, they are not the defining traits that motivate their every move. It's simply being a good person with the nature to dream big.
It didn't take long before the little-comic-that-could sparked appeal, and now what was once an eight-part mini-series will see its 30th issue before the fall season of 2016. We are also in the middle of a six-issue crossover between the Lumberjanes and DC Comics' Gotham Academy. The Lumberjanes has taken off and recently reeled in a film deal through 20th Century Fox, to be directed by indie filmmaker Emily Carmichael (also writing Pacific Rim: Maelstrom) and adapted by Will Widger (The Munchkin).
Watters is also the Boom Box! line editor, and her sensibilities, life experiences and talents as one of the co-creators of Lumberjanes have helped shape the imprint as it increasingly grows in size and achievement. I had the pleasure of speaking with Watters about creating appealing comics for younger readers, owning important agendas in the direct market and helping to curate the magnificent Peanuts: A Tribute to Charles M. Schulz, a collection of some of the comics industry’s finest paying tribute to the late, legendary creator of Peanuts, which was nominated for a 2016 Eisner Award for Best Anthology.
Watch our interview and share your thoughts below.