Comics and entertainment news website Comic Book Resources
was able to have a fairly lengthy chat with one of the founders of IDW Publishing, established 15 years ago. In this first part, he doesn't touch on Transformers that much, but we've selected the relevant quotes below, and you can always read the whole thing here
So was it fairly soon after "CSI" when the publishing division took over from creative services as the dominate focus of the company?
Looking back on it, it feels like it all happened quickly, but honestly it happened over many years. We still do creative service work today at IDW -- it's the quiet part of our business. Typically our clients, we're doing stuff for them that they don't necessarily want the world to know. Although now that we've become "IDW," and that's a brand, sometimes we have creative service clients who want to work with us specifically we are IDW, whereas 15 years ago, we were just four guys that were helping them get work done.
As far as how that transition happened, it was a pretty slow business. What helped us was bringing on Chris Ryall [in 2004] who's still our editor-in-chief and chief creative officer. He really brought his vision to the publishing. Chris is one of the smartest people I've ever met; he just knows how to get stuff done. When he came on board, he was really pushing me to build the business, and was really the driving force behind us going after "Transformers" as a license. If you look at that transition from creative service to becoming a publishing company, and then a bigger publishing company, that key hire in the early days was certainly Chris Ryall.
Speaking of " Transformers," licensed projects have certainly become a big part of IDW's identity, but from what you were saying, at the time, the first "CSI" comic was something of a risk -- that seems to have definitely paid off.
Certainly, nobody else was looking at "CSI" as a comic book back in those days -- it just wasn't something that anybody was considering. I think what our approach to it was to try and bring great talent to it. Max Allan Collins wrote those comics for us; I felt like he was just the perfect guy to write those comics, and he was. Gabe Rodriguez -- it wasn't hard to identify early on that Gabe was going to become a superstar. And Ash did us a favor by doing the flashback sequences.
I think that's really been the way that we approach our licensed books, even today -- we come to them with the intention of making great comics. If you look at our books today, our "[Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles" books are regularly on best-of lists. The "My Little Pony" books are loved. "Judge Dredd" -- these are books that we're bringing top-notch creative talent to. Maybe before, if you look back to the way licensed comics were perceived, they were thought as not necessarily being able to be great comics, and that was always our goal -- to try and make great comics out of them.
Looking at the past 15 years, what do you see as some of the biggest triumphs for IDW? Maybe some things that took you by surprise?
Honestly, even going back to "30 Days of Night," having that book be the No. 1 graphic novel was a huge surprise for us. But the early days of "Transformers" -- those books just found an audience really quickly, and really gave us the freedom to start to grow the business, because we were starting to generate real revenue from those. That was certainly a big step forward for us. Doing "Angel" with Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch, those comics were a big step forward for us. It was all driven by the creative -- what Joss Whedon and [late artist Franco Urru] were doing with those comics, they were just good comics, whether you liked "Angel" or you don't even know "Angel." So that was a big step forward for us. We did "Metal Gear Solid" with Ash Wood -- even today, that book still sells like crazy for us. If you look at the art that Ash did; it's a video game adaptation, which would seem on its face to be something that would not be worth your time. But what Ash brought to that is just extraordinary. That art's unbelievable. Every page could be hung in a gallery.