Picking The Brain Of IDW’s New President, Publisher, Chief Creative Officer
Speaker 1: 00:00 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman and I'm Ellison st John in for Maureen Cavanagh. IDW publishing just celebrated its 20th year in San Diego and has known for such comics as teenage mutant Ninja turtles. My little pony V Wars and lock and key which debuts as a streaming series on Netflix this Friday. KBB is arts reporter Beth, how commando checks in with president, publisher and chief creative officer Chris rial to see what's ahead for the company as it enters its third decade. So Chris you are back at IDW. Give us a little kind of recap of where IDW is right now cause you've gone through some changes here. Yeah, I returned Speaker 2: 00:41 the winter of 2018 so I was here for about 14 years, then took a year away and returned, came back as the company's publisher, president and chief creative officer. And since then we've just been sort of figuring out who we are as the company starts its third decade. We celebrated our 20th anniversary last year and so we've just been really trying to best position ourselves to go forward for what the company wants to be. Now. In 2020 and beyond. Speaker 1: 01:08 Comic-Con has received some criticism for drifting away from comics. But the question I have for you is it seems like all the big comic publishers are no longer just producing comics. Everybody seems to be going into entertainment as well. So do you think that like comic con is reflecting what the industry is going through? Speaker 2: 01:28 I'm always a little troubled by that complaint about Comicon anyway because to me Comicon is sort of all things to all people who love pop culture. Like if you want to just do tabletop gaming upstairs, there's a massive area for that. Or you know, the live action role play out Outback. And if you love comics, there's a massive section of retailers and toys based on comics and all of that panels with all old craters. There's an artist alley with all kinds of craters at all levels that you can meet and talk to. And then in the middle, yes there's the big film presence. Um, but I just, you know, Comicon is kind of what you want it to be. And so like when I want to go look at old comics and go talk to people, like that's all right there at all times. And then, yeah, I think as the lines have gotten fuzzier where publishers have a lot of productions that have shown up now on TV, streaming services, movies, what have you. I think the lines have blurred a bit more, but comics are always, you know, first and foremost a huge part of that convention. Speaker 1: 02:26 And IDW has developed an entertainment division and you guys are debuting a new show this week. Speaker 2: 02:33 Yeah, we're so excited. Locking key is, is kind of our flagship title. It's one that I'm really proud to have helped launch here in 2008 you know? And so it's been a long gestation period for the show. It changed hands and been developed by a lot of very competent people over the years. And I feel like all of those things have led us to where we are now, which is this Netflix show. It just feels like the perfect version of this show. And so just to have everybody worked so hard on this stuff, you know, largely independently in their rooms as they're drying pages or writing pages or what have you. To be able to see this thing finally come to life after, uh, a couple, you know, near misses is really, Speaker 3: 03:13 Hey, check it out. We're here. Welcome. The key house could never get your father. They talk about his life here. My kids need a home. [inaudible] yes. We're also Speaker 2: 03:43 doing some interesting partnerships. You guys are working with the Smithsonian. Yeah. A few years ago I'm primarily coming out of the, uh, Congressman John Lewis books March. You know, we, we saw that there was a real appetite for nonfiction graphic novels too. And so we followed that up with the George decay book last year. And then out of that we talked about, that was one of the things we talked about for our, our, you know, sort of next iteration of IDW is what do we want to be now? And we thought, well, we want to, we want to be more in that space to doing stories that have topical relevancy and historical relevancy. And telling these important stories that captivate a different kind of reader. And so we started this conversation with the Smithsonian and they have so many music, not only just the different museums but also the experts on site, you know, that that really know their area of expertise more than anybody else. Speaker 2: 04:33 And so to engage them in ways to pull stories out of out of these museums or how do these exhibits and tell graphic novel stories, whether it's nonfiction or it's fictionalized versions of, you know, past events, that kind of thing. Is, is just a way to who to put graphic novels in front of people in different ways. What do you think kind of defines IDW and makes them different from the other publishers? We have a very wide breadth of material that we offer people. So you know, we've long since since, except to the fact that superhero content is sewn up very capably by Marvel and DC. And so rather than try to compete directly, we always wanted to be an alternative to that. So we did stories originally that were more horror based or fantasy based or science fiction based that maybe hit an audience once they either aged out of superhero comics or wanted to something with a different flavor. Speaker 2: 05:24 From there we moved into trying to really cultivate the next generation of comic readers through things like my little pony. So in addition to doing content aimed at younger readers, we also do these archival books where we're taking either old newspaper strips and putting them in these really nicely presented archival, you know, very lasting bookshelf ready formats or in doing the same thing with comic book art and now doing a wider array of nonfiction graphic novels doing I think for the first graphic novel publisher to to present Spanish language content for the North American audience. And so just trying to hit all these different readerships in ways to not only captivate current readers but find ways to reach new audiences, reach younger audiences and help cultivate that next generation readers as well. Speaker 1: 06:08 And so what is your job like in terms of this is the 21st century. A lot of stuff is digital and, and things have changed a lot in the industry. So what do you do in terms of, you know, getting new comics or looking for new art or actually putting these things together? I mean, it's funny. That's still very analog Speaker 2: 06:26 development in a digital world. You know, a lot of it is just talking to authors and talking to artists, talking to creators, that conventions, you know, we'll meet here and brainstorm on things that we'd like to do. And sometimes we'll go out to people and say, we'd like to develop content based around this kind of idea or this genre, this, you know, whatever the case may be. Other times people will come to us, um, our reach out to various partners, you know, people like the Smithsonian or other perspective license owners. A lot of us are very prolific readers and so we'll read somebody and think, yeah, their sensibilities would lend themselves to comics to nachos pros. And so you just cast a very wide net and see what you can develop and, uh, try to just keep finding new content that fits into the company's overall. You know, drive and mission and what we want to do and then just keep, you know, trying to make good content, you know, that is compelling and, uh, worth people's time. Speaker 1: 07:21 So is walking around Comic-Con or WonderCon and looking at artist's alley still someplace where you can find talent? Speaker 2: 07:27 Oh yeah. I mean really that's, that's the best way is, you know, there used to be generations ago there was the Manila envelopes, you know, they would get sent in and end up on a slush pile and you would hope a, an editor might have spare time to read through them. And that still happens occasionally. But really it's, it's keep an eye online and seeing what people are talking about and who people are engaged by and walking around and conventions. And there's so many people I found where I just go that our style is beautiful. Like we should talk about it doing a thing together. And then it leads to this, this entirely new project that you never really even thought about. But the style sort of helps dictate what that book might be. Or if you have something in mind, you know, we're doing a Smithsonian project that is telling this story or looking at this historical event and you walk around and you find somebody whose art style might be perfect for what that story might need to be. And so it is very much still just a, I mean, it's still very much a relationship business. You know, you, you meet people and talk to them and just get engaged by their creativity and then hopefully good things happen from there. Speaker 1: 08:28 All right, well, I want to thank you very much for talking about what you're talking about. Thank you. That was Beth Armando speaking with IDW. Chris Ryle. IDW is Lacan and he arrives as a Netflix streaming show on Friday.