What I Learned From Meeting With Ross Richie

Photo by Kendall Whitehouse
Photo by Kendall Whitehouse

Omar Spahi of OSSM Comics writes,

Ross Richie had just given a keynote speech at the ComicsPro convention. For those of you that don't know Ross Richie is the founder of Boom Studios. I listened to his message and felt compelled to reach out. I felt I could relate to his triumph and defeat, and how after all these years he still had a passion for comics.

I got in contact with my friend Mike Wellman, owner of the Comic Bug. Mike hosts amazing writers groups and I had previously had the opportunity to meet Ross at one before. Through Mike, I was able to set up a meeting with Ross to discuss some of the titles I had been working on.

I run a small Publishing Company called OSSM Comics, home to titles such as Hadrian's Wall and Sons of the Devil through Image. My goal for meeting with Ross was to learn how he got started, as well as figure out if I was crazy for wanting to start my own publishing company in this day and age. I wanted to learn from the best, and Ross is one of the best in the business.

I submitted some comics to Ross to review and the books got rejected. At first, I was hurt, who wouldn't be? But, with time I was able to look back on my work from a new perspective. I reviewed his reasons for why he rejected the books and something unbelievable happened… I agreed with him. The books should have been rejected.

Here's what I learned:

1. Tell great stories

Lumberjanes isn't successful solely because it's an all-female creative team, nor because it's a great concept. It's successful because it's a well-done book.  It tells an emotional heart felt story with great characters that you feel a connection with.

Same goes for The Woods and Godshaper. The reason they're at Boom is they tell compelling stories with relatable characters. It's not about the creative team or the concept, it's about the work. The writing and the art are high quality.

That's why my titles weren't picked up. They had great high concepts but were missing that heart to make them great. To be great, the characters need to have goals, failures, and successes. This allows you to form a connection with each character in a different way, and makes you care about their individual journeys whether they are the hero or the villain.

2. Align yourself with known brands

Working with known brands helps build your brand. Ross is incredibly intelligent because he aligned himself with popular brands, such as Power Rangers, The Dark Crystal, Planet of the Apes/Green Lanterns, WWE, Steven Universe, and so much more.

People tend to gravitate towards what they know. I grew up as a huge fan of Power Rangers, and to this day I still purchase every issue. Not just because my friend Kyle Higgins is writing it, but because it's nostalgic for me and I enjoy continuing the story.

3. Never give up

I know this is cliché, but no one amounts to success without failure. Failure is part of the formula. Look at Stan Lee. He worked in publishing for over 20 years before co-creating Spider-Man. Similarly, Ross didn't succeed right out of the gate. He had to work for many years in the industry before he was able to create Boom. Success doesn't happen overnight, it comes to those that work hard and never give up.

Ultimately, even if Ross passed on some of my books, some great things happened for me because of it. I streamlined the focus of my stories. Re-writing them from the start. I learned to not fear failure but to embrace it, and to turn my mistakes into success. Writing is a learning process, just like anything in life. Ross pushed me to do better and took the time to help guide me in the right direction. He really wanted to help make my work better. Ross cares about all his titles and the individuals behind them. That's what makes Boom great.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.