“We’re essentially one-third the size of DC Comics, as far as our market share is concerned,” says Chris Ryall, editor-in-chief at San Diego-based IDW Publishing, the fourth-largest comic book publisher in the country . The company has been in business for fifteen years, and Ryall has been involved for a decade. He started in ‘04, when IDW published half a dozen titles every month, and had about that many employees. Now, they put out over 60 titles every month and have 45 employees. This summer, they’ll break into one of their most mainstream forays yet with the release of Angry Birds, the comic book.
“Me and one other guy, we took a trip to Finland last winter, and met with the Rovio people, and then brought home the birds,” Ryall explains, as though a trans-Atlantic business deal were no big thing, not to mention grabbing a slice of a product worth hundreds of millions.
Licensed deals, like the Angry Birds comic, are a huge part of IDW’s success. The company publishes comics based on popular franchises like Transformers and My Little Pony. The latter title was IDW’s highest grossing property last year, in part because the Pony market appeals to a growing number of adults as well as children. IDW has published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics since 2011.
Kevin Eastman, who co-created the Turtles in the Eighties, is recently relocated to San Diego, and he’s been around the IDW office, “kicking ideas around,” to use Ryall’s term.
“If you want something beyond superhero books, we’ve pretty much got anything, depending on what your tastes are,” says Ryall. “There have never been that many all-ages comics in this market. In a lot of cases, we’ve seen the fan base for superhero books grow older with the titles, but there hasn’t been a wide array of comics to bring in the next generation of readers. We’ve made a sustained push the past couple of years to do that — to grow that market and reach younger fans.”
The publisher wants to maintain its appeal to adults as well. They’re doing a series with Eisner Award winner (for Locke and Key, also published by IDW) and Times best-selling novelist, Joe Hill, that ties in to his novel, NOS4ATU.
“Those things are nice because they bring prose readers into comics, and meld those worlds a little more,” says Ryall, who also writes a comic based on the 1960’s trading card series, Mars Attacks, which appeals as much to Generation Y types as to any other demographic because they remember the 1996 Tim Burton film of the same name.
Beyond these new ideas, Ryall and the rest of the crew at IDW just want to see the company’s roster of publications grow. Having Angry Birds in the stable certainly won’t hurt.