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February 1, 2010

Behind the Scenes with Boom! Studios’ Sales Director

Posted by tom

Jenny Christopher Randle

Jenny Christopher Randle is the sales director for Boom! Studios, publisher of such bestselling titles as Incorruptible, Irredeemable, Disney’s Hero Squad, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and so much more. We asked her to share her history of loving comics.

Do you remember your first comic book or graphic novel?
I grew up in a very rural area with no comic shops within 30 miles, so we bought our comics at the grocery store. I would usually get an Archie Digest when Mom went shopping. It wasn’t until my sister came home with a copy of Batman: A Death in the Family that I really saw comics as anything but expanded funny pages.
What do you love about the graphic novel as a format for storytelling?
I don’t think that there is a more interactive form of storytelling than graphic novels. The reader is an active participant in the story since it is a visual medium where the reader sets the pace. You’ll find yourself taking your time on each panel of one page, and then madly flipping page after page as a story becomes more intense later in the book. Also, I love reading books over and over again. So when I have a book like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, I know I’ll be reading it at least a dozen times and then going online to research all the obscure references that Kevin O’Neill works into his drawings.
Whose work do you admire?
There are so many. Kevin O’Neill, Chris Ware, Tony Millionaire, Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Joe Kelly, Guy Delisle, Renee French… And those are just creators! I also have an enormous amount of admiration for guys like Alvin Buenaventura and Chris Staros. They put out books that make everyone sit up and pay attention. The fact that they are two of the nicest people working in comics is an added bonus!
Who do you read outside of the graphic novel format?
I am all over the place really. I have a Kindle app for my iPhone, which makes flights a lot more bearable. But I’ve noticed it has also changed some of my reading habits. I have a lot of literature on my phone, books I always meant to read but never got around to. Books like Treasure Island, The Marble Faun, and Middlemarch. But I also have quick fun reads, what I generally call “beach books,” titles like The Lost Symbol, Twilight, and some Charlaine Harris. However, as much as I love my little app, I love books. I love book design, I love little details like how the paper feels in my hands, how it feels to have the weight of the book on my lap, marveling over an obscure typeface used. I’m currently reading House of Leaves. This is a book that I hope is never available in an electronic edition. This is a book that demands your attention and requires a level of mental dexterity that definitely keeps you on your toes. I am constantly flipping to one of the gazillion appendixes, squinting at footnotes, trying to find every time the word “house” is printed in purple on a page, and physically turning the book to read every word printed on the page (if you’re not familiar with the book, check out the Wikipedia entry to get an idea). I have invested so much time in this book; I now have a relationship with it! That is also why when I hear people saying print is dead, I know that they have never had this level of interaction with a book the way I have. And sadly, they probably never will, and will never seek it out either.
How many graphic novels do you read a month? How many of those are manga?
It varies, but I generally read between 10 and 12 graphic novels a month, maybe a third to a half are manga. I regularly buy Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service and Fables when they come out in trade. I have been reading a lot of VIZ again. Their IKKI comics line is just as impressive as the VIZ Signature line, and I haven’t run out of great titles to read yet.
Which do you prefer and why: color or black and white?
I like color, but it has to be done right. I’ve seen some beautiful linework made hideous by bad color choices. I think the most important thing is that the art complement the story. And I’ll be honest here; I can get over sub-par art if the story is good. A tight plot can overcome a lot, and as long as the art isn’t detracting from the story, I can still come out the other end with a positive experience.

I guess in the end, it doesn’t really matter to me; I wouldn’t pass up a comic simply because it’s in black and white. Look at Walking Dead. That is a harrowing series, and while color would surely enhance the gore, I think that it would lose the starkness and desolation that is integral to the tone of the story.
How did you first get involved in the field professionally?
I was a Purchasing Brand Manager at Diamond Comics Distribution. It was great. I was able to work with companies such as VIZ, Top Shelf, Simon and Schuster, Macmillan, Tokyopop, and First Second. I also worked with Chip Mosher at BOOM! Studios, and we found that we worked incredibly well together. I joined BOOM! in June of 2009, and I have never experienced a tougher, more rewarding, or more fun job in my life!
What kind of reaction do you get when you tell people what you do?
Baltimore is a pretty cool town and there are a lot of people that work in the comics industry living here. Most of the time, when I’m telling people about my work and the variety of titles that BOOM! Studios and BOOM Kids! Publishes, they generally think it’s an exceedingly cool job. Which it is! I get to travel, go to book and comic conventions, read comics before they’re published, have a conversation with some of the smartest authors and artists working today… I never understand why others in the industry complain about deadlines, or having to go to shows, or having to work crazy hours. Sometimes it seems that people are vying for some “Comic Curmudgeon Award.” We are living so many people’s dreams! How many people are out there frustrated as all hell, racking their brains trying to figure out what they have to do to break into this industry? It is something that I am always aware of, and I never take it for granted.
Do you collect comics? What is the most valuable piece of art, graphic novel, or comic book in your collection?
I don’t really collect comics, since I find myself with trades most of the time.  I don’t really have anything that is worth a lot of money, but my most valuable book is a copy of The Soap Lady by Renee French. I live an hour and a half from the Mutter Museum and seeing a children’s book about one of their exhibits made me the happiest girl on the face of the Earth. I bought the book years ago, before I worked at Diamond, and my husband asked Top Shelf if they would get her to sign it for me. When he came back from APE two years ago with it under his arm, signed by Renee French, I just couldn’t believe it. Renee’s art amazes me. There is something almost haunted about her work, and I still cannot read The Ticking without tears welling up.
Is there something you covet adding to your collection?
I covet more bookcases to hold my ever growing collection!