“Comics Are Life”: Read the ComicsPRO Speech from BOOM!’s Filip Sablik, In Full

Amongst a certain set, ComicsPRO‘s Annual Meeting — which runs from today, February 22nd until Saturday, February 24th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — is one of the, if not the, most anticipated comic events each year. That’s because this conference put together by the largest trade organization for comic shops and their owners is where a lot of the real business takes place, with 2024’s effort promising to be one of the spiciest ever between the presentation about the COMET standard for metadata, the reveal of the results of ComicsPRO’s recent survey of shops, and the presentations from the varying attending publishers and distributors.

When it comes to the latter, there’s a bevy of heavy hitters involved, including the Big Two of Marvel and DC and the three biggest single issue distributors in Penguin Random House, Lunar Distribution, and Diamond Comics Distributors. Big names all, but each year, one of the most anticipated presentations comes from BOOM! Studios. They tend to roll out retailer friendly plans and promising slates at this event, ones that are typically quite popular with publishers. They will be making its presence felt this year as well, as Filip Sablik — BOOM!’s President of Publishing & Marketing — will be walking shops through his views on the current state of the direct market, how BOOM! will be trying to help its retailer partners, and some of the exciting things they’re cooking up in an extended presentation to attendees.

I’ll be missing it, as I’m home in Alaska, as will many of you. But the good news is, even though we won’t be there, we can still learn all about what Sablik’s going to be telling retailers today. That’s because BOOM! shared its presentation and Sablik’s speech in full so we can all be let in on their plans. While the publisher’s plans may be lacking in fireworks for now — although there are some tasty reveals and teases, including Jason Aaron working on a BRZRKR series and the promise that 2024 will bring more “multi-year, single issue ongoing series,” which is something I’m sure a whole lot of shops will respond positively to — it seems there’s plenty more to come, with the focus of the speech instead being on a positive, collaborative message for all involved. Spoilers: There’s also a whole lot of Ted Lasso, but that’s for the speech to cover.

You can read Sablik’s speech in full below, and if you’d like to browse the entire presentation — there are snippets from it below, interspersed around where they’d be in the speech — you can see that here. Additionally, this is open to non-subscribers, so if you enjoy this sort of thing, consider subscribing to SKTCHD to read more of it and to support the work in the process.

Everyone in this room is here because they love stories. Over the last 20 years, the transformational power of storytelling has become a bedrock of my beliefs.

This shared love and belief in story is why attending ComicsPRO Annual Meeting are always some of the most valuable days I spend every year. I’m fairly certain that I’ve attended all but one and had the honor of presenting at most of them.

This morning, I’m going to share a story that’s had a major cultural impact and one that I believe has valuable lessons for all of us. Fair warning…


It’s the tale of an unlikely hero with impeccable facial hair. A man riddled with flaws, but blessed with an aspirational confidence, who after suffering a devastating setback changes his life in a way no one understands or believes he can succeed at. He is saddled with an equally motley and dysfunctional team, and must face off against his own doubts, the establishment, betrayal from within, and a ruthless nemesis. And in the end, against all odds, and holding true to the ideals he aspired to he triumphs.   

I am, of course, talking about the groundbreaking, seminal media franchise… TED LASSO.

I love Ted Lasso. I mean, truly and deeply.

“If that’s a joke, I love it. If not, I cannot wait to unpack that with you.” – Ted Lasso

Ted Lasso debuted in 2020 during the heart of the pandemic. It was for me, and many others, a desperately needed weekly dose of laughter-inducing sincerity, optimism, and joy. The character of Coach Lasso was a model of leadership I’d rarely seen depicted before or since.

I saw parts of myself reflected in both his aspirations and flaws. I became a relentless evangelist for the show, no doubt annoying everyone that worked for me and likely made them suspect I was secretly a commissioned sales rep for Apple TV. If you haven’t watched the show yet and need convincing, come find me during the conference and we’ll fix that.

Beyond being delightfully entertaining, Ted Lasso is full of guiding principles all of us can use to navigate the turbulent year ahead.

“I’ve heard folks say that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. Well, I gotta disagree. I love what I do, and I work incredibly hard.” – Ted Lasso

We are in a period of massive change and disruption. Change is happening across all media – not just the comic book market, but the wider publishing industry, television, film, streaming, video games, music, and more. This transformation extends far beyond media into virtually every industry, into technology and politics domestically and abroad, into almost every aspect of our society and lives.

This period of disruption is also making jobs that we all love even harder than they were before. Every member of our community, whether you are a retailer, a publisher, a creator, or a distributor, knows their jobs are more complex, more time consuming, and more difficult than they were four years ago. 

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Ted Lasso

It’s natural for each of us to view all of this from our place in the larger ecosystem and judge what everyone else is doing from that limited perspective. It’s even easier, and commonplace, to assign intent to someone else’s actions based on how it impacts us.

Individually, none of us can control those changes or stop these disruptions. There is no rewinding the clock and returning things to the way they were. Most importantly, we can’t control what others do, only our own actions and reactions.

What we can do is, each and every one of us, is to be curious rather than judgmental. We can seek to understand, to ask questions, and from that place of understanding make things better. We can take on the challenge of evolving our part of the industry to meet the needs of today and build the stronger marketplace of tomorrow. The thoughtful, collaborative work that ComicsPRO is doing to  address the metadata crisis in the direct market by developing and implementing the COMET standard is a wonderful example of this. We need more of this!

“I think that you might be so sure that you’re one in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there, you’re just 1 of 11. And if you just figure out someway to turn that ‘me’ into ‘us’…the sky’s the limit for you.” – Ted Lasso

Just like Coach Lasso, we have to build a strong, diverse team not only behind the scenes, but on the field itself. For the first 50 years of the direct market, our stability has been built around a handful of star players. The same core franchises have driven the weekly buying habits of a group of reliable customers. Those franchises have been the bedrock for thousands of independent small businesses. There’s no clearer indication of this than the fact that for over 20 years the measure of success in the direct market was determined based on how titles sold relative to a single character. 

These core legacy franchises are, and will continue to be, important to the direct market, but most of us don’t have control over how those characters will be shepherded in the years to come. And the folks that do are balancing more competing priorities around these characters than anyone in previous generations.

At BOOM!, we understand the value of legacy franchises. We are honored and fortunate to serve the amazing fans that love and support Dune, Garfield, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and Power Rangers. As we saw last year, refreshing and reimagining a beloved franchise with sharp, inspired execution can drive excitement and customers into stores. We saw it ourselves this month thanks to the original Pink Power Ranger, Amy Jo Johnson, debuting her fresh vision for the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in The Return. The first issue has already sold out twice and racked overwhelmingly positive reviews. Amy Jo is joining us today in the exhibit hall and we’re thrilled to cover the cost for every account to get a copy of The Return signed!

But as our market continues to change, we can also see how perilous it is to rest our fate on a handful of star players. In order to build a strong future, we all need to invest in growing modern franchises. We cannot just service our existing legacy customers, but seek out and nurture steady recurring audiences for new characters and stories. As publishers, it’s imperative we invest in and give them time to reach their full potential.

At BOOM!, we’re fortunate enough to publish multiple modern franchises and we’re leaning into a trio of our biggest and best original series in 2024. 

Ten years ago, at this annual meeting, we presented our retail partners with an unusual new title from four unknown creators called Lumberjanes. The support of ComicsPRO stores made Lumberjanes the breakout hit of 2014, jump started the BOOM!! Box imprint, and changed the face of middle grade graphic novels for two markets. We’re celebrating the first decade of the groundbreaking BOOM! Box imprint and Lumberjanes with a Free Comic Book Day special that will set the table for future announcements as well!

2024 is also the 10 year anniversary of James Tynion IV’s debut as an original creator at BOOM! Studios, and the 5th anniversary of one of the most successful modern franchises in the direct market – Something Is Killing The Children. It’s going to be a massive franchise-building year for Erica Slaughter and the extended Slaughterverse.

Earlier this month, you received an ultra-limited “thank you” variant of House of Slaughter #21 ashcan previewing “The Butcher’s War” kicking off in that series next month. Tate Brombal and Antonio Fuso return to tell Jace Boucher’s FINAL story in this event storyline leading up to issue #25. Meanwhile in the flagship title, Something Is Killing Children returns with issue #36 with “Erica Slaughter Year One” in April. Five self-contained stories that reveal what made Erica the iconic monster hunter we all know and love. Five months of new reader-friendly, jumping-on points to one of the most popular modern franchises in the market. Both of these initiatives will be supported by a Free Comic Book Day special celebrating James Tynion IV’s imagination and world building along with the long anticipated second deluxe hardcover. Plus we have more major Something Is Killing The Children announcements leading up to September’s 5th anniversary celebration sure to ignite interest in existing and new customers alike!

Fittingly enough, no modern franchise will have a bigger 2024 than the biggest creator-owned series of the last 30 years – Keanu Reeves’ BRZRKR. Since shattering sales records with its debut in 2021, the world and mythology of the immortal warrior cursed to violence has continued to expand. This year, B. will go beyond the comic page beginning with the recently announced original prose novel from Del Rey – The Book Of Elsewhere written by Reeves and bestselling, award-winning author China Mieville. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of how this modern franchise will expand into broader pop culture this year.

In comic shops, you and your customers can look forward to two more self-contained, extra-length specials this year. The first one will see Jason Aaron use his unique, bestselling voice to explore a brand new piece of B’s secret history. BRZRKR: A Faceful of Bullets will arrive in stores in June! Additional BRZRKR Pen & Ink editions are also coming this year beginning with Steve Skroce’s Poetry of Madness next month, and a complete Deluxe Hardcover collecting the initial 12 issue mega-series in one premium volume this fall. You can expect additional exciting BRZRKR announcements throughout the year.

This year will also be a thrilling one for us working on modern franchises created by partners like  James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse, with plans beyond the current 12-issue Dragon Tooth series to be announced later this year.

Another sweeping sci-fi epic celebrating a major milestone is The Amory Wars with its 20th anniversary. The New York Times best-selling series sprang from the imagination of Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez as a companion to the band’s seminal series of concept rock albums. Heaven’s Fence, a colony comprised of seventy-eight planets and seven stars linked and held together by the mysterious beam of light known as the Keywork, is in upheaval and the Kilgannon family is at the center of it. Just this week, we announced the climatic chapter – No World For Tomorrow – will launch in comic shops in May. And tonight, Sanchez along with his wife and co-writer Chondra Echert, who are currently touring in their side project The Prize Fighter Inferno, will perform a secret set exclusively for our retail partners here today. The performance will be followed by a special Q&A and afterparty where you can hear first hand why The Amory Wars has captured the imaginations of fans around the globe for two decades.

“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” – Ted Lasso

In addition to strengthening and growing our existing modern franchises, BOOM! is investing in opportunities to create the next ones with an incredible lineup of must read creator-owned series by the most exciting voices in the industry.

As part of our 10th anniversary of BOOM! Box, we’ll build off the incredible response we’ve received for Michael Dialynas’ magical eco-fable Zawa with the recently announced I Heart Skull-Crusher! by Josie Campbell and Alessio Zonno. In this YA Mad Max sports comic, 18-year-old Trini will do anything to compete in her favorite sport, Screaming Pain Ball, aspiring to the heights of her longtime hero Skull-Crusher! And we have three more brand new BOOM! Box series with amazing creators who have never worked with BOOM! Studios that will be announced later this year!

Speaking of creators we’ve never worked with before, we also have three exciting teams creating original series in our Studios imprint for the first time. You, our retail partners, have already been effusive in your support of Kyle Starks and Fran Galan’s small town detective agency mystery Pine & Merrimac leading to an immediate sell out of the first issue. This series, which is already one of the most critically acclaimed of the year, centers on a happily married couple running a small town detective agency who are pulled into a case that gets more terrifying and bizarre the deeper they investigate.

The next two new teams are not only publishing at BOOM! Studios for the first time, but are so passionate about their upcoming BOOM! projects that they are here to talk to you directly. We’re thrilled to have Pornsak Pichetshote and Jesse Lonergan, the team behind Man’s Best, as well as Tony Fleecs and Dave Wachter, creators of Uncanny Valley at the conference. Both creative teams will be presenting after me and have brought exclusive items with them as well!

We also have some of our favorite BOOM! creators returning this year to launch new stories. Here at BOOM! we believe in building libraries of amazing stories with creators we love and these three series are prime examples of that.

Just last week, you received the first issue of an ambitious psychological and philosophical mystery in The Displaced. The gripping opening chapter of this supernatural mystery by writer Ed Brisson and the amazingly talented Luca Casalanguida immediately sold out! Ed is here as well as part of his multi-city comic store signing tour to support the launch of the series.

You’ve seen both Zac Thompson and Nicola Izzo’s work individually adapting Hunt For The Skinwalker and Buffy The Vampire Slayer into comics, but now they are uniting for the first time for an original psychological neo-noir in the tradition of Fargo and Rear Window called Blow Away! When a wildlife photographer witnesses a violent argument between two climbers on the frigid, remote Baffin Island, she must decide if she’s seen a murder… and what to do about it!

And just announced, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, who started his writing career at BOOM! is returning with a brand new thriller with artist SOM. Crocodile Black will be the birthplace of a pandemic era noir lead in the tradition of Elmore Leonard, perfect for fans of Kill Or Be Killed and A Righteous Thirst For Vengeance!

“I believe you can outscore your opponent and still lose, just like you can score less than them and win.” – Ted Lasso

We believe, with your support and customers’ excitement, each and every one of these must read series has the potential to become the NEXT modern franchise. It’s why we carefully curate our publishing slate every year, so as not to overwhelm your customers or oversaturate your shelves with line expansions that can cannibalize sales.

It’s why we support every single series with robust, consistent best-in-class marketing and sales efforts and initiatives. That includes being the only publisher to provide our retail partners with a monthly video that gives you all you need to know to sell that month’s biggest offerings. And original, professional quality video trailers for every launch, along with custom social media and newsletter shareables, all available for download and use with your customers. Plus ongoing partnerships with content creators and influencers to engage readers and fans authentically.

It’s why we have continued our commitment to widespread affidavit based returnability with no minimums, no hoops to jump through, and no limitations through the BOOM! Guarantee program. We’ll continue to guarantee new series launches and collected editions with returnabilty throughout 2024. We augment this with a BOOM!! Guarantee point-of-sales kit to ensure sell through at the register.

And coupled with Diamond’s newly announced predictable 3% of retail flat shipping rate, BOOM!! Studios’ 2% of retail weekly freight rebate reduces your freight costs to a mere 1% of retail beginning April 1st. There’s no better time than right now to invest in finding your sales ceiling for BOOM!! Studios titles in your store than right now!

And to celebrate, we’ve put together an amazing deep discount sale that will run March 25th through April 5th so you can stock your shelves with BOOM!! Studios bestsellers, award-winners, and hidden gems to maximize your profit. Talk to our sales team at the conference to get more details.

We also recognize that one of the keys to building sustainable long term direct market health is more multi-year, single issue ongoing series commitments from publishers. You can expect that to be part of some of our most exciting announcements later in the year.

“I believe in hope. I believe in believe.” – Ted Lasso

I began by acknowledging we were in a period of tremendous disruption and change. That the challenges we all face are difficult. And they are. And they will be.

Which is why as my time on stage draws to a close, I’m going to quote directly from Ted Lasso – “Please do me this favor, will you? Lift your heads up and look around this room. Look at everybody else in here. And I want you to be grateful you’re going through this sad moment with all these other folks because, I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.”

That’s the core message of Ted Lasso. The power of hope and community to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and build a better future for each of us and for each other.

At BOOM!, we believe 2024 will be a transformational year. And it starts in this room with every amazing aspect of our industry gathered in one place – retailers, creators, publishers, and distributors. This year is full of potential, momentum, and must read stories waiting to be told. Stories waiting for each and every one of you, our retail partners, to put in the hands of your communities igniting their fandom. It starts with us, with our authentic passion and enthusiasm.

“Comics are life!” – Dani Rojas (kind of)

So I want you to join me in paraphrasing another Ted Lasso character, Dani Rojas, in what I hope will be our collective mantra this year. Say it with me, loud and proud – COMICS ARE LIFE!

Let’s carry this optimism and passion with us through the rest of the conference!