Andrews McMeel Publishing, a humor, giftbook and nonfiction house perhaps best known for its bestselling collections of popular newspaper cartoonists, is launching AMP! Comics for Kids, a line of paperback graphic novel stories aimed at middle grade readers. The line will launch in August 2012 with five titles including two books by Lincoln Peirce, the creator of the bestselling Big Nate series.

AMP! Comics for Kids is Andrews McMeel’s first kids-focused graphic novel line and the artists will be featured at the AMP booth at this year’s BookExpo America. The initial lineup for AMP! Comics for Kids will feature Peirce's Big Nate Makes the Grade ($9.99) to be published August 21, and Big Nate All Work and No Play: A Collection of Sundays ($14.99), due in October. The initial list will also include AAAA! A Foxtrot Assortment for Young Readers by Bill Amend ($9.99), also in October, and Mark Tatulli's Lio: There's a Monster in My Socks (Oct. 2012) ($9.99).

All three authors will be on hand at BEA to sign autographs and kick off the series. The company will have reps at the ALA annual conference in Anaheim in June and at San Diego Comic-con International in July, where Amend also will make an appearance.

In a phone interview, Kirsty Melville, president of the AMP book division, emphasized that this was the publisher’s first kids’-focused comics line and credited the success of Peirce’s Big Nate series, with more than four million copies in print for HarperCollins, for driving the decision to start AMP! “Big Nate set us on the path that we could do comics for kids,” Melville said. Melville said the line will likely do five or six titles a year for now. “We’re trying to build a list that will go on for years. We’re reaching out to our comics artists community, some of whom have never created just for kids before.”

The publication of the Big Nate series will be split between HarperCollins, which publishes Big Nate chapter books and activity books as well as comics collections, and Andrews McMeel Publishing, which only publishes Big Nate comics collections. All of AMP's Big Nate publishing will be comics collections and they will be published under the AMP! Comics for Kids line.

Melville said the initial line of comics stories will include both original work and some material adapted from older works. Asked about initial print runs she said, “If they’re as successful as Big Nate, the print runs will be hundreds of thousands of copies.”

Although Andrews McMeel releases more than 200 books a year, including cookbooks, crafts, humor titles and calendars, the house is likely best known as the publisher of bestselling book collections of such popular syndicated (often through Universal Press Syndicate) comics strips as Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury, Gary Larson’s The Far Side, Scott Adams’s Dilbert, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse and many more.

Although AMP does not offer an app or downloadable editions of its comics, Melville said that digital versions of the AMP! Comics for Kids titles, “with interactive elements,” are coming. The company offers online access many of its comics through its website. AMP’s physical books are distributed by Simon & Schuster.

“This is our first kids' line,” Melville said. “It’s a big deal for us to bring these cartoonists and their work to a new generation.”