While superheroes and zombies may have dominated the show floor at Comic-Con in San Diego this past weekend, publishers of comics and graphic novels for children and young adults brought plenty of excitement to the show, with announcements of new titles as well as digital deals. From Viz Media's relaunch of its children's imprint to Archie's first zombie comic and Papercutz’s team-up with the WWE, publishers had plenty of news to share.
Viz Media has announced a new imprint for its children’s comics, which were previously grouped under the Viz Kids imprint for print and the “sticky DOT comics” app for digital. Viz is best known as a manga publisher for older readers (their properties include the digital Shonen Jump magazine and the top-selling series Naruto), but as Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director for children’s publishing at Viz, explained, its children’s line is more diverse. “Perfect Square will be the overarching brand for both the print and the digital,” Kawasaki said. "Everything in the Viz Kids catalog is coming over, and we will continue to bring over strong brands and properties from Japan, but we have these new things as well.” The Viz Kids titles include Pokemon and Legend of Zelda, which will share the imprint with original graphic novels based on licensed properties such as Hello Kitty, Ugly Dolls, Ben 10: Omniverse, Monsuno, and Max Steel. In October, Viz will debut Pokemon Pocket Comics, chunky black-and-white books in a format similar to their Pokemon Pocket Guides that will feature gag comics, puzzles, and trivia.
Viz also has plans to produce books based on Pendleton Ward's animated series Bravest Warriors, which features four teenagers who are heroes for hire, saving aliens with the power of their emotions. BOOM! Studios has the comics license for that series (as well as Ward’s other series, Adventure Time), but Viz will publish other books that tie in to the show, Kawasaki said, possibly activity books or maybe something completely different. “We want to have fun surprises, and that is why we have been thinking this through with everyone that has been working on the show,” Kawasaki said. We love what BOOM! is doing."
The children's graphic novel publisher Papercutz announced several licensing deals, including a series of graphic novels that will tie in with Rio, the animated movie franchise, filling in the storyline between the original and the sequel, Rio 2. The first graphic novel is due out in March 2014, and Rio 2 will be out in April. The graphic novels will be written by Stefan Petrucha (Nancy Drew) and illustrated by James Silvani (Darkwing Duck). Papercutz also announced two series featuring wrestlers from the WWE Superstars roster; one series will be written by three-time WWE champion Mick Foley and will be published under a new Papercutz imprint for teens and older readers; the other will be pitched to younger readers. Foley’s series will debut in December and the children's series in June 2014. And finally, Papercutz will publish a Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series based on the vintage animated show; it will be a companion to their other Power Rangers series, which is based on the cartoon currently running on Nickelodeon.
Children's comics and graphic novels were a huge presence at the show, but aside from those noted above, publishers were chiefly promoting books or series that have already been announced. At the Abrams ComicArts panel, editorial director Charles Kochman and senior editor Carol Burrell highlighted a new volume of Explorer, which is a continuation of the Flight anthologies edited by Kazu Kibuishi but designed specifically for younger readers. Last year's book was Explorer: Mystery Box, and the next book is titled Explorer, Book 2: The Lost Islands. It will feature short stories by Raina Telgemeier (Drama; Smile) and Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), Jake Parker (Missile Mouse), and colorist Jake Caffoe, among others. Also due out soon from Abrams are the young adult story Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge (Page by Paige) and a new series about a witch and her cat, Salem Hyde, by Knights of the Lunch Table creator Frank Cammuso.
The Archie Comics panel was hosted by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, who will be writing the upcoming Archie live-action movie as well as Afterlife with Archie, a zombie series set in Riverdale. As with Abrams, the panel featured updates on already announced projects, including Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel's relaunch of the character The Fox, which is part of Archie's New Crusaders line, and a compilation of classic Archie covers. The one bit of news came in the question and answer session, when an audience member asked if Archie would add a female gay character to the cast; co-CEO Jon Goldwater's response was “I think the answer to that is going to be yes.”
Outside the panel, Archie Comics announced two new books,The Best of Archie Comics: Betty & Veronica, a compilation of stories featuring the two characters, and Archie's Valentine: A Rock and Roll Romance, in which Archie marries Valerie Brown of Josie and the Pussycats.
Scholastic did not have a panel, but it had two big announcements at the show: it is now releasing their graphic novels digitally via Comixology, and it unveiled Kibuishi's cover for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Kibuishi is doing new covers for all the Harry Potter books as part of Scholastic's celebration of the 15th anniversary of the series.
On the show floor, First Second had signings for a number of its creators, including Cecil Castellucci (Odd Duck), Faith Erin Hicks (Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong), and Vera Brosgol (Anya's Ghost). Capstone was featuring its DC Super-Pets encyclopedia along with graphic adaptations of the works of Edgar Allan Poe and William Shakespeare. At the Hermes Press table, Rob Worley had the second issue of his children's comic Scratch 9, the story of a cat who, thanks to a mad scientist, gets to meet the avatars of his other eight lives.
Books for young readers were honored in three categories at the Eisner Awards ceremony on Friday night: Babymouse for President by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, won the award for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7); Adventure Time by Ryan North, illustrated by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, took the prize for best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12); and the young adult winner was Hope Larson's adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. In addition, Joseph Lambert's Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller tied for Best Reality-Based Work with Frank M. Lasky and David Young's The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song, and both works received Eisner Awards.