Looking to build on the success of its kids-focused graphic novel collections Plants vs. Zombies and Avatar: The Last Airbender, Dark Horse Comics is expanding the number of all-ages graphic novels it publishes each year. The house is launching four new titles in 2015 with more kids' graphic novels planned.
Dark Horse announced plans to publish Rexodus, a sci-fi tale based on the notion that rather than becoming extinct, dinosaurs actually left the earth and resettled on another planet, created by Steelhouse Productions. Dark Horse also plans to republish Courageous Princess, an acclaimed fantasy graphic novel by Rod Espinosa originally published in 1999 by Antarctic Press; Veda: Assembly Required, the story of girl raised by robots, by Samuel Teer and Hyeondo Park; and The Return of the Gremlins, a new hardcover that collects the comics periodicals adapted from the Roald Dahl kids' classic, written by Dark Horse publisher/founder Mike Richardson and drawn by Dean Yeagle.
The books will be published in 2015 and edited by DH editor Sierra Hahn. “I’ve always been interested in editing more titles for kids and teens. I’m not alone in that I first fell in love with the medium as a child and it led to an enduring love for reading,” Hahn told PW. “My experience was that there weren’t a wealth of acclaimed comics suitable for a 12- to 16-year-old. That’s really changed in the last decade with more offerings available to a larger age group thanks in part to the successes of Scholastic’s Graphix and First Second,” she said. “While Dark Horse has always published quality kids' comics—Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden and Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo are surely some of the greatest—it took groundbreaking successes like Avatar:The Last Airbender to really expand that audience and get all eyes on us for our quality kids' titles,” Hahn said.
“It’s important to cultivate young comics readers, so we’re looking to create new books and launch new titles,” Richardson told PW during a phone interview. Richardson noted the success of Dark Horse series like Plants vs. Zombies (DH has shipped more than 300,000 copies), which is based on the videogame, and the bestselling series Avatar: The Last Airbender, written by National Book Award nominated cartoonist Gene Luen Yang and drawn by Gurihiru.
Richardson also noted Dark Horse’s Itty Bitty Hellboy comics, which turn Mike Mignola’s iconic demon hero into a goofy-fun kids' comic, and Aw Yeah!, with animal super heroes Action Cat and Adventure Bug, both done by the comics-producing team of Art Baltazar and Franco. Richardson said an Itty Bitty Mask, based on the Mask comics, was likely next in the series. “Itty Bitty books take popular Dark Horse characters and turns them into kids' version. We’re going to add other well-known characters to the Itty Bitty books, and bring some back,” he said.
Dark Horse switched its book trade distribution to Random House Publisher Services late in 2013 (Diamond Comics continues to distribute its titles to the comics shop market) and Richardson credited RHPS helping with the expansion. “They have been great at helping us get these books out and into the book trade marketplace,” he said.
Dark Horse v-p of business development Michael Martens said, “With our new relationship with Random House, we have the ability to not only sell a higher volume of these titles, but promote the books in previously underutilized channels. We will be putting title incentives on these books for the independent bookstores, and promoting heavily through the library channels.” In addition, Martens said, “on the marketing side, we will be doing a number of group ads linking these newer titles to those with an established audience like Plants vs. Zombies and Avatar. We will be pushing for reviews from notable tastemakers in the library market like Kat Kan, etc. We will be setting up author events both in libraries and bookstores, as well as heavy promotion at trade shows like ALA and BEA, and consumer shows like Comic Con.”
“The last few years we’ve experienced a lot of growth with young readers with new titles like Itty Bitty Hellboy and 2015 will be a big year offering graphic novels for kids with these new titles,” Hahn said.