Children’s and YA comics properties are growing faster than any other category of graphic novels, according to data compiled by pop culture trade news site ICv2, but what was most noticeable at this year's New York Comic Con was the prominence of comics for girls.
Sales of children's graphic novels in bookstores and comic shops were up 35%, according to ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp in the annual White Paper on the comics market that he presented at the ICv2 Happy Hour last week at NYCC. "There's really one word that explains a lot of that dollar movement, and that word is 'Raina,' " he said, referring to Raina Telgemeier, the author of the bestselling YA graphic novels, Smile, Drama, and Sisters, published by Scholastic’s Graphix Imprint. Telgemeier has now achieved the same level of name recognition as Neil Gaiman and Marjane Satrapi, he said, and her audience goes beyond the traditional comics market. Griepp saw continued opportunity for growth, particularly in graphic novels for girls.
That came up again at the "Camp Out with Lumberjanes" panel, which focused on BOOM! Studios' all ages comic Lumberjanes and was moderated by Telgemeier. "The amount of people that have bought our very talented moderator's book is four times the amount of the direct market's entire readership," said BOOM! editor Shannon Watters. "Guess what, ladies are already the majority of comics readers!"
There were plenty of properties for girls at NYCC, including DC's Super Hero Girls line, which puts younger versions of DC's female characters in a high school setting. (Griepp called it "Monster High meets the DC Universe.) DC released the first Super Hero Girls animated shorts last week, and at the con itself, Random House was handing out a sample chapter of the first book, Wonder Woman at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee. The line will include middle-grade chapter books, graphic novels, action figures from Mattel, and a television special.
Marvel, which has done well with its Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel comics, announced a Captain Marvel YA novel to be written by Shannon Hale, the author of the Ever After High trilogy, and her husband Dean Hale, with whom she co-wrote the graphic novel Rapunzel's Revenge. Carol Danvers, the current Captain Marvel, is so popular that fans have started their own grassroots fan club, the Carol Corps.
If female characters seem like a big trend, so are cross-platform properties such as Yo-Kai Watch, a Japanese import in which a mischievous spirit gives the kid player an enchanted device. The property includes video games (developed by Level-5), an animated cartoon that just started running on Disney XD, toy coins that fit into a watch-like bracelet, and graphic novels, to be published by Viz Media. The games and graphic novels will launch next month, and yes, it does sound a lot like Pokémon, although the emphasis in Yo-Kai Watch is on friendship, not battles.
Dark Horse announced four new original and licensed children's and YA properties at the con. Perhaps the biggest news is a new graphic novel series set in the world of the DreamWorks Animation film How to Train Your Dragon. The first one, How to Train Your Dragon: The Serpent's Heir, will be co-written by Dean DeBlois, the writer and director of the films, and will be out next year. It begins just after the end of the second movie.
Also in the works: a YA graphic novel series based on Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Whedon will produce the series, and the first volume will be written by Eisner Award-winning creator Faith Erin Hicks, with art by Yishan Li. Dark Horse also announced two new original properties for young readers, Aw Yeah Comics: Action Cat, a comics series by Art Baltazar and Franco (Tiny Titans, Itty Bitty Hellboy); and a print edition of Anne Szabla's webcomic Bird Boy, an adventure story with a folkloric feel about a 10-year-old boy on a quest to prove himself. And they revealed that the artist for their Legend of Korra graphic novels will be Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat).
Archie Comics rebooted its flagship Archie comic earlier this year, and the first issue of the new Jughead, written by Chip Zdarsky (Howard the Duck) and illustrated by Erica Henderson (Squirrel Girl) debuted last week. These comics feature a more modern take on the traditional Archie characters, but the publisher hasn't forgotten its heritage: Their debut book at the con was a 75th-anniversary collection featuring 75 comics, one from each year, with introductions by Archie himself.
"The fact that the kids' market is growing rapidly, especially for girls, gives a strong runway for future growth," Griepp said at the conclusion of his White Paper, pointing in particular to DC's Super Hero Girls. "That's another impetus for stronger kids' sales. There are a ton of activities across publishers, and in the kids' market, we now have a superstar leading the way."