While Del Rey manga is popular withserious manga fans, their top three sellers in bookstores, according to the2009 BookScan data, were two series that most manga fans probably never pickedup—adaptations of Cartoon Network's Ben10 and Bakugan animated cartoons.These three slim volumes (two of Bakuganand one of Ben 10) sold over 50,000copies combined last year in bookstores alone.
Now Del Rey is reaching for adifferent audience with original graphic novels based on both properties butwith original stories and a new look. The first volume of Ben 10: Doom Dimension, written by veteran comics writer PeterDavid and illustrated by Gyakushu! creator Dan Hipp, is due out on February23, and Bakugan Battle Brawlers,written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir and illustrated by Kriss Sison,is due out in March. The second volume of the Ben 10 manga is scheduled for July release. Unlike the earlierbooks, these are black-and-white, manga-style graphic novels with original characterdesigns and stories.
The first set of graphic novels weredeliberately pitched at a younger audience, said editor Tricia Pasternak, andwere stocked in the children's sections of bookstores and mass-market retailerssuch as Wal-Mart. The new books are aimed at slightly older readers and will bestocked in the manga sections of retail bookstores. The impetus for both camefrom Cartoon Network, Pasternak said, and in fact the original graphic novelswere mentioned in their very first press release.
Both series start with a dedicated fanbase. Ben 10, which features a youngboy with a magic ring that can transform him into any one of ten aliens, isCartoon Network's most popular show, Pasternak said. Bakugan, which is like an updated version of Pokemon, features kids who collect tiny alien robots and pit themagainst one another in battles; naturally, there is a strong line of tie-intoys.
In the case of Ben 10, writer Peter David had already written an episode of thetelevision series, so he was a natural choice for the book. "Cartoon Networkwas really comfortable with him, and he knew the universe inside out, so theygave him a lot of freedom," Pasternak said.
"I'm a comic book guy, and the serieshas very much a comic book sensibility," said David, pointing out that themembers of Man of Action, the production company that created Ben 10, have strong comics backgrounds. "Idesigned [the manga] to read like an episode of the series. I figured that wasone of the advantages my being on the book brought to the party: Havingactually written for the series, I could make the comic feel as much like anepisode as possible."
Pasternak said Cartoon Networkencouraged Del Rey to find an artist with a style that is different from thecartoon. "They wanted us to take it in a new visual direction," she said. Shechose Hipp because she admired his original manga Gyakushu! and his work on TheAmazing Joy Buzzards. "He has such an energetic and dynamic style, Ithought he could pull off the action sequences in Ben 10, and fortunately the creators agreed as well," she said.
"After I had the initial characterdesigns approved in my style, I was given a lot of freedom," Hipp said. "Ibasically just drew it the way I draw any story, attempting to inject as muchenergy as possible." The villain, a bounty-hunter named Aztak, was David'screation, and Hipp was given free rein with the character design. He also addedhis own take in the backgrounds. "Any time I have to draw a scene I'll try andput some fun bits in the background, or a random element of design, like someguy's T-shirt," Hipp said. "Dressing characters in the background can be themost fun!"
David said he had two audiences inmind: Fans of the television series and fans of his own work that would bedrawn to the book because of his involvement. "I made sure to include enoughinformation that someone who was new to the series would be able to followeverything that was happening, including taking a few pages to reference theactual origin sequence," David said. When the animated series first came out,Ben was 10 years old, but later the story was rebooted and he is now age 15,which allows for more possible stories, Pasternak said.
Going back to the origin worked fine,David said, because the first version of the series had a manga style. "And,with any luck, any newcomers who read the book will like enough of what theyread to start getting into the TV series, where you'll find episodes written byvarious comic book vets such as Dwayne, Len Wein, and yours truly," he added.
"Ben10 is a little more clever and a little more hip than a lot of children'sTV shows, a little more interesting than the typical Saturday morning show,"said Pasternak. "It has a child audience but can also work for teens, and weconceived the story to work for both those audiences."