Children's comics continue to play a prominent part at New York Comic-Con, but one of the most noticeable trends was the emergence of comics that are designed to appeal equally, if in different ways, to children and adults.
Thus First Second was promoting Paul Pope's Battling Boy, a graphic novel written for children by a creator with a huge following among adult readers. The story of a 12-year-old boy with god-like powers who battles sinister monsters, Battling Boy is accessible to younger readers but written and drawn in a mature style that will doubtless appeal to Pope's older fans as well. The book garnered an enormous amount of buzz on the show floor, and First Second announced a sequel, Aurora West, at NYCC.
The other big announcement of the con was that Kate Beaton, the creator of the webcomic Hark! A Vagrant, will be doing a series of children's picture books for Scholastic. Like Pope, Beaton has built up a large fanbase among adults, and it's likely that many will of her readers will cross over to buy her children's books, which feature a fat pony that has often turned up in her comics.
This trend was even more noticeable among comics publishers. Children's comics are usually regarded as a tough sell in comics shops, but over the past two years a number of comics tie-ins to children's television shows have met with success in the direct market and in digital format, most notably the Adventure Time comics from BOOM! Studios and My Little Pony from IDW. BOOM! Studios, in particular, has brought in a number of well known indy comics and webcomics creators to work on their all-ages line, and both artists from the Adventure Time comics and talent from the show appeared at the con. BOOM! also has a line of original graphic novels and collected editions, and the Adventure Time Encyclopaedia, published by Abrams, got its own panel at the show.
The other popular genre in the direct market right now is kid-friendly adaptations of adult comics, such as Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani's Tiny Titans, a comic that parodied DC superheroes, which ran from 2008 through 2012. Earlier this year, Dark Horse launched Itty Bitty Hellboy, an all-ages Hellboy parody by Baltazar and Aureliani. At NYCC, Dynamite announced a Li'l Dynamites, a series of five one-shot comics featuring kid-friendly versions of Dynamite properties such as Red Sonja and Battlestar Galactica. Talent on the series includes Baltazar, Roger Langridge (The Muppet Show, Snarked) and Jim Zubkavich (Skullkickers, Samurai Jack). And during the show, Aureliani Tweeted "Yes! It's true! New Tiny Titans coming soon!" While this doesn't qualify as an official announcement, it was re-Tweeted by DC co-publisher Dan DiDio.
Archie Comics debuted its Afterlife with Archie series, about a zombie invasion of Riverdale. The comics are written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and illustrated by Eisner-winning artist Francesco Francavilla (The Black Beetle) in a retro-horror style that manages to be very different from the sunny Archie house style while keeping the characters recognizable. The comic is rated Teen+ but with Francavilla on board, it is likely to draw older readers as well. Archie also debuted a digital app for Afterlife with Archie that will include not only the comics but extras such as scripts and backup stories, a product clearly aimed at aspiring creators.
At the Archie panel, writer Michael Uslan announced that he is writing a story titled "Farewell to Betty and Veronica" for the monthly Betty and Veronica comic, but he didn't give many details beyond the title and the fact that the story would be about a Riverdale with no Betty or Veronica and would introduce two new characters.
There were plenty of more traditional graphic novels on the exhibit floor as well. At the Disney booth, the graphic novel adaptation of The Titan's Curse, the third of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson novels, was on prominent display, and fans were lining up to get autographed posters from Orpheus Collar, the illustrator of another Riordan novel, The Red Pyramid. Disney was also giving away posters of its new Space Mountain graphic novel.
At the Abrams booth, the featured title was The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, by Frank Cammuso, best known for his Knights of the Lunch Table graphic novels; the book debuted at the show, and Cammuso did a panel about it. AMP, the children's graphic novel line from Andrews McMeel, was featuring its Big Nate and Desmond Pucket books. At the Papercutz booth, Rick Parker was autographing copies of his latest parody, The Farting Dead, and professional wrestler Mick Foley and artist Dean Haspiel stopped by to promote Papercutz' new line of WWE comics and graphic novels, which were announced at Comic-Con International in San Diego in July.
Scholastic authors who were at the show included Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox, whose Dogs of War, a trio of short stories about dogs in three different wars, is due out later this month, and Jimmy Gownley, who was there with advance copies of his memoir, The Dumbest Idea Ever!
Jamal Igle launched his graphic novel Molly Danger (another comic with crossover appeal to adults, as Igle is well known as a superhero creator) at the show, and his publisher, Action Labs, was featuring another new property, Vamplets, as well.
At the ICv2 conference on the day before the con opened, Milton Greipp noted that the number of children's graphic novels published in 2012 was up 12% from 2011, the only category to show that level of growth. With the appearance of crossover books like Battling Boy and Adventure Time that appeal to a wide audience of children and adults, it's likely that the category will continue to grow.