Remember when comics grew up, got serious, and weren't really for kids any more? Publishers have come full circle, now catering to young readers with new comics and graphic novels and tie-ins to old favorites, and sometimes going to where the kids are to get them engaged.
As always, the ICv2 Conference kicked things off the day before New York Comic Con with a look at the comics market, its size and current trends. ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp estimated the total size of the children's graphic novel market (in bookstores and specialty comic stores) at between $60 million and $70 million. Looking at a snapshot of sales from May through August of this year, he calculated that children's properties made up 14% of the total graphic novel market (in dollar sales), and the vast majority of these sales--88%--were in bookstores, as opposed to comics shops. And sales were up 10% compared to the same period in 2013.
IDW’s Micro Comic Fun Packs
Later that day, Ted Adams, CEO of IDW Publishing, led off a panel on graphic novels by talking about the different ways his company is marketing its comics that tie into the Skylander video games and action figures: IDW publishes a periodical comic for the direct market, hardcover collections for bookstores, and a special edition for Scholastic book fairs, and they also place their comics in "Fun Packs," a bundle of items that also include stickers, tattoos, and other assorted items, which are racked with toys in mass-market stores such as Target and Toys R Us. The Skylanders video game alone is worth three times the entire comics market, Adams said, and he wants to get that audience interested in comics--first as casual fans, and then, hopefully, as hard-core fans who will go on to read other comics. "They are not going to transition from this to superhero comics, but they might transition to Archie or My Little Pony or Adventure Time," he said.
Perhaps Adams was priming attendees for the announcement later in the show that IDW is teaming up with Marvel to produce Avengers Fun Packs and with Disney to produce Fun Packs based on a variety of Disney properties. The publisher also announced that it is partnering with Disney to publish several monthly comic series featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other classic Disney characters, as well as high-end limited editions of classic comics, and collections of Disney newspaper strips in their Library of American Comics imprint.
Marvel, DC Comics, Archie and More
Other publishers had plenty of announcements and show debuts as well. Marvel Comics unveiled plans for a five-issue comics adaptation of the first volume of James Patterson's Maximum Ride. Yen Press had previously done a manga-style adaptation that stayed close to the original, but for this version, Patterson has given Marvel free rein to change the story. Marvel drew a lot of attention earlier this year with its teen-friendly Ms. Marvel comic, which features a 16-year-old Muslim girl, whose parents immigrated from Pakistan, in the title role, and writer G. Willow Wilson made several appearances at the show. One more bit of Marvel news: Fan favorite Jim Zubkavich (Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, Figment, Wayward) will be writing backup stories for the new "season" of the all-ages comic Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors.
DC Comics, meanwhile, was featuring Gotham Academy, a teen-friendly series that launched on October 1 and is set in a high school in Gotham City, with show appearances by the creative team of Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl.
Archie Comics, as always, was a major presence at NYCC, with a booth on the exhibit floor and several panels focusing on its core line of comics (Archie, the recently concluded Life With Archie, and Afterlife With Archie), its popular Sonic the Hedgehog comics, and its new Dark Circle line of superhero comics. Just before the show, they announced a new crossover, Archie Meets the Predator, a (presumably) tamer version of the extraterrestrial hunter from the 1987 film, which Dark Horse has spun out into a series of comics.
Several publishers were debuting or promoting new books at NYCC. Chronicle Books had Lowriders in Space, by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third (Raul Gonzalez), a graphic novel for grades 3-7 that mixes up Spanish, science, and, yes, "low and slow" lowriders. The book will be out in stores on November 4.
Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang's young adult novel In Real Life, a story about a girl who becomes a "gold miner" in an online game and finds virtual reality crossing over with actual people, debuted at the show from First Second.
Oni Press was promoting its graphic novel Costume Quest, a Halloween tale of aliens who travel to Earth because of a candy shortage on their planet. The story is based on a video game (although it reads fine on its own), and at NYCC, Oni was giving out a download code for the first version of the game to anyone who purchased the book.
At its booth, HarperCollins was featuring the second volume of the graphic novel adaptation of Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, with art by P. Craig Russell; the first volume came out last year. Also featured at the HarperCollins booth: Stick Dog, by Tom Watson, a graphic novel/prose hybrid along the lines of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
And looking farther into the future, the artists at the Papercutz booth included Deb Lucke, the creator of their first original graphic novel, Lunch Witch, which is due out in March 2015.
Throughout the four days of the show, NYCC offered plenty of children's programming, including drawing workshops led by creators Thom Zahler and Jacob Chabot, a puppetmaking workshop, a costume parade, panels discussions by graphic novel creators, and an appearance by Jeff Kinney, creator of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Comics, it appears, are not just for adults any more.