Little, Brown’s new license with Lego for graphic novels, announced last week, will center initially on three brands: Lego Ninjago, Lego Friends, and Lego Bionicle. Starting in September 2015, each franchise will be featured in a quarterly release, on a rotating basis, so there will be one new LEGO title per month. This is the latest of several new licensing deals for LB over the past few years, with Disney Fairies and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy among its recent acquisitions.
“Lego is a powerhouse brand that’s done an outstanding job of creating characters and stories that resonate with girls and boys of all ages,” says Andrew Smith, senior v-p and deputy publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. “Graphic novels are a high-potential format, and a great format for this property, since it’s so visual. We have many huge Lego fans in-house here, so there’s a lot of enthusiasm across the board.”
The books will be original stories tied to Lego's latest sets, themes, and storylines, and will include exclusive back-of-book bonus content including maps, sketches, and secret codes. “The exclusive content will enhance the reading experience and allow the readers to dive into the world more,” Smith says.
This summer, LB and Lego will introduce their new partnership at San Diego Comic-Con and promote the books further at New York Comic-Con; Lego has a big presence at both conventions. “Lego is great at interacting with its fans online, at events, and at retail, and we’re discussing cross-promotional opportunities,” Smith reports. “The goal is to get the word out to both fans and new readers.”
Meanwhile, Lego's incumbent licensee for the category, Papercutz, holds rights to Ninjago and Bionicle through the end of the year and to Chima through mid-2016. Ninjago has been one of the company’s top licenses since it began working with Lego in June 2011, generating sales of more than two million copies through mid-2014.
“Lego's been a very successful property for us and we hope it’s the same for [Little, Brown],” says Sven Larsen, v-p of marketing at Papercutz. He reports that the company’s focus now is on its first-look deal with Nickelodeon for the network’s new properties, announced in July 2014. The first titles, tied to Sanjay and Craig and Breadwinners, will release this September 2015, followed by Harvey Beaks and Pig Goat Banana Cricket in 2016. “[Nickelodeon execs] are including us in the development cycle for their properties, so we’re seeing new animation at the same time they are,” Larsen says.
Papercutz is also set to release new titles through an expanded deal with Disney Publishing Worldwide, including graphic novels based on Stan Lee’s YA series The Zodiac Legacy and several books created by Disney Studios for the European market that are being released in the U.S. for the first time.