Children’s comics were a muted presence at NYCC, compared to a few years ago, but the children themselves were out in force throughout the four days of the show and particularly for Sunday, which is traditionally kids’ day.
On the exhibit floor, publishers were promoting a diverse array of books, and children dressed as Spider-Man and Disney Princesses were learning lightsaber techniques at Padawan Academy, tracing manhwa on handheld light tables in the Korean comics booth, and taking drawing workshops with artists Tana Ford and Erin Lefler.
Traditional book publishers, including Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan, were front and center on the show floor and featured a mix of graphic novels and prose works. Con-goers who happened along at the right time could score a galley of The Moth Keeper by Katie O’Neill (The Tea Dragon Society; Princess Princess); Random House Graphic will publish the middle grade fantasy graphic novel in March 2023. Abrams had a display that ranged from Marvel board books to Nathan Hale’s new how-to book, Let’s Make History. (Hale’s humorous-but-accurate Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series is a top seller in the nonfiction children’s graphic novel category.)
First Second had a healthy stack of John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators books; the series, one of First Second’s bestsellers, features a pair of alligator secret agents who continually find themselves in preposterous circumstances (think Dog Man meets Get Smart). And Simon & Schuster was giving out ARCs of Roan Black’s Guardians of Horsa: Legend of the Yearling, a middle-grade fantasy graphic novel with horses as the lead characters (think Warriors meets My Little Pony).
One particularly noticeable phenomenon was the popularity of graphic novels based on the chapter books of an earlier generation. James Howe (Bunnicula), R.L. Stine (Goosebumps) and Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House) were all at the show. Howe and Stine did a panel together on scary books, and all three were signing books for fans of all ages. In a slightly different vein, Storm King, which publishes horror comics based on the movies of John Carpenter (Halloween) and Sandy King (They Live), was displaying comics from their children’s imprint Storm Kids, including The Grimm’s Town Terror Tales: Rise of the Candy Creeper.
Mad Cave Studios didn’t waste any time: the Florida-based publisher acquired Papercutz in August and already had a rack of Papercutz graphic novels at its booth, as well as ashcans of Art Baltazar’s upcoming graphic novel Yahgz, which Papercutz will publish in August 2023. (Baltazar, half of the team that created DC’s Tiny Titans, is also the creator of Gillbert the Little Merman, another Papercutz title.) Mad Cave also had a selection of titles from its Maverick young adult imprint, including early copies of Kate Sheridan and Gaia Cardinali’s In the Shadow of the Throne, in which a visit to a museum transports the teen hero to a fantasy world of knights and magic. The book will be released on October 25.
Elsewhere, Dani Coleman was signing copies of her graphic novel The Unfinished Corner, a fantasy-adventure based on Jewish mythology, and at the IDW booth, Sonic the Hedgehog contributors Jennifer Hernandez and Jamal Peppers were autographing comics.
And Rocketship, which publishes print editions of webtoons and webcomics, usually funding the production costs via Kickstarter, had writer Justin Jordan on hand to sign copies of his YA graphic novel Urban Animal (done with artist John Amor).
If there seemed to be fewer children’s comics and announcements this year, it was partly because comics themselves were a smaller presence. The floor was dominated by media properties, including such kid-friendly ones as Monster High, SpongeBob SquarePants, and Moon Girl, starring Lunella Lafayette, the girl genius from the Marvel universe who will soon star in her own animated series on the Disney Channel (the character was created by Amy Reed, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos). The comics cross over into other media, and the other media cross over into comics, but having a Moon Girl comic and a Moon Girl cartoon just means there’s twice as much Moon Girl for the youngest fans to enjoy.