WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW: Joris Bas Backer
For comic artist and illustrator Joris Bas Backer, his YA graphic novel Kisses for Jet is all about telling a transgender story that goes deeper than those typically depicted by mainstream media. Backer, who is based in Germany and studied visual arts in Amsterdam and Rhode Island, published the English edition of Kisses for Jet with Nobrow in May 2022.
Set in the Netherlands in 1999, the book is a coming-of-gender story about a 16-year-old named Jet finding themselves and discovering their trans identity—without the help and guidance of the internet—all while the end of the world is set to arrive at the turn of the millennium. “Kisses for Jet is a fictional story inspired by own experiences,” Backer tells PW. “My goal was to tell a story that goes beyond the trans biographies we have typically come to know from the media, stories that often sensationalize trans people instead of showing the universality of their experiences. I wanted to tell an entertaining and funny coming-of-age story that would draw the reader in. The story takes place in the 1990s, just before the year 2000. I enjoyed depicting a time that corresponds with my own coming-of-age and imagining what it would have been like to discover my trans identity and come out at that time.”
The book has already received ad- vanced praise from authors and reviewers alike. Jake Hall, author of The Art of Drag, says, “Kisses for Jet is a sensitively written, beautifully illustrated depiction of a trans-masculine experience so rarely shown in media... a huge step forward for trans representation.” And Publishers Weekly praises the book in its review: “Jet’s
earnest questioning and relationship with gender and adolescence illustrates the conflict between becoming who the world wants them to be and who they are, conveyed in a raw, personal-feeling portrayal of transition in a pre-internet era.”
MODERN-DAY HORSEMAN: Branden Boyer-White and Shannon Watters
Mix equal parts ghost story and queer romance, and you get Hollow, the latest YA graphic novel from New York Times–bestselling author Shannon Watters (Lumberjanes), debut author Branden Boyer-White, illustrator and comics artist Berenice Nelle, and colorist Kaitlyn Musto.
The book—out in September 2022 from BOOM! Studios— follows Isabel “Izzy” Crane, who, along with her family, relocates to Sleepy Hollow and works to navigate a new town and a new school. But when Izzy gets to know popular girl Vicky Van Tassel and prankster Croc Byun, the trio finds themselves haunt- ed by the Headless Horseman and faced with a curse that threatens to destroy the Van Tassel family.
“Hollow is the queer-teen-love-story meets spooky-goofball-supernatural-caper that my Scooby-Doo-ifed young self had wished existed,” says Watters, who is the former head of BOOM! Studios. “Writing Hollow with Bran- den was the best part of a wretched 2020, and seeing it come to life at the extraordinary hands of Beri and Kaitlyn is easily the best part of 2021.”
“I’ve always been a collector of ghost stories, and the legend of the Headless Horseman is one of my favorites,” Boyer-White says. “It’s a dream come true to add our link in the chain of the Horseman’s spir- ited legacy, and we can’t wait for readers to take this fun, eerie ride through our twist on the tale.”
In a statement, BOOM! Studios editor Sophie Philips-Roberts praises the team behind Hollow. “Shannon has proven time and again that there is an audience for queer, diverse, interesting stories for readers of every stripe,” Philips-Roberts says. “With her work on bestselling and widely acclaimed series, she has truly broken down barriers and proven that comics are for everyone. So it’s an absolute honor to be working with her, Branden, Berenice, and Kaitlyn to bring their vision of a modern queer Legend of Sleepy Hollow to life, and we can’t wait to share the laughs, tears, romance, action, and all the scares with delighted fans worldwide.”
THE GAME’S AFOOT: Mickey George
Spunky teenage supersleuth Enola Holmes is back with a new case–this time in a graphic novel for YA readers! Out in August 2022 from Legendary Comics, Enola Holmes: Mycroft’s Dangerous Game—written by Mickey George (The Heart Hunter) and Nancy Springer (the Enola Holmes Mystery series), and featuring the work of Italian artist Giorgia Sposito and colorist Enrica Angiolini—picks up where the popular Netflix film left off.
The graphic novel, which stars Millie Bobby Brown and Henry Cavil and bridges the gap between Enola Holmes and the highly anticipated sequel, follows Sherlock Holmes’s rebellious sister, Enola, on a new and even more daring adventure. When anarchists abduct her brother Mycroft, Enola must investigate his disappearance, attempt to retrieve a precious object he took from her, and work to unravel a complex mystery that takes her deep into the bowels of the London underground.
“It was a true honor to get to play in Enola Holmes’s world,” George tells PW. “Be- cause she’s such a brave and clever character, there’s a lot of freedom in what adventures she’ll get into. I also loved collaborating with a whole team of inspiring women to bring this comic to life.”
It’s a collaboration with a lot of appeal, according to Dr. Who and Elementary screenwriter Paul Cornell. “Fans of the film and newbies alike will be delighted with this exciting, characterful, and witty adventure,” he says in a Roye Okupe blurb. “Enola rocks as a comics character, and Victorian London feels perfect.”
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE STORY: Roye Okupe
Roye Okupe isn’t just writing graphic novels, he’s creating a universe. In 2012, the award-winning filmmaker, author,
speaker, and entrepreneur who’s originally from Lagos, Nigeria, turned his love of comics and animation into YouNeek Studios. Then he teamed with Dark Horse Comics to create the YouNeek YouNiverse, a connected world of African-in- spired superhero and fantasy stories.
“What we are trying to do over the next few years is create a compelling and immersive universe with our own twist,” Okupe says in a statement. “The YouNeek YouNiverse is a massive, interconnected universe of sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero content spread across multiple time lines with stories told from an African perspective.”
One of the latest books from that universe is Iyanu: Child of Wonder–written by Okupe and illustrated by Godwin Akpan. The YA graphic novel follows the eponymous teenage orphan with no memory of her past as she discovers abilities that rival ancient deities and are key to bringing back an age of wonders. As she comes into her power, Iyanu works to save a world on the brink of destruction and stop cursed wildlife and divine beasts determined to destroy humanity.
“Everything that has to do with culture and mythology is just icing on the cake,” says Okupe, who ranked #5 on Ventures Africa’s list of 40 African innovators to watch and was twice named as one of New African Magazine’s 100 most influential Africans. “For me, it’s always about the story. That’s the best way I’ve found to separate myself from every saturated genre like fantasy. With Iyanu, what I wanted to do was flip the Chosen One trope on its head.”