Using a mix of reprints of classic properties such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, European licenses such as the Smurfs as well as original kids-oriented parodies, Papercutz’s growing list of children’s graphic novel series is having a big year heading into the holiday season. Along with “excellent” orders from the general trade and a seasonal endcap display at Walmart, Papercutz’s principals Terry Nantier and Jim Salicrup say they’re also getting “substantial” orders from the comics shops market, generally not as strong a selling venue for Papercutz titles.

Over the last few years Papercutz has managed to introduce and reintroduce a number of kids comics series in the graphic novel format into the book trade and direct market with growing success. Now the house is focused on relaunching the Smurfs, the classic comics strip created by Belgian cartoonist Peyo in the late 1950s. Although the Smurfs are best known in the U.S. for the 1980s animated series, Papercutz publisher Terry Nantier is emphasizing the quality of the original comics series and is releasing the series in advance of a live action Smurfs movie set to be released in late summer 2011.

After launching the Smurfs in the direct market through Diamond Comics Distribution with a special $1 preview periodical issue and a Smurfs mini-comic giveaway for Halloween, Nantier said orders from direct market were “surprising” and “better than anticipated. We’ve gotten twice the number of orders we got from Disney’s Faeries in the direct market and Faeries did very well.” Papercutz editor-in-chief Jim Salicrup said the series is working in the direct market, “because it appeals to collectors in the comics shop market and it is familiar from the TV tie-ins,” but he also emphasized that “this is the original comics material and not the watered-down Saturday morning cartoon material. Most American’s don’t know the comics came first.” The series new Smurfs graphic novels are being offered in a new trim size (6”x9”) with better paper and Salicrup also noted that “we’ll have 7 volumes of Smurfs material in the market,” by the time the Smurfs film is released in August 2011.”

The Smurfs property is the latest in a series of kids Euro-comics licensed by Papercutz at the Frankfurt Book Fair that have found success in the U.S. The house has released the 7 volumes of the Geronimo Stilton series (each with 50,000 copy first printing; Papercutz has gone back to press for vols. 3-5 for 8,000 copies each). There are 5 volumes of the Disney Faeries series (licensed through Disney’s Milan studio) and its Classic Illustrated line of Euro-comics adaptations of classic literature such as Ivanhoe, the Island of Dr. Moreau; The Scarlet Letter and many others. Raised in France, Nantier speaks French and credits his background—as well as Papercutz’s track record—with helping him secure many of Papercutz’s European licenses. “I grew up in France and I’ve been obsessed with getting the Smurfs,” Nantier said, noting that “the [original Smurfs] comics are better than the cartoons—the original Smurfs aren’t so nice and sweet.” Salicrup said the original material “speaks to a young audience but not down to them.”

Papercutz’s also snagged two classic American properties—Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys—just as their prose publishers relaunched new versions of the two classic series. Papercutz launched a new manga-style Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series in 2005 and both series have now released 20 volumes. Nancy Drew has sold more than 400,000 copies across the entire series and the Hardy Boys series has sold just over 300,000 copies. Nantier said that having so many volumes in the marketplace was causing confusion among retailers, so Papercutz has relaunched both series, starting with new volume ones with a new lower price; a larger trim size and new logo design and brought in a new creative team—writer Gerry Conway and artist Paul Henrique—for the Hardy Boys. The new Hardy Boys series launched with a story Zombies and in the next volume, the two break up; while the new Nancy Drew is now fighting vampires and even kissing one on the cover; another first for the series Nantier said.

Papercutz has also done well with Stinky Dead Kid, an original parody of the Wimpy Kid series that it launched in volume 8 of its revamped Tales From the Crypt series. The series was an immediate hit with kids and there are now 75,000 copies of Tales from the Crypt #8 in print and there’s a new Stinky Dead Kid story slated for volume 9. Salicrup said Walmart took 25,000 copies of vol. 8 for a Halloween endcap during the October and told PWCW “we’ve gotten great sell-through.”

Following on the success of the Stinky Dead Kid parody; Papercutz is launching Slices, a new series of “unauthoritzed parodies” featuring well known kids properties that will be produced by the Stinky Dead Kid creative team of writer Stefan Petrucha and artist Rick Parker. The series will launch with a parody of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series, Breaking Down in January; and add Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring in March. Both series are launching with 20,000 copy initial print runs and getting “excellent sell-in orders from B&N,” Nantier said.

Nantier said to look for more Euro-comics as well as more original publishing from Papercutz in the new year. “We started out with licensed properties so we had ready-made recognition of our list,” Nantier said in an effort to explain their success. “Parents recognize our titles and hey, we’re publishing good comics. The whole combination makes for a winner.”