This year's San Diego Comic-Con International showcased a children's comics and graphic novels scene that is maturing. Scholastic marked the 10th anniversary of its Graphix imprint, Abrams, IDW, Perfect Square, Papercutz, Lion Forge and others launched new projects and veteran creators such as Jeff Smith, Barry Deutsch and Raina Telgemeier greeted fans and promoted their latest graphic novels.
This year’s show featured an exciting crop of first books from young and emerging creators. And while licensed properties continue to be a strong trend, one publisher, Papercutz, was featuring its first non-licensed book.
Scholastic launched its graphic-novel imprint Graphix in 2005 with a full-color edition of the first volume of Jeff Smith's Bone, and they will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a special tribute edition featuring fan art by other creators, including Kate Beaton (Hark! A Vagrant), Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet, the Flight anthologies), Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama, Sisters), and Craig Thompson (Blankets, Habibi), as well as a new, illustrated poem by Smith. Smith originally self-published Bone as single-issue comics under the Cartoon Books label beginning in 1991, and some of the later issues were published by Image, but the Graphix edition was the first full-color collected edition of the comic.
Abrams ComicArts announced three children's titles for its spring 2015 season: Barry Deutsch's Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish, the third volume in his fantasy series about an Orthodox Jewish girl who dreams of slaying dragons; Eric Colossal's Rutabaga the Adventure Chef, a book about magical foods that includes real recipes for kids to try; and Red's Planet, a print edition of the webcomic by Eddie Pittman about a ten-year-old girl who is accidentally kidnapped by aliens.
A number of licensed properties were announced before and during the show. IDW unveiled two: An Angry Birds/Transformers crossover and a new comic based on Topps's Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. The Garbage Pail Kids were created by Art Spiegelman in 1985 and had a MAD Magazine sensibility and plenty of gross-out humor. The comics will be anthologies of loosely connected short stories by different creators, including Peter Bagge (Hate) who designed a new character for the announcement: Comic-Con Ron. The Garbage Pail Kids comics will launch next year, which is the Kids' 30th anniversary.
Perfect Square, Viz Media's children's imprint, was featuring both old and new licensed properties at its booth. Hello Kitty turns 40 this year, and Viz had a special Comic-Con edition of their forthcoming Hello Kitty, Hello 40 art book. Contributors to the art book were on hand to sign and sketch, and an actor dressed as Hello Kitty posed for photographs with fans. The booth also hosted an appearance by Sam Lavagnino, the voice of Catbug in the YouTube cartoon series Bravest Warriors, to promote the launch of two Perfect Square books based on that character, Bravest Warriors: The Search for Catbug and Bravest Warriors: Catbug's Treasure Book. Both are tie-in books rather than graphic novels, because BOOM! Studios holds the comics license for Bravest Warriors.
Lion Forge, which has produced digital-first comics based on 1980s TV shows such as Punky Brewster and Knight Rider, announced that it is adding three licensed properties to its ROAR Comics all-ages imprint: Two based on popular toys from the 1980s, Care Bears and Madballs, and Packages from Planet X, based on the Disney XD animated series.
Papercutz, the home of the Lego Ninjago and Legends of Chima graphic novels, announced another licensed series just before the show: Rabbids, which is based on the Ubisoft video game and Nickelodeon cartoon series. The first volume of Rabbids is a translation of a collection of gags and short strips that was originally published in French; after that, Papercutz will be producing their own versions. They also announced a new series based on the world of WWE wrestling, WWE Slam City.
Papercutz also tacked in a new direction with the announcement of its first original graphic novel, Deb Lucke's The Lunch Witch. This will be the first Papercutz book that is not based on a pre-existing property, either a license or an import. Lucke is a children's picture book illustrator, and Sven Larsen, v-p of marketing for Papercutz, described The Lunch Witch as "a fusion of an illustrated book and a graphic novel."
One reason to come to Comic-Con is to get a first look at what everyone else will be reading in a couple of months, and several publishers were showcasing upcoming children's graphic novels. Archaia, which is an imprint of BOOM! Studios, was showing off a preview booklet of The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow, which is based on a TV treatment written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl (for a show that was never made) and illustrated by Roger Langridge. The finished book will be out in October.
At the Top Shelf booth, con-goers could get early copies of Eric Orchard's graphic novel Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, which is due out this fall.
Three children's books were honored with Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards on Friday night: Itty Bitty Hellboy, by Art Baltazar and Franco, (Dark Horse) got the award for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7); The Adventures of Superhero Girl, by Faith Erin Hicks (Dark Horse), got the prize for Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12); and Paul Pope's Battling Boy (First Second) took the Best Publication for Teens category.