Children’s graphic novels were in plentiful supply at this year’s Book Expo, as the category continues to grow for both comics publishers and trade book houses.
In addition to Maggie Thrash’s graphic memoir Honor Girl, Candlewick previewed Baba Yaga's Assistant, a reimagining of Russian myth by former bookseller Marika McCoola and acclaimed cartoonist Emily Carroll (Through the Woods). Françoise Mouly’s Toon Books line has launched a new imprint, Toon Graphics, for slightly older kids and will release about six new titles in the fall, including Big New Dreams, a smaller kid's edition of the Eisner Locust Moon oversized tribute to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo. At BEA Mouly was showing off new titles by Argentinian cartoonist Liniers, including Written and Drawn by Henrietta, which will be published in English and Spanish.
At the Papercutz table, publisher Terry Nantier was showing off the first comics from his partnership with TV network Nickelodeon, under a deal in which Papercutz creates comics based on the network’s shows for a newly revamped Nickelodeon Magazine. NBM and Nickelodeon are distributing 125,000 copies of the first issue via newsstands; complete graphic novels will be published later in the year.
Boom! Studios/Archaia featured a wide variety of YA graphic novels, from Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis’s popular paranormal camping series, Lumberjanes (with about 70,000 copies in print, according to the publisher), to James Tynion’s supernatural thriller The Woods. Publisher Filip Sablik said Boom’s business was now about 50/50 between the book trade and comics shops: “The book market has been doubling year to year for us.”
Andrews McMeel’s Amp! imprint has one of the smash hits of the genre with the Big Nate series, but the newer Phoebe and her Unicorn books are doing well, and the house has picked up several webcomics, including Georgia Dunn’s Breaking Cat News. Scholastic handed out galleys of Craig Thompson’s Space Dumplings, by the author of the acclaimed graphic novel Blankets, which will be his first book for kids. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm, another title Scholastic was promiting, is a change of pace for the bestselling Babymouse duo, a somewhat dark tale of a girl who is sent to live with her grandfather in Florida during a family crisis. The biggest splash for Scholastic, though, was Brian Selznick’s The Marvels, which uses alternate sections of words and pictures to tell the multi-generational story of a band of British actors, going even further into the hybrid form of storytelling he used in The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck.
Neither DC nor Marvel set up on the exhibition floor, but Disney had many books for young readers based on the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy on display, and two panels previewed Marvel’s line of Star Wars comics, including Shattered Empire, by Greg Rucka and Marco Chechetto, which give a peek at some of the storyline leading into December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens film. The periodical mini series debuts in September with a collected edition planned for November. Marvel’s Star Wars periodicals have been huge hits in the direct market and they have high hopes for the graphic novel versions. which begin appearing in September.
The move towards diversity that has swept over comics was reflected in several YA novels featuring women best known from the comics. Marvel offered a panel with Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Darkness) whose Black Widow: Forever Red novel features the Avengers character; and Capstone spotlighted Gwenda Bond’s Lois Lane: Fallout, about the high school journalism exploits of the character known from the Superman mythos.
“Kids' and YA comics are a growth category, with lots of successes, like Raina Telgemeier,” said Kuo-Yu Liang, v-p of Diamond Book Distributors, which distributes about 50 comics publishers to the trade, and focuses on the kids' comics category. Liang was quick to point to two of his publishers, Lion Forge’s Roar kids’ comics imprint, and Joe Books, a Toronto-based kids' publisher with a Disney licensing deal that’s been releasing chunky editions of comics produced from screengrabs from Disney animated features like Frozen, Aladdin and Big Hero Six. The house is also creating 800-page omnibus collections of “repurposed” Disney Comics, pricing them for $20 and racking up “big sales” at Walmart, Costco, Scholastic book fairs, libraries and stores, Liang said. Next, Joe Books plans to begin producing original comics.