Looking to expand its efforts in a fast growing children’s graphic novel market, Yen Press LLC, a joint venture between Hachette and Japanese publisher Kadokawa, is launching JY, a new imprint focused on middle grade graphic novels. Named for JuYoun Lee, the deputy publisher of Yen Press, the new imprint will launch in fall 2017 with the first of three series.
Lee will curate and edit the JY list which will publish about 12 books a year. The new imprint was announced at the San Diego Comic-Con International on Saturday.
Yen Press is the publisher of Svetlana Chmakova’s bestselling middle grade graphic novels, Awkward and Brave, which was just published in May. Both books were edited by Lee.
Chmakova’s next graphic novel, Crush—it will focus on Jorge, a popular Hispanic character from Brave—will be published in fall 2018 under the JY imprint. In addition, the Chmakova backlist will be rebranded under the JY imprint.
The JY launch list will feature W.I.T.C.H., a teen-girl focused series originally produced by Disney Publishing and Digital Media in the mid 2000s. It’s the story of five young girls who become “Guardians of the Veil’’ after being granted magical powers. Originally created at the Disney comics studio in Italy, JY will repackage the series with a new English translation and updated trim size similar to Awkward and Brave.
JY will publish 12 W.I.T.C.H. titles with plans to release the series’ first three-book story arc, The Twelve Portals, all at once, beginning in the fall. Going forward with the W.I.T.C.H. series, JY plans to release three volumes at a time, every four months.
The three-at-once release schedule will deliver a “satisfying chunk of content to a new audience,” according to Yen Press publisher Kurt Hassler. Hassler said most of the original W.I.T.C.H. series was never published in English. “There was no graphic novel market” in the U.S., he said, when the series was first published.
In fall 2018 JY will also publish an original graphic novel adaptation of Big Hero 6, the animated Disney feature film. Big Hero 6 will also debut as an animated TV show on the Disney XD channel in the spring of 2018. Big Hero 6 is the story of Hiro, a 14 year old tech genius, his robot buddy Baymax, and a team of tech-enabled heroes.
Lee has recruited Hong Gyun An, a new artist and recent graduate of New York’s School of Visual arts, to draw the Big Hero 6 series. JY has committed to two volumes with the possibility of more. The graphic novel adaptation will feature new Big Hero 6 adventure stories based on both the original film and some plot connections to the forthcoming TV show.
Lee told PW the new JY line is a “statement to educators and librarians that we are developing books that target a young audience.” Lee said that she is actively looking for submissions with plans to develop new comics authors for the list in much the same way she has with Chmakova’s publishing career.
“We’re looking for new talent to develop. We want JY to be a longterm publishing home for artists,” Lee said.