Driven by the current political climate in combination with the popularity of nonfiction comics, First Second Books, Macmillan’s graphic novel imprint, is launching World Citizen Comics, a line of nonfiction graphic works focused on civic involvement and media literacy.
First Second editorial director Mark Siegel (a cartoonist himself) said World Citizen Comics will launch with a line of seven works aimed at adults, young adults and middle grade readers, with more to follow. The first WCC work is slated to be released in 2020. However, First Second has often used online serialization—Siegel’s graphic novel Sailor Twain debuted initially as a web comic—to debut new works. And Seigel said that in order to get the information out as quickly as possible, a number of WCC titles will be serialized online in advance of print publication.
“WCC is line of graphic nonfiction comics aimed at different ages designed to provide a foundation in civics which seems to have been lost,” Siegel told PW. “The titles are focused on the constitution and U.S. media but will have global scope. These books are a response to the next generation and nonfiction comics are ideal for this,” he said.
The books will feature a variety of acclaimed nonfiction prose authors working with notable comics artists. Among them are Seth Abramson (Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America), a professor and author noted for his work on the investigation into Russian collusion and Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics), acclaimed comics theoretician. The imprint has also signed a lineup of noted journalists and constitutional scholars. In some cases WCC will adapt notable prose works into graphic nonfiction, among them Dan Rather’s 2017 work What Unites Us, which will be adapted into comics by cartoonist Tim Foley.
Among the initial titles is Citizen Journalist by Abramson and McCloud (for adults), described as a combination textbook and graphic nonfiction manifesto about the impact of independent journalism on the world. WCC is also publishing Unrig: How to Fix Our Broken Democracy by Dan Newman, founder of Maplight.org, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money and politics, and cartoonist George O’Connor, creator of the bestselling Olympians graphic novel series. Unrig will be the first WCC titled to publish in 2020.
Siegel emphasized that WCC titles will feature media literacy, “learning to understand the nature of persuasion, advertising and other aspects of media so we can’t be easily manipulated by hatred and lies.” WCC will publish The Media Adventurer’s Handbook: Decoding Persuasion in Everyday News, Ads and More (middle grade) by Melissa Hart, essayist and author, and an artist to be determined; and Breaking (the) News: Using Media Literacy to Decode What We Watch (young adult) by Jenn Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back, and artists Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb.
The WCC line will publish two books that examine the U.S. constitution: Fault Lines in the Constitution (adult/YA) by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson, an acclaimed work on the Constitution that will be adapted into comics by cartoonist Ally Shwed; and Re-Constitution: Connecting Citizens with the Rules of the Game (adult/YA) by Beka Feathers, a constitutional expert, with art by Kasia Badis.
First Second is launching WCC at a time when graphic nonfiction is attracting a sizable audience. Siegel cited classic works such as Art Speigelman’s holocaust classic Maus, as well as more recent, bestselling examples such as as John Lewis’ Civil Rights memoir the March trilogy and Thi Bui’s acclaimed refugee memoir The Best We Could Do, to name a few.
“There’s an incredible body of nonfiction comics out there,” Siegel said. “The combination of the visual and words act almost like theater. And with adaptations we can open up these texts to readers in a different way than with prose. We believe we can produce a body of graphic works that will provide an understanding of civics and the idea of democracy and be fun to read," he said.