Author and actor George Takei announced plans for a new Spanish language edition of his acclaimed graphic memoir They Called Us Enemy during his keynote address to open the National Council of Teachers of English annual convention in Baltimore on Nov. 21.
The new Spanish edition of They Called Us Enemy (Nos Ilamaron Enemigo) will be released in June 2020 and is part of a newly launched Spanish-language initiative by Takei’s publishing house, IDW Publishing, that will publish selected backlist titles in new Spanish-language editions.
In addition to Takei’s graphic memoir, this June IDW will also publish Spanish-language editions of the comics adaptation of SEGA’s popular Sonic The Hedgehog videogame series (Sonic The Hedgehog Volumen 1: ¡Consecuencias!) by Ian Flynn, illustrated by Tracy Yardley, Adam Bryce Thomas, Jenneifer Hernandez, and Evan Stanley; and Red Panda & Moon Bear (Panda Roja y Oso Lunar) by the Cuban American writer/artist and educational researcher Jarod Roselló.
Published this year by IDW/Top Shelf, They Called Us Enemy by Takei, Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott, with art by Harmony Becker, is Takei’s story of his and his family’s forced relocation during WWII to an internment camp for Japanese Americans. The book was named one of PW’s Best Books of 2019.
In fact, Takei invoked his family’s ordeal when he announced the new edition during the NCTE keynote address: “It’s been my life’s mission to tell the story of the cruel and unjust incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, and I’m so honored by the outpouring of support for my graphic memoir," he said. "I am thrilled to make the story accessible to a community that right now—today—is facing attacks that are all too familiar. This [Spanish language] edition is especially meaningful to me since I was raised in the Spanish-speaking community of East L.A., which welcomed my family after four years of imprisonment.”
IDW president and publisher Chris Ryall said IDW’s Spanish-language initiative “reflects the increasingly diverse makeup of American readers and expands the accessibility of graphic novel storytelling to Spanish-speaking communities throughout the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.” IDW is based in San Diego and is one of the largest independent graphic novel publishers in the U.S. “San Diego is at the crossroads of Spanish language and culture and we want students to be able to read graphic novels in their native language,” he said.
In addition to co-writing They Called Us Enemy with Takei, Justin Eisinger is IDW editorial director of collections and graphic novels. He said that during appearances at BookExpo and ALA Midwinter 2019, Takei was often asked to compare his family’s internment with the recent examples of family separation at the Mexican border. “We all decided that we needed to get this book into the hands of those people,” Eisinger said.
IDW isn’t the only comics publisher taking note of the current national controversy around immigration. Francoise Mouly, publisher of TOON Books, which publishes graphic novels for early readers, told PW that “celebrating bilingualism and multiculturalism" was part of the mission of the house.
Mouly said, “We want to put beautifully produced books of comics in as many hands as possible, and that includes families for which Spanish is the first language." TOON Books, she said, has published separate simultaneous hardcover editions in Spanish and English for a number of its Spanish-speaking artists. Among them are the Argentine cartoonist Liniers (three of his books), Jaime Hernandez (The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America), and Sergio Garcia Sanchez (Lost in the NYC Subway, written by Nadja Speigelman, Mouly’s daughter) and there is a forthcoming title coming from the Speigelman/Sanchez team that will also be issued in Spanish.
And beginning this month, Seattle graphic novel publisher Fantagraphics Books is launching its own Spanish-language initiative, releasing Spanish cartoonist Paco Roca’s The House (La Casa) simultaneiously in Spanish and English hardcover editions. Jacq Cohen, Fantagraphics executive director of marketing, publicity and promotions, credited the enthusiastic support of librarians with the launch of its program.
“The idea came from the Graphic Novels and Comics Roundtable breakfast meeting at ALA Midwinter in 2019. So many librarians said they would love to see more Spanish-language comics.” Cohen said, “Now, more than ever, it’s important for arts organizations to make sure we’re doing all we can to show Spanish-speaking residents of this country that they are valued members of our communities.”
“Spanish is spoken by more than 40 million people in the U.S., making it the second most spoken language in the country,” said IDW’s Ryall. “We’re not only publishing for the readership that we have today, but also preparing for the growing readership of the next decade and beyond.”