Legendary Comics, the graphic novel division of film production house Legendary Entertainment, is launching a young adult imprint, Legendary Comics YA, along with a slate of five graphic novels to be published over the next 18 months.

The first graphic novel on its list, Championess, was released in April. It’s a fictional story based on the real 18th century bare-knuckle boxer Elizabeth Wilkinson, a legendary and pioneering female figure in the history of English boxing. Writers Kelly Zekas and Tarun Shanker and artist Amanda Perez Puentes recast Wilkinson as a poverty-stricken, half-Indian London resident who turns to boxing for money. She needs to pay her sister’s debts and earn enough to live on as she struggles to confront the forces that destroyed her family and the challenges of being a pioneering woman of color in a white male field. The story is being developed for television by Watford & Essex and Legendary Global.

The other graphic novels currently in the works are The Heart Hunter by writer Mickey George and artist V. Gagnon, a dark fantasy tale set on a cursed island where the residents are immortal until they find their soul mates--but those who want to remain immortal hire “heart hunters” to kill their soul mates. Publication is scheduled for August 3, 2021. Lupina by writer James Wright and artist Li Buszka is a revenge story about a young girl and her companion, a wolf, in a land ruled by an oppressive empire. The first of the six volumes is scheduled for September 9, 2021. Tragic is the retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet by writer Dana Mele, artist Valentina Pinti, and colorist Chiara Di Francia. It’s scheduled for April 18, 2022. And The Witches of Silverlake by writer Simon Curtis and artist Stephanie Son is the story of a high school witches’ coven that accidentally unleashes a murderous demon. Slated for October 1, 2022.

Legendary Entertainment was founded in 2000 as a film production and financing company. The company added a comics division, Legendary Comics, in 2010, and a television and digital media division in 2011. Their graphic novels are distributed to bookstores by Simon and Schuster.

Legendary Comics senior v-p, publishing Robert Napton noted that many publishers are expanding their graphic novel lists to serve early as well as middle-grade readers. Napton sees an opportunity to attract new and older readers brought to the graphic novel category by the manga boom of the last 15 years.

“I believe there is a lot of crossover with the timing of manga and YA fiction in the USA in terms of the new readers,” Napton said. "It seems a natural progression to take the spirit of YA fiction and bring that to graphic novels now that different types of stories are more widely accepted in the US graphic novel market.”

Legendary Comics senior editor Nikita Kannekanti stressed that she acquires graphic novels based strictly on their own merits as a print medium, and not for their potential as film or TV projects. She emphasized that “media adaptations are something we consider when acquiring new titles, but our goal is to publish great graphic novels first,”

“It’s important that the graphic novel be able to stand on its own,” said Jann Jones, director, brand development and publishing operations at Legendary Entertainment. “It has to be a great read with compelling characters and arcs, otherwise it doesn’t make sense for us.

Napton says Legendary Comics YA will cast a wide net for suitable genres and storytelling. “We have a pretty blank canvas about what we can acquire and the types of stories we want to tell,” he said.

“Nikita is passionate about YA and all that comes with that genre and really led the charge on finding those stories. Jann likes horror and is passionate about representation in storytelling,” he said. “I have a background steeped in science fiction, anime, fantasy, classic horror, so we have disparate interests and perspectives and that makes for a diverse slate of books that we are very proud of and are excited to be sharing with readers.”

“We have more freedom than some publishers and we’re able to be very versatile with what we choose,” added Jones. “It’s incredible to not be bound by one category within the genre. I believe the first five titles we’ve announced really demonstrate that. There will be something for everyone to enjoy.”