Since its founding in 2015, AfterShock has made its mark in the world of comics with broad-ranging graphic novels for adult readers. Now, the independent publisher is shaking things up with the launch of its new YA imprint, Seismic Press. The imprint aims to publish engrossing and emotionally impactful graphic novels for readers age 12 to 18. PW spoke with AfterShock senior vice president Steve Rotterdam about reaching a new young adult audience, and the creators of Seismic’s inaugural titles: Steve Foxe and Steve Orlando (Rainbow Bridge) and Richard Ashley Hamilton (Fearbook Club).

Steve, what do you most want readers to know about Seismic and the range of books you will be offering to readers?

Steve Rotterdam: We think our tagline, “Breaking New Ground,” speaks volumes about our…er, volumes. These are not graphic novels that fit in nicely and quietly amidst the usual suspects. These are mean to be troublemakers – within the bounds of age-appropriateness of course.

What made you decide to launch a YA imprint?

Steve Rotterdam: Two growing trends working in tandem. First, more and more creators from across the comics community coming to AfterShock to pitch their fantastic concepts meant for young readers. Second, increasing numbers of educators, librarians, and retailers expressing their needs for graphic novels that address the interests and concerns of this growing audience of readers

How do the Seismic books stand apart from your mainline titles? In what ways do they uphold Aftershock’s broader mission?

Steve Rotterdam: AfterShock’s mission has always been to push readers out of their comfort zones and engage them in content that challenges their presumptions as well as the status quo. Many of the writers and artists we’ve worked with at AfterShock have something to say to younger readers of graphic novels. Important things. Personal things. Things for which, up until now and for one reason or another, they’ve had no outlet. We aspire to provide creators with opportunities to tell the stories they’ve always wanted to tell in ways in which they’ve always wanted them told. That part of our mission carries over to Seismic Press.

What’s upcoming for Seismic?

Steve Rotterdam: Beyond Rainbow Bridge, additional titles under the Seismic Press imprint will begin rolling out in January 2022, including original works by How To Train Your Dragon’s Richard Ashley Hamilton and Orphan Age writer Ted Anderson. Plans for the line also include repackaging of AfterShock series that have already demonstrated strong YA appeal.

Steve and Steve, with the caveat that I lost my own dog a couple months ago, I’d love to hear more about Rainbow Bridge. Is the story ultimately a hopeful one?

Steve Foxe: First off, our sincere sympathies on your loss. Both of us Steves brought a lot of our own feelings about watching pets age and pass on to the story, and we also ended up dealing with significant veterinary issues during production. (Our dogs are doing just fine now, no worries!)

Rainbow Bridge will (ideally) tug on your heartstrings in the opening sections, but the goal was always to celebrate the fantasy of getting one last adventure with your best friend.

Steve Orlando: Andy and Rocket both have difficult challenges to overcome, but the book is hopeful, exciting, and thrilling, not mournful.

Something about the bond between a person and an animal companion makes us all emotionally vulnerable, so while young readers may more directly identify with Andy, readers of any age should connect with the bond between a boy and his (giant, talking afterlife) dog.

Richard, How did the idea for Fearbook Club originate?

Richard Ashley Hamilton: Fearbook Club started out as a campfire story I told my two sons one Friday the 13th. And I figured I might be onto something when both boys had nightmares that night. The more I thought about it, I realized I maybe inadvertently triggered a fear that their generation has in spades. Sort of a generalized anxiety and terror. The truly horrific thing is today's kids can't escape their anxiety. It follows them in their pockets, on their devices, everywhere they go. So, Fearbook Club is meant to be this modern horror story about kids and for kids. If we do our jobs right, we'll entertain readers and hopefully model some skills that'll help them survive the real fears in their real lives.