When Damian and Adrian Wassel founded Vault Comics in 2016, their goal was to create a comics imprint to reach young readers. It was with that same goal in mind that this year they launched Wonderbound, a comics and graphic novels imprint launching on Sept. 21 and focusing on middle grade and tween readers.
Wonderbound, which focuses on fantasy, sci-fi, and horror titles, is publishing an exciting slate of titles in 2021: Wrassle Castle Book One: Learning the Ropes by Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, and Galaad; Verse Book One: The Broken Half by Sam Beck; The Unfinished Corner by Dani Colman and Rachel “Tuna” Petrovicz; and Hello, My Name is Poop by Ben Katzner and Ian McGinty.
Publishers Weekly sat down with Rebecca Taylor, the managing editor of Wonderbound, to chat about the creation of the new imprint, its inaugural slate of titles, connecting with young readers, and a whole lot more.
Tell us a little about the Wonderbound imprint and how it came into being.
The mission for Wonderbound came from Damian and Adrian Wassel, founders of Vault. From the outset of building the company, they always had a vision for creating an imprint that reached out to young readers. They signed some incredible projects and then brought me on board to spearhead building out the full line. It was a bit like someone hiring me to put together a soccer team and then handing me Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe as a starting point. It’s been a joy and a pleasure to bring all these projects together.
What lead you to launch a young readers imprint with a focus on middle grade and tween readers?
The middle grade space for graphic novels has been exploding for years now. Talented and dedicated creators and industry professionals spent years tirelessly advocating for the return of comics storytelling to younger audiences, and that work has paid off in spades. Readers in that space are now reacquainted with the format and are more willing to take risks on new ideas, new genres, new worlds, and that’s exactly what we plan on bringing to the table. There’s a demand from kids in that age group for comics that is just so exciting. We can’t wait to put new universes into their hands.
What sets Wonderbound apart from other young readers/middle grade imprints?
Our focus on genre. Fantasy, sci-fi, and horror books can be harder to find at other publishers in the space. They tend to stand alone in lists comprised more of grounded fiction and non-fiction. Those books are all phenomenal, but for kids who love magic, jet packs, and things that go bump in the night, Wonderbound will be an endless wellspring of stories for them to fall into and explore.
Can you share some information about the books you’re publishing in Wonderbound’s first year?
It’s only my favorite thing to do! We have four incredible books coming out in our first year. First up is Wrassle Castle Book One: Learning the Ropes, by Colleen Coover, Paul Tobin, and Galaad. This book is our joyous rally call to the imprint—anyone who wants a wallop of scrappy heroes and friendship feels, this is the book for you. Next is Verse Book One: The Broken Half by Sam Beck. This book is high fantasy at its most lyrical and heartfelt. Sam’s art and characters will stay with you long after the final page.
Then in October, we have The Unfinished Corner by Dani Colman and Rachel “Tuna” Petrovicz—a portal fantasy based in Jewish legends and folklore. If you want proof at how stunning this book is on every level, the first time we ever shared a copy of it beyond our walls, it was selected as an Editor’s Spotlight at the Publishers Weekly US Book Show. Closing out our year is Hello, My Name is Poop by Ben Katzner and Ian McGinty, about a bullying victim who gets pooper-powers. There are no words to express how absurd, hilarious, and utterly delightful this book is. Just wait until you meet Turdie the Poop Birdie.
What titles do you see coming over the next year or two years?
We were so excited to announce the entirety of our year two this past spring. In the first half of 2022 we have three all new properties: Poiko, a modern-day classic in the making by Brian Middleton; Kenzie’s Kingdom, an alterna-princess tale from powerhouse team Shea Fontana and Agnes Garbowska of DC Superhero Girls; and Ghoster Heights, a stunning story about making peace with the ghosts of our past from debut team Kelly Mellings, Corey Landsdell, and Lisa LaRose.
The second half of year two doesn’t take its foot off the gas. We’ve got The Brothers Flick by Ryan Haddock and Nick Wyche, a gem that combines John Bellairs mystery with the zaniness of Lemony Snicket. Nine- and six-year-old brothers Noah and Jackson Moreci (along with their dad, Michael) will introduce the world to Creepy the Snowman, a disgruntled snowman who struggles with wanting to both make friends and destroy the world. We’ll close out our year with Lunch from Heather Nuhfer and Patricia Daguisan—figuring out where to sit in the cafeteria at a new school is hard enough without magic getting involved.
As for year three, I don’t want to give too much away, but I can promise our spookiest offerings yet, some trips off-planet, new magic that will take us on journeys around the globe, and…yes…there will be dinosaurs.
What makes a book right for Wonderbound? How are your titles different and how do the stand out?
Obviously, genre is a qualifier for us, but I think what really makes a Wonderbound book is one that it is daring, personal, and celebrates connection. We hunt for books that are additive to the legacy of genre, whether it’s through the worldbuilding, the inspiration, or the themes explored. I always want to pair that innovation with a deeply personal story. I want it to be about something that matters to the creative team, whether it’s grappling with trauma or the joy of found family. At the end of the day, though, every single one of our books ends up being about the ties that bind us. They are about characters who care about other characters. They are love stories.
What sort of readers will be drawn to Wonderbound titles?
The adventurers. The under-the-blanket-with-a-flashlight readers. The read-it-halfway-through-on-the-floor-of-the-bookstore kids. The spend-a-month-on-a-Halloween-costume fans. The encyclopedic-brain-filled-with-dinosaur-facts future scientist. The doodle-covered-notebook dreamers. Any kid who cannot get enough of Rick Riordan, has burned through every genre animated show on Netflix, or has a remote-controlled BB8, we built Wonderbound to be the treehouse escape for them.
What are you doing to connect readers with Wonderbound titles and authors?
Everyone has the opportunity to read a preview of any of our titles on our readwonderbound.com website and to grab a galley through Edelweiss, NetGalley, or several Grab-a-Galley opportunities with PW and other outlets. We also distributed tens of thousands of copies of our The Unfinished Corner preview and year one sampler at comics shops during Free Comic Book Day!
We ensure that our talent is front and center in spaces where readers, booksellers, librarians, educators, and parents can ask questions. This year, we had a great showing at the virtual U.S. Book Show event in May, at ALA Annual in June, and are excited to attend LibraryCon Live! in November. We will be concentrating on virtual events on the individual retailer level as well. If anyone wants more information about holding an event, please reach out to our team at: email@example.com.
We’re also launching a Wonderbound newsletter, where you’ll be able to get the scoop on news first. Our website has all kinds of book and talent info, videos, trailers, downloadable goodies, and more to come, such as teaching guides for some of our Year One titles. In the works is a dedicated Wonderbound Book club, as well. In the meantime, you can reach the entire Wonderbound team through any of our social channels: @readwonderbound!
Who are some of the authors you’re most excited to bring to Wonderbound?
Personally, I love working with new creators. There’s such unbridled creativity and joy that comes from creators who finally have the support system to go buckwild and put their imaginations onto paper. I also think that bringing in new voices to the young readers space, to the comics space, is still one of the most important ways that we can reach more kids with the stories we put out into the world. That said, I’d also love to see more prose authors take a chance on graphic novels, bringing their talent and ideas to the medium.
Can you talk a bit about how kids find comfort in sci-fi, fantasy, and spooky stories during challenging times in their lives?
I’ve said this before, but kids—particularly in those middle school and tween years—somehow find space in their hearts to feel everything at maximum volume. Genre stories give voice to those emotions at a scale worthy of their enormity. There’s great value in grounded stories that allow kids to either say, “hey, that’s my experience!” or, “wow, that’s somebody’s experience?” But with genre, there’s no one-to-one metaphor. Kids with different experiences can come to the same story, explore big messy ideas, and all come away feeling like they found themselves. Genre stories teach kids to be brave, compassionate, and curious. They show them that they are heroic. They make sure kids know, no matter what monsters they face, that they are not alone.