Surely Books, a new Abrams ComicArts LGBTQ+ focused imprint curated by comics writer Mariko Tamaki, will release its first graphic novel, Lifetime Passes by writer Terry Blas and artist Claudia Aguirre, this month. The new imprint has also revealed a new set of previously unannounced titles that will be released in 2022 and 2023.
The new list of titles kicks off with Talia Dutton’s M Is for Monster, a heartfelt sci-fi scenario combining the Frankenstein story with a heartwarming tale of sibling expectations, scheduled for spring 2022. Two more graphic novels are planned for next fall: Homecoming by Kaitlin Chan, a queer millennials coming-out story set in Taiwan during a new LGBTQ+ era in Asia; and Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni, the story of a group of thirty-something queer friends forced to examine their relationships as they get older.
Two more books are slated for spring 2023: Writer Kacen Callender and artist Seth Smith’s The Page's Guide to Being a Guy, the story of a guy forced to learn about the complexity of gender; and the previously announced Washington's Gay General by writer Josh Trujillo (he/him) and artist Levi Hastings, the story a little-known, openly homosexual American General during the Revolutionary War. And in spring 2023, Surely Books will publish Grand Slam Romance by writer Oliva Hicks and artist Emma Oosterhous, the story of two flirty softball playing girl-bestfriends who end up on rival teams during a genuinely magical softball season.
Abrams announced the new imprint in October 2019 with an initial slate of three books: Lifetime Passes, out this this month, it’s the story of a bunch of teenagers who hatch a scheme feigning to help seniors only to be transformed by them. Next up will be Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith, a fictional story about the real-life author Highsmith by writer Grace Ellis and artist Hannah Templer, that will be released in February 2022.
An acclaimed comics writer, Tamaki has written comics across a variety of genres including superhero comics, such as She-Hulk, as well as YA graphic novels, among then the multiple-award-winning This One Summer (with her cousin, artist Jillian Tamaki) and the equally acclaimed Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me (with artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell). Tamaki has also written four prose novels based on BOOM! Studios’ popular Queer-focused Lumberjanes graphic novels, which were published by Abrams.
Tamaki credits her partner, Heather Gold, with the idea for Surely Books. “I was looking to move into editing and another side of comics production at the time,” she said. “I had worked with Abrams on the Lumberjanes series and really loved the experience, so it seemed a good place to start.”
The concept for Surely Books is simple: “Our sole focus is on LGBTQIA+ creators and the stories they want to tell,” said Tamaki. “Which means that the story itself doesn’t even need to be about queer characters specifically. Up to this point we’ve really been trying to cast a wide net, to go outside of the confines of what we would even expect a Surely title to be. Really it just needs to be a great story told well.”
Tamaki reviews pitches that come in to Surely and also reaches out to creators she would like to work with. She works with creators to prepare a pitch, then she and Abrams editor Charlotte Greenbaum refine it in preparation for presenting the project to the Abrams editorial team.
“Once a book is signed Mariko and I work fairly closely—she brings her experience as an author and I’m providing more traditional editorial feedback,” said Greenbaum, who also works with writer and editor John Jennings on Abrams’ Megascope imprint, which focuses on works by people of color, as well as on other Abrams and Amulet graphic novels. While Abrams will continue to publish LGBTQ+ graphic novels in its other imprints, Greenbaum said, “[Surely Books] gives us the opportunity to work with the incredible emerging talent in the graphic novel community. Not to mention the fact that Mariko is developing some exciting new concepts with our creators that will really stand out in the genre,” said Greenbaum.
In terms of the target audience, Greenbaum said, “One of the neat things about Surely is how broad the audience is, but we’re particularly interested in targeting readers who don’t always see themselves and their experiences represented in media.”
Tamaki’s Skim (Groundwood Books, 2008), co-created with Jillian Tamaki, was one of the first graphic novels about LGBTQ+ teens to reach a wide audience. She credits her first publisher, Ann Decter, as well as editors Calista Brill, Shelly Bond, Joan Hilty, Andrea Shea and Paul Kaminski for helping her along the way. “Even people I work with now are teaching me as I go,” she said. “Writing is a very solitary experience, but I do think the only way to progress as a writer and artist is by getting that feedback and support.”
At Surely Books, she is turning the tables, providing that feedback and support to both emerging and more established creators, and in the long run, she hopes the imprint will bring new creators to the field as well.
“I would hope that there are people who read these books and are inspired by our inspirations,” she said. “I would love if the books we create are a jump start for people to tell more queer stories in comics.”