The absence of film and television celebrities due to the SAG-AFTRA strike didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the children who attended Comic-Con International in San Diego, held July 19-23. The event is becoming more and more of a family affair, and kids were everywhere on the con floor, from sleeping babies in strollers to reduced-size princesses and superheroes cosplaying with their parents.

At the Scholastic booth, Graphix imprint bestseller Raina Telgemeier greeted a bashful young fan with a warm smile. At the Blockbuster-themed Lego booth, children who likely had never seen a VHS tape in their life rooted through bins of Lego bricks to make “videos” to place on the shelves. Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit that creates costumes for children with disabilities, offered kids’ activities alongside a homey wooden cart hitched to a realistic model dinosaur. For kids, just as for adults, Comic-Con has something for everyone.

That includes capes and tights, of course. At its young readers panel, DC announced a new middle grade graphic novel, Lightning: Changes by Sherri L. Smith, a coming-of-age story about Jennifer Pierce, the daughter of Jefferson Pierce, who is not yet aware that her father is the superhero Black Lightning. Her parents are divorced, and she’s having a rough summer, spending her birthday at a family reunion in Memphis with a bunch of relatives she barely knows. Adding to all this is the fact that Jennifer has started manifesting lightning powers whenever she is anxious or unhappy. DC also announced a sequel to bestselling cartoonist Jeffrey Brown’s Batman and Robin and Howard. The new story, Batman and Robin and Howard: Summer Breakdown, will be published as a three-issue comic series.

While DC caters to young readers with its middle grade and YA graphic novels, Marvel takes a different approach, licensing its characters to other publishers to meet the needs of the junior market. Abrams publishes Marvel graphic novels for children and adults, and they offered a limited-edition boxed set of Marvel board books as a Comic-Con exclusive, as well as a stack of the newly-released Spider-Man: Animals Assemble by Mike Maihack, the first volume of a new series. Scholastic was giving away advance review copies of Shang-Chi and the Quest for Immortality by Victoria Ying, another Marvel graphic novel that will be released in October.

There’s more to Comic-Con than superheroes, though. Ying was also on hand to promote Hungry Ghost, a new middle grade graphic novel from First Second about an Asian American girl’s struggle with an eating disorder, which the PW review called a “formidable” work. Meanwhile, just a few hundred feet away, John Gallagher chatted about his character Max Meow (RH Graphic) with a young reader—Gallagher sold out of the books he had brought before the show was over. The perennially popular Mouse Guard creator Dave Petersen set up a lavish solo booth, showcasing not only the books in the series but the merchandise as well, including intricate wooden puzzles and pricey original art.

A wall of IDW’s new booth celebrated the 40th anniversary of My Little Pony, a franchise that is still hugely popular as it reaches its fourth decade. The big news at the Scholastic booth was the announcement of the ninth and final volume of Kazu Kibuishi’s middle grade Amulet series. The first volume came out in 2008, and the final volume, Waverider, is due out in February 2024. Scholastic will release a boxed set of the entire series at the same time, and at Kibuishi’s spotlight panel—moderated by PW's comics reviews editor Meg Lemke—the congenial cartoonist revealed that a live-action film adaptation is back in the works. While Kibuishi says he’s officially attached to the project and writing the screenplay, details on the production company and release date are still under embargo.

The Eisner Award for Best Publication for Early Readers went to The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! (Union Square Kids) by Mo Willems, a creator whose work has long straddled the line between picture books and comics. “I’ve always disliked being called an author-illustrator,” he said as he accepted the award. “My dream has always been to say I’m a cartoonist.” In case there was any doubt, the award clinched it.

The award for Best Publication for Kids (ages 9–12) went to Claribel A. Ortega and Rose Bousamra’s Frizzy; the book's editor, First Second’s Kiara Valdez, read a message thanking their readers and supporters: “If the success of Frizzy is any indication, now more than ever, the world needs more stories where kids of color can see themselves honestly and lovingly portrayed with their own special journey of self-love and healing.”