Hyperion Books for Children and the Center for Cartoon Studies announced plans to add two new titles to their line of graphic biographies. The new books will be graphic biographies of two American legends: the mysteriously lost female pilot, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller, the deaf and blind author and activist for the blind. The deal was negotiated by agent Judith Hansen, who also negotiated deals for the earlier titles in the line.

CCS director James Sturm said the Amelia Earhart biography will be written by Sara Stewart Taylor, a novelist and former journalist who also happens to be a distant relative of Earhart. An artist for the title has not yet been chosen. The book on Helen Keller will be written and illustrated by Joe Lambert, a student at CCS who Sturm described as “wickedly talented.”

The two titles are part of a deal in which CCS produces the comics for Hyperion, and the venture has produced two biographies released this year. Houdini: The Handcuff King by Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi was released in April, and Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow is coming in December. Due in April 2008 is Thoreau at Walden by minimalist cartoonist John Porcellino.

Hyperion Books editorial director Donna Bray said the new titles will also be overseen by assistant editor Christian Trimmer, who has worked on all the titles in the line. (The former Hyperion Books for Children editor-in-chief, Brenda Bowen, who launched the line of biographical comics has left Hyperion to join HarperCollins.) Bray told PWCW, “Comics are important to us here at Hyperion, and we’re extremely pleased with the reception for Houdini.” Bray said the Houdini title had been well-reviewed and has “sold well for a graphic novel in hardcover.” She said a paperback was coming in 2008. The Satchel Paige bio has also received good pre-pub reviews and will be published simultaneously in hardcover and paperback. “Retailers told us they really wanted a paperback of the Paige book right away,” said Bray.

Bray said Hyperion decided to add more titles to the line because “this kind of nonfiction is appealing to kids. It’s fresh and exciting, and we’re really confident about the line.” She also highlighted the process of working with CCS, calling it “a collective process. We trade ideas with James, who generally knows of a writer or an artist that is passionate about the subject.”

Sturm said the collaboration with Hyperion has produced “really solid books. Anybody can google Houdini or Satchel Paige. These are all very known people, so the books have to offer a compelling treatment.” Sturm compared the Hyperion/CCS biographies to the “origin stories” used in the superhero genre to retell the beginnings of a hero for a new generation of readers. “We give the readers a sense of how amazing these people were,” said Sturm, “and when they read our books, they’ll want to go out and learn more.”