Charles Kochman was recently promoted to executive editor at Harry N. Abrams, but he has much more to announce. He’s getting his own imprint at the venerable New York City art book publishing house, just in time for its 60th anniversary. In spring 2009, Harry N. Abrams will launch Abrams ComicArts, a sub-imprint specializing in comics and comics related books.

Kochman will direct the new imprint, which will launch with four new titles: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle; The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite, designed by Jordan Crane with an introduction by acclaimed cartoonist Alison Bechdel; Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster by Craig Yoe; and Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? by Brian Fies, the creator of the award-winning Web comic/book Mom’s Cancer.

Abrams publisher Steve Tager said launching a new imprint “made sense. We’ve published comics and pop culture titles in the past—we’ve sold half a million copies of the Art of Walt Disney—so Charles is building on a history that Abrams already has. But he brings a passion and experience in the category. He’s brought in more graphic novels and launching an imprint just makes sense in this marketplace.” Tager said the imprint will be able to cross-promote with Abrams’s children’s book line, special markets department and internationally—he noted that Kirby: King of Comics, Mark Evanier’s biography of comics artist Jack Kirby, is a bestseller for Abrams U.K. “We’ve been coming to Comic-con for several years now and our education in the category continues,” said Tager. “And our designers and sales reps all love Charlie’s books; he focuses on the little things and that’s what makes his books special.”

Kochman singled out Yoe's new work, Secret Identity: The Fetish Art of Superman’s Co-creator Joe Shuster, an unusual collection of S&M comics secretly created by Superman’s co-creator Joe Shuster. Thought to have been destroyed, the comics were discovered in a shop in Britain by Yoe, who has verified that Schuster was the creator. Called Nights of Horror, the comics are fetish fantasies with characters that look just like Clark Kent and Lois Lane. “They’re chained and being whipped and there’s women kissing women,” said Kochman. “It’s a great story and no one ever connected them to Schuster.”

Before joining Abrams in 2005, Kochman was an editor at DC Comics/Mad magazine. Since joining Abrams, he’s developed and published an impressive list of comics and comics-related titles, including Brian Fies' Mom’s Cancer, his first acquisition at Abrams; R. Crumb’s Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country; Jon J. Muth’s out-of-print M; and Kyle Baker’s graphic biography Nat Turner. And he’s also published two volumes of Jeff Kinney’s phenomenal bestselling series Diary of a Wimpy Kid, both of which have sold more than a million copies each.

In an interview with PWCW, Kochman said he “couldn’t be more excited.” He said the imprint would “be flexible” about the number of titles it released but that he would likely do about four titles a season. He has also hired an editorial assistant, Sofia Gutiérrez, to work with him at the new imprint.

While Kochman discussed the critical and commercial success of the books he has published since joining Abrams, he was also quick to single out such Abrams titles as Christopher Finch’s The Art of Walt Disney (1973) and Peter Sanderson’s Marvel Universe (1998). “Abrams was publishing comics-related stuff long before me, but there was no formal, organized effort to keep it going properly. Now there is.” He described his latest list—which includes Art Spiegelman’s Wacky Packages and Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics—as a “soft launch for the new imprint. I can bring in the best of a lot of different kinds of publishing; original stuff, reference works, and bring things back into print and present these guys as great artists who just happen to draw comics.”

“When I joined Abrams I wanted to be seen as a book editor, just to show that I could edit anything,” Kochman said. “But I know comics really well and I’m very much aware of Abrams’s history as a publisher—it gives instant recognition to an artist. That’s why artists want to be on my list—my background and my house.”