Graphic novels: Everyone’s doing it!
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Graphic novels: Everybody’s doing them!
That’s how it seemed on the exhibit floor of ALA Midwinter yesterday. While only two graphic novel publishers, Viz and Boom! Studios, had stand-alone booths, almost every major publisher featured graphic novels prominently in their display, and even small publishers of children’s books answered my question, “Do you publish graphic novels for kids?” with “Not yet,” not “No, never.”
Some things that got me excited:
Boom! Studios has taken over the Disney licenses and is publishing comics based on Pixar properties as trades, in both hardcover and paperback editions. I’m enjoying their Muppet Show comic right now, and they also have Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and others. A more recent addition to the line is their Scrooge McDuck series, reprints of the classic Carl Barks comics in hardback format. Librarians take note: Boom is making MARC records for its books available on its website and you can e-mail them for PDF review copies of their titles. (For the curious, our own Kate Dacey reviewed their first Wall-E comic in November.)
Scholastic has a scattering of graphic novels in the works; we recently reviewed Missile Mouse and and their other upcoming title, Smile,Copper, features beautiful art that will appeal to adults as well as kid. (See for yourself: Copper is a webcomic as well.)
At the Lerner booth, I picked up a sampler for their Manga Math Mysteries series. While no one is going to mistake these books for Yotsuba&! or Fruits Basket, they do have attractive and dynamic art, and I noticed several were illustrated by the very talented Tintin Pantoja, which bodes well.
Stone Arch Books, another library-oriented publisher, also featured some graphic novels with dynamic, manga-style artwork, including a line of Sports Illustrated Kids books. Certainly Point-Blank Paintball is a far cry from the staid library graphic novels of my youth. For one thing, I didn’t realize anyone recognized paintball as a sport. While the dialogue is a bit stilted, and the moral is obvious (it’s better to work together than to compete against one another), this story of twin paintballers pitted against one another by a manipulative father still was a pretty entertaining read. Their Recon Academy books look like they are pitched at manga readers, or maybe the younger siblings of manga readers. I particularly like Stone Arch’s line of fairy tales, which hew closer to the traditional versions than the Disney standards and feature unusual art and some enrichment information in the back, so I was pleased to see that they are also bringing out Spanish-language editions of these.
The Viz booth was piled high with books and swarming with people. The featured titles seemed to be GoGo Monster, Children of the Sea, and Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, and they were handing out samplers of Ultimo, the Stan Lee-Hiroyuki Takei co-production that is currently running in Shonen Jump. Viz also had a summer catalog devoted solely to their VizKids line, featuring one new series, Kirby, as well as the Pokemon and Happy Happy Clover manga and Naruto and Dragon Ball chapter books. (See Lori’s review of one of the Naruto books here, and Snow’s thoughts on their appropriateness for younger children here. Lori also reviewed vol. 3 of Happy Happy Clover earlier this month.)
Aside from Viz, though, there wasn’t much manga. Neither Random House (the parent company of Del Rey) nor Hachette (ditto for Yen Press) had much manga on display or any editors from their manga lines. Tokyopop and the other independent manga publishers weren’t there at all.
On the other hand, Random House had a special display of their kids’ graphic novel series Babymouse, Stone Rabbit, and Kit Feeny, as well as previews of The Sons of Liberty, a graphic novel for older children set just before the American Revolution and featuring two runaway slaves with ninja-like powers.
Most of the smaller publishers had one or two graphic novels as well. I dropped in at the Tundra booth and was pleased to learn that they are reprinting the Alison Dare books, Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden.
One of the things I saw a lot of on the floor was graphic novel-prose hybrids, along the lines of the Wimpy Kid books. Of course, these have been around for a long time—Amelia’s Notebook springs to mind—but many of the new group have even more of a comics feel to them. Ursula Vernon, well known among older readers for her webcomic Digger, has a charming kids’ series called Dragonbreath, and Eric Wight is bringing out a new volume of his retro-look Frankie Pickle series.
Tomorrow: A look at some of the teen books on display.