Kids love familiar things, and there were plenty of familiar faces at New York Comic Con: Archie continues to revive older properties such as Sabrina, Disney was selling both Rick Riordan’s prose books and his latest graphic novels, and Papercutz premiered its latest Nancy Drew graphic novel. There was a parade of original graphic novels as well and plenty of digital innovation, including plans by iVerse to team with Brodart to market its digital comics service to libraries.
Most of the attention at the con focused on projects that have already been announced, but Viz Media had some news about its VizKids line: They announced two new licensed series, Monsuno, which is based on the Nicktoons cartoon, and Uglydoll, based on the line of plush toys and other merchandise. James Kochalka, who won an Eisner Award earlier this year for Dragon Puncher 2, is among the contributors to the Uglydoll books.
There were no licensed characters at the First Second booth, where marketing director Gina Gagliano was celebrating the fact that both Zack Giallongo's Broxo and Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain were on the New York Times bestseller list. Ben Hatke was there to sign copies of his new book, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, along with Dave Roman (Astronaut Academy), MK Reed (Americus), and Mike Cavallaro, who illustrated Jane Yolen's Foiled and the sequel, Foiled Again, which is due out in January.
Similarly, the focus at the Lerner Graphic Universe booth was on original work, with signings of Colleen AF Venable's Guinea Pig, Andres Vera Martinez and Na Liu's Little White Duck, and Lars Jakobsen's Mortensen's Escapades.
Disney Publishing Worldwide brought in Orpheus Collar, the illustrator of the graphic novel adaptation of Rick Riordan's The Red Pyramid, and several other creators for panels and signings, and they were giving away a Red Pyramid poster, a Marvel preview booklet, It’s a Small World tote bags, and Heroes of Olympus water bottles.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was one of the stars of the Archie Comics panel; they recently released an e-book of 50 Sabrina stories, and an animated cartoon, Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, will debut in summer 2013 on The Hub. In addition, the publisher has compiled Tania Del Rio's manga-style Sabrina comics, which were published as color comics during the manga boom of the mid-2000s, into four black-and-white, manga-sized volumes; the first one will be out in February 2013. The panelists discussed a number of upcoming storylines, including an Archie/Glee crossover: “It sort of works out that each Archie character has a Glee counterpart, so it’s very interesting to see the characters sort of blending together,” said writer Dan Parent. Also in the works are a Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man crossover and a Sonic encyclopedia.
Papercutz had mini-comics with excerpts from its Annoying Orange graphic novel, which will debut in December, as well as the first issue of Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, which features an eight-year-old Nancy Drew and is drawn by veteran Archie artist Stan Goldberg. Their bestselling Ninjago graphic novels, based on the Lego ninja series, were also available, and the giveaways at the booth included Ninjago and Power Rangers posters.
Aside from the hugely popular Pocket God comic, children's comics have not been a big factor in the digital channel, but that may be about to change. At its panel, iVerse announced that it has signed a distribution deal with Brodart to market its digital graphic novel service to libraries. The service, which was announced at San Diego Comic Con, will allow library patrons to read graphic novels on any digital device. Libraries will pay for the graphic novels on a per-checkout basis, but the service also includes quite a bit of free content. The new service is scheduled to launch for public libraries in January, with a school library service to follow.
iVerse also announced an exclusive digital deal with Ape Entertainment, which publishes licensed comics based on DreamWorks movies, Sesame Street, video games, and other properties, as well as original comics and graphic novels. The other digital comics distributor, comixology, announced that it will carry the digital versions of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the science comics published by G.T. Labs, and it has added a “parent-friendly sync” to its Comics 4 Kids app that allows parents to share kid-friendly comics digitally with their children.
At the ICv2 Conference that preceded the convention proper, a group of editors and creators talked about what makes a good children's comic. Ed Massessa, senior manager of product development for Scholastic Book Fairs, pointed to a good cover: “Our bestselling graphic novel at Scholastic of all time is Smile by Raina Telgemeier. The story was wonderful, I don't think it would not have gotten the attention that it did if it had not had that knockout cover on it. Just a big ol' smiley face with braces.”
Amelia Rules creator Jimmy Gownley advocated for interesting characters, noting that Smile would have been “almost bland,” because the story was so universal, if the main character hadn’t been so likeable. Françoise Mouly of Toon Books said that her books' high production values, such as good paper and design, set them apart. And Mark Banaszak, managing editor of Diamond Bookshelf, summed it up neatly, saying, “Something that is well made, and something that is not written down to kids – that is kind of key, because you can tell, and I think kids can tell, when someone is trying to write something intentionally simplistic versus just at a level where they can understand.”