Graphic novels have been zooming into the MG space in a big way in the past few years. In fact, middle grade graphic novels are probably the hottest category in publishing right now.
Traditional kidlit publishers have been moving toward graphic novels since Scholastic launched their Graphix imprint in 2005 and acquired Jeff Smith’s Bone series, but graphic novel publishers have also been moving toward kidlit. Also in 2005, NBM Publishing started their Papercutz imprint, which publishes graphic novel versions of classic middle-grade series, like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as well as series featuring popular pop culture characters, such as Lego Ninjago and Disney Fairies, and original titles such as the popular Geronimo Stilton series.
Since then, the genre has continued to grow. According to the American Bookseller’s Association, comics and graphic novels saw a strong sales growth in 2014-2017, due in large part to the success of middle-grade authors such as Raina Telgemeier and Dav Pilkey. In February 2018 at the ALA Mid-Winter Conference, DC Entertainment announced two new imprints: DC Zoom for middle-grade readers and DC Ink for young adults. These imprints combine popular middle-grade and YA authors, acclaimed artists, and iconic DC characters to create unique, out-of-continuity stories that are aimed specifically at young readers.
At the ALA Annual Conference this week, I had the opportunity to learn about some of the upcoming titles from DC Zoom and listen to their authors talk about the experience of working on these graphic novels.
The imprint will debut in April 2019 with Super Sons: The Polarshield Project, written by Ridley Pearson and illustrated by Ile Gonzalez. This story is about the sons of Superman and Batman teaming up with a displaced empress to solve a global warming crisis.
Shea Fontana will be continuing her popular DC Superhero Girls series under the DC Zoom imprint with the 9th book in the series Spaced Out in May 2019. Fontana’s also working on a stand-alone Batman title for the imprint, Batman: Overdrive, illustrated by Marcelo Di Chiara. The story features a teenaged Batman learning to cope with his parents’ death by restoring and customizing an old car that his dad had as a teenager. Yes, that’s right. It’s an origin story for the Batmobile! In one of the panels that I attended, Fontana talked about the importance of the car as a healthy coping mechanism for Batman. It’s an interesting take on the normally brooding superhero.
Meg Cabot’s Black Canary: Ignite, illustrated by Cara McGee is coming October 2019. During a panel that I attended, Cabot talked about how, while she didn’t know about Black Canary as a child, she knows that she would have identified with her. Cabot was known for being the loudest person in her middle school, and Black Canary has a super-sonic scream that can defeat her enemies. In Black Canary: Ignite, Dinah discovers her powers and learning to harness them for good. Cabot said that one of the things that really excited her about this project was the chance to inspire young girls, who also might have been told that they are too loud to know that their voices have the power to change the world.
As a librarian who saw the DC Superhero Girls and the DC Super Pets books and graphic novels gain massive popularity, I’m super excited for this new imprint and all the possibilities to introduce these superheroes to middle grade readers.