With Pokémon Go fever sweeping the country, the San Diego Convention Center seemed like one big PokéStop during Comic-Con International, the biggest comics convention in the United States. Rare Pokémon, both cosplayed and virtual, roamed the halls, and the creators of the Pokémon Adventures manga, writer Hidenori Kusaka and artist Satoshi Yamamoto, were on hand for several autograph sessions and a spirited panel in which they played Rock Paper Scissors with their fans for real prizes. Those unmoved by Pokémon Go madness still had plenty to enjoy at the con.
Several teen-friendly graphic novels won Eisner Awards, including Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy (Best Publication for Teens), Kate Beaton’s Step Aside, Pops (Best Humor Publication), Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s Bandette (Best Digital/Webcomic), and Rep. John Lewis’s graphic memoir March: Book Two, created in partnership with writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell (Best Reality-Based Work).
The day after the Eisner Awards ceremony, Lewis recounted his experiences on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, when a group marching for voting rights for African Americans was turned back by state troopers wielding billy clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas. Lewis dressed for the panel as he had for the march, in a trench coat with a backpack containing books, an apple, an orange, and a toothbrush and toothpaste in case he was arrested; at the end of the panel, he led a procession of children and supporters to the convention floor, where he signed copies of March: Book Three.
Novelist Margaret Atwood was at the convention to promote the first volume of her new superhero story, Angel Catbird, which will comprise three graphic novels. The story, illustrated by Johnnie Christmas, is about a superhero who is part human, part cat, and part bird. Atwood first conceived it as a way to raise awareness of the dangers of allowing cats to roam freely outdoors, which is bad for the cats and the birds who are frequently their prey.
American YA author Matthew Kirby and French graphic novelist Mathieu Reynès discussed creating stories for young adults in a panel sponsored by Europe Comics, a coalition of European publishers and agents that is working to make European comics available digitally. Kirby, who also writes middle grade novels, made the distinction that those books are primarily concerned with independence, while young adult novels are more about identity. “Once you step away from your parent and you are out on your own, which is what a lot of those middle grade adventures are all about, that first time that you are facing the world alone and taking on this challenge, then it’s this question of who am I?” he said. “That is central to that period of adolescence, and that begins at 10, 11, 12, but it goes all the way into adulthood.”
Reynès said that most comics in France are either targeted at young children or adults. Until recently, teens read manga or American comics, and French publishers are starting to notice. When Kirby asked Reynès was considering that untapped market when he started making YA graphic novels, Reynès said no: “It was the story I wanted to tell. Maybe I am still a young adult. I tell what I want to tell to readers, and it seems like the people I have touched most are young adults.”
At the Best and Worst Manga of 2016 panel, critics and librarians went through a rapid-fire rundown of their favorite new and continuing series for teens and adults—plus a few duds. Recommendations included the new volleyball series “Haikyu!!,” the new edition of Fruits Basket, and the Eisner-nominated A Silent Voice, a high school story about bullying. Manga journalist Deb Aoki, who organized the panel, has posted the full audio and slides at her blog, “MangaComicsManga.”
Archie Comics rolled out the latest reboot of a classic comic, the new Betty and Veronica, by Adam Hughes, and they also had a lineup of actors from the upcoming Riverdale television show at their booth.
A number of other new YA properties were announced during and immediately before the con:
- Titan Comics announced that they have licensed Assassin’s Creed: Awakening, a manga set in the universe of the Assassin’s Creed. As they are doing with their Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Pink manga, Titan will publish the story first as a series of comics and then in graphic novel format. Titan also has a graphic novel based on Matthew Kirby’s YA title Assassin’s Creed: Last Descendants novel
- Dark Horse announced Soupy Leaves Home, by Cecil Castellucci and Jose Pimienta, a Depression-era story about a girl who leaves an unhappy home, disguises herself as a boy, and rides the rails. The original graphic novel will be published in April 2017.
- Lumberjanes publishers BOOM! Studios unveiled concept art for SLAM!, a story about roller derby, which will be part of their BOOM! Box imprint. The publisher also announced that a movie based on David Petersen’s Mouse Guard is in the works.
- The children’s graphic novel publisher Papercutz announced a new line, Charmz, original graphic novels targeted at early-teen readers. The line will feature stories in several different genres—sci-fi, slice-of-life, and light horror—that revolve around relationships and crushes. Some are original, and some are imported from France, and all are planned to be series.
- Oni Press will publish new editions of John Allison’s Bad Machinery in a smaller trim size. The current books are an oversize 9″ x 12″ format, while the newer ones will be a backpack-friendly 6″ x 9″. The content will be the same as in the larger editions, just shrunk down more, and Oni will continue to publish the series in both formats.
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