All Ages

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Zoom's Academy goes to Ballantine

Thanks to Heidi for this one.

ZOOM'S ACADEMY FOR THE SUPER GIFTED, a comic about a 13-year old girl who not only discovers that her father is a teacher at a school for kids with powers but discovers she has superhuman abilities herself, has not only been signed up for a movie starring Tim Allen but has also been picked up by Ballantine Books, a subsidary of Random House Publishing for two books. Creator Jason Lethcoehas published 3 issues of the comic book to date. Whether or not Ballantine will follow Disney's recent lead to alter the original material into a hybrid of comics and prose or keep it as is remains to be seen.

I haven't had the chance to read ZOOM'S but what I've seen of Lethcoe's artwork, I like. There's definite kid-appeal to his work.

With so much media attention and buzz around kids comics in the past 6 months, it seems like every publisher (traditional book and comic book) is taking the opportunity to snap up a existing all ages book for their line. 2005 should be an interesting year...

Oh happy Wednesday

I have in my hands a copy of the first Scholastic volume of BONE: Out From Boneville and it looks absolutely amazing. The cover features a beautiful red foil embossed logo, and the interior colors look just leap off the page. The hardcover edition is even more of a treat with Mark Crilley's map of The Valley as the inside front and back cover pages.

I also had the chance to read the first 29 pages of script and roughs of Chynna Clugston's Scholastic graphic novel QUEEN BEE, which is releasing Fall 2005. The story is off-the-wall and totally fun -- think Mean Girls with psychokinetic powers. It's looking like a great book to follow BONE -- different enough to distinguish it on the shelves but still maintaining that "in-a-kid's-head" sensibility that is so important in making kids graphic novels a major success.

School market-appropriate Yu-Gi-oH!

Hopefully there will be no cats with cigarettes being put out in their eyes or girls being kidnapped at gunpoint in this one. I remember reviewing Volume 1 of YU-GI-OH to sell on Scholastic Book Clubs a few years ago and realizing a major problem -- popular anime for kids in North America had been seriously edited from its original manga form. This has made selling the most popular Japanese properties very difficult to sell in a school market setting as translated manga.

But perhaps this will fix everything:
"VIZ, LLC, one of the leading publishers and distributors of manga and anime for North American audiences, has announced the upcoming release of YU-GI-OH! THE MOVIE™ ANI-MANGA. The single 288-page full color graphic novel provides a blow-by-blow summary of the animated theatrical film. Included in the first 100,000 copies will be one of the three Yu-Gi-Oh! Egyptian God Cards, previously unavailable in the U.S. The new Ani-Manga is rated “A” for All Ages and will be on sale nationwide on November 23 retailing for $13.99."

We like that 'A' rating. Time for an email to Viz...

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

I saw The Incredibles

I'm convinced that THE INCREDIBLES is a delightful anomaly.

Since the summer there's been much discussion among co-workers whether or not this movie will actually hit with kids. The popular opinion was that THE INCREDIBLES is a movie made for fans of the superhero genre and that's it. That it would be too sophisticated packed with references that kids just wouldn't get.

And guess what? In some respects, it is. But it also:
- currently has a 96% positive review rating on Rotten Tomatoes
- beat Finding Nemo in amount of money made on opening weekend
- beat The Polar Express, a movie with a more confident premise (it's seasonal & feel-good) on its second week at the box office where traditionally one sees a major drop off in revenue from opening week
- has been enjoyed by EVERY kid I've heard that has seen the movie (from friends, relatives, co-workers)

THE INCREDIBLES is a dark, sophisticated movie that deconstructs the genre by breaking apart those major things that make up a superhero like sidekicks, costumes and secret identities. This is a movie with serious adult themes like society's elevation of mediocrity and the difference between real and cartoon violence (that scene where Elastigirl tells her kids that these villains won't hesitate to kill you is seriously intense, especially for a 7 year old and probably for a 12 year old too).

But on the other hand, THE INCREDIBLES does endeavor to keep kids entertained as well - the family dynamic (especially the scene where the family bickers at the dinner table using of each of their special powers), the wonder and awe of having amazing abilities (the scene where Dash runs on water will keep any kid on the edge of their seat) and just the right amount of humor. Plus, maniacal supervillains, gigantic robots that smash cities and brightly colored costumes help as well.

The strength in THE INCREDIBLES comes from the fact that it isn't just a series of pop culture references and gags but is a meaningful story with depth, stakes and real emotion.

So how does a movie, despite its highly sophisticated nature, keep the attention of kids for almost 2 hours? THE INCREDIBLESis an example of smart marketing -- from toys in McDonald's Happy Meals to video games to publishing over 35 related books before the release of the movie show how a highly penetrated property can win everyone over. More information on THE INCREDIBLES marketing machine can be found here.

As for me personally...yeah I liked it a lot despite being inundated with those popular opinions I described earlier. I'm just glad kids are liking it too...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Disney's afraid to publish comics?

Many more details regarding CrossGen properties being picked up by Disney have surfaced here and here, including news that Disney was planning on walking away from the deal if they couldn't get the all ages fantasy book ABAZADAD.

What worries me is this:
"We're doing Abadazad as a series of children's books. [4 hardcover prose novels] We'll be taking material from the comics, adding to it, reformating it ... and coming up a combination of prose, illustration and sequential art that we think will be unique. Our plan is to create a storytelling format that is new and exciting ... and we can't wait to get started.

Brenda Bowen, VP and Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books admits she's not "a comic book person" and feels that ABAZADAD will work better as small hardcover books with a mix of prose and illustration, along the same lines as Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi's The Spiderwick Chronicles. But again, like with Disney's other comics originated property, W.I.T.C.H., Disney in North America felt the series would work better as a series of prose novels with 8-page comic inserts. Did Bowen feel ABAZADAD would work better as prose because of JM DeMatteis' text-heavy writing style? Or is Disney still not confident enough that the graphic novel format has hit mainstream book buyers yet? It's somewhat worrisome that the self-proclaimed publisher of 50% of comics worldwide will not take the leap here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Devil's Due gets Patrick the Wolf Boy

Newsarama has a press release for Devil's Due's new digest line launching in January 2005. Included in the 4 releases is the previously self-published all-ages comic PATRICK THE WOLF BOY.

From the release:
PATRICK THE WOLFBOY (Writer: Franco Aureliani Artist: Art Baltazar) A hit across the convention circuits, and in development as an animated series, Devil’s Due is happy to have Patrick on board. This D3 collects the following: Patrick the Wolf Boy #1, Patrick the Wolf Boy: Christmas Special, Patrick the Wolf Boy: Valentine’s Special, Patrick the Wolf Boy: Mother's Day Special Summer Special and 25 pages of new Patrick stuff!

Patrick is a young boy who likes to do all the things that young boys do -- go camping, play in the backyard, go to school but -- he's also a werewolf and enjoys chasing squirrels. I've never had the chance to read any of Patrick's adventures but I've spoken with Art many times at conventions and he definitely has a kid-sensibility that is reassuring. The artwork is simple and appealing and the seasonal tie are a marketer/buyer's dream. Patrick seems like it would appeal to fans of such series like The Bailey School Kids and with an animated series in development might be a good title to consider for school market distribution.

Full review to come in January.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Disney gets CrossGen

Publishers Weekly has confirmed rumors that a Cal Publishing Inc., a subsidiary of Disney Publishing Worldwide has acquired CrossGen's assets including the rights to publish the all-ages series ABAZADAD.

From the article:
"DPW president Deborah Dugan immediately announced plans to develop Abadazad, a fantasy series about a young girl's search for her lost brother, under its Hyperion Books for Children imprint. Dugan also said selected CrossGen graphic novel properties will likely also be considered for development into motion pictures, TV productions and games."

Hyperion traditionally publishes novels and whether or not ABAZADAD will continue to be published as graphic novels or be converted to traditional novels with some comics pages, a la Disney's W.I.T.C.H. series remains to be seen. Curious to see what CrossGen properties will be developed into other media and whether or not they'll be altered to reach a more mass market audience.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Dorian's talking about kids comics

Over at Postmodern Barney Dorian has some interesting observations about kids and comics. He works in a comic book shop and sees first hand what kids are buying and more importantly, what parents are letting kids buy. Basically, he says that kids don't really want to read corporate "kiddie" versions of existing superheroes, which I agree with to a certain extent. I'm hoping that Marvel's new POWER PACK series might prove us all wrong.

The most interesting observation he makes is how young girls are coming into comic book shops with their parents looking for appropriate material. Unfortunately the output of titles from DC and Marvel with female leads, except for maybe SPIDER-GIRL, probably wouldn't go over well with the parents. Dorian's right -- kids need general audience friendly books with little continuity except for a core concept that carries over from issue to issue with action and humor. One of the most successful televisions for tween girls in the past few years has been Lizzie McGuire. The show embodies the sitcom format in so much that each episode contains all the information one needs know to enjoy this weeks madcap situation, but by the end everything is back to the status quo. The same can be said for ARCHIE COMICS' line of titles. This is the direction that will lead to Dorian selling tons of books to eager parents and their equally eager little girls.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Hardy Boys preview

Papercutz, NBM's tween publishing division, have the entire first issue of the new HARDY BOYS comic book series on their website for preview until the end of today. After a quick read, I have my doubts that this will appeal to the market they're going after. The dialogue is clunky (first indication of bad dialogue is when a character's name is constantly stated over and over again in every conversation - people don't talk like this), the plot jumps around with little coherence and the artwork looks rushed and inconsistent. There is definitely an attempt to bring a manga sensibility to the detective brothers with the inclusion of speed lines and quirky romance subplots but it really feels tacked on. From what I've seen, when a properties is revived and slightly tweaked for a new audience, subtle changes are made but the core of what the property is about remains. I'm not sure if what makes the Hardy Boys, the Hardy Boys is being represented here.

I'd still be interested to read these in full graphic novel form to see if the problems iron themselves out...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Read Like a Kid - I've got owls on the brain

I had a weird things for owls when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure it all stemmed from my unhealthy obsession with Bubo from Clash of the Titans. I wanted a mechanical pet owl pet crafted by Athena so bad! The fascination didn't stop there. In grade 8 art class we had to do this project that consisted of tracing an animal with india ink on glass, coloring it with magic marker, blocking out the "white" space with this thick black toxic paint, putting crackled tinfoil behind the glass and then into a frame. I thought it was a pretty cool craft so I picked an owl and ended up giving it to my mother for Christmas. Months later, after some minor family misfortunes, my mother was convinced that the owl was casting the "molochia" or the Italian evil eye on us and my artwork was cast to the deepest regions of one of our closets.

Which brings me to two works where owls feature prominently -- the YA novel HOOT by adult novelist Carl Hiassen and the latest all-ages graphic novel from Top Shelf Comix, OWLY by Andy Runton.

HOOT is about Roy Eberhardt, a 'new kid' to Trace Middle School, who not only has to deal with the class bully and the daily grind of school but his own curiosity when he spots a bare-footed boy running away from the bus one day. Upon further investigation, Roy finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between an environmentally conscious runaway and a corporation who wants to open a new pancake house ontop of the habitat of a burrowing owl colony.

It's really hard to say anything bad about a book that's won so many presitgious awards, including the Newbery Honor Book award. It's not that I didn't like HOOT -- it's a good story -- part slapstick, part mystery and part preteen drama. In fact, the most interesting element of HOOT is its introduction of the idea that kids can be activists and not in that cheesy "save the whales" kind of way but a more genuine call-to-arms. HOOT is one of many books currently on the market where adult novelists try their hand at writing a kids book. We saw this last year with Michael Chabon's Summerland, which has received mixed reviews. With HOOT I just felt there was an off-putting distance between the author and the reader that left me a bit cold.

Far from distant in any way is Andy Runton's first all ages graphic novels about the everyday adventures of an owl entitled OWLY. Owly is an innocent bird with his heart in all the right places. In the first half of the book, Owly nurses a worm back to health, instead of eating him, and the two end up becoming best friends and roommates. In the second story, Owly and Wormy befriend a couple of hummingbirds. But when winter approaches their friends must leave, but Owly and Wormy realize that goodbye isn't always forever when their friends return the following Spring for more fun.

To be honest, I was a bit hesitant when I found out that OWLY was a wordless graphic novel. Part of me felt that it was more important to grow the category of children's graphic novels with stories that could be used legitimitely in a classroom setting to get reluctant readers interested in books. Pushing aside my ignorance, I did a little research and realized that Runton's optimistic, simple stories of friendship follow a long tradition of of wordless material from renowned picture book illustrators like Raymond Briggs, Eric Carle and David Wiesner.

I also found this great quote on the Weber County Library's website:
"Wordless picture books serve as the initial step towards real reading. Their stories are told entirely through a sequence of illustrations. As children follow the pictures, they verbalize the action in their own words, a process that builds vocabulary and comprehension skills. Children may interpret the stories in their own way, and in the process, learn that stories have a beginning, middle, and an ending."

So in order for a children's graphic novel to be successful in providing this initial step towards reading, clear sequential storytelling must be in place. Runton accomplishes this with ease. Not only is OWLY easy-to-follow but Runton's ability to convey emotions in animal characters with just a slight smile or the raising of an eyebrow is incredible. Clearly, there is more than enough room for OWLY in the growing children's graphic novel canon.

Tardy link-blogging

Again my apologies for the lack of updates lately...work, flu and the everyday grind seem to be taking over my life lately. A few things I missed pointing out in the past couple of weeks in the all-agesphere.

Newsarama has two items:

- A link to a preview of Runemaster Studio's LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS -- like I said before...looks good.

- A announcement of IDW's adapation of Clive Barker's all ages novel, THE THIEF OF ALWAYS. I remember really liking the book when I first read it back when I was 14-ish, so I'm interested to see what they do with the comic adaptation.

Next up...a big OWLS ONLY post...