As part of their plans for “market expansion,” DC just announced the launch of a Young Readers imprint for 2018, overseen by one of the company’s top female editors. There are no concrete details about what sort of books the imprint will put out – monthly comics? graphic novels? – and no word on any of the creative teams yet, but we do know who’ll be in charge.
Vice president and executive editor Bobbie Chase will oversee the new imprint. She’ll add Young Readers to a roster that already includes kids comics, Hanna-Barbera, DC Talent Development, Wildstorm, Milestone, and Digital First comics.
DC previously hinted at a “market expansion” during their Diamond retailer presentation, and they explained some of the rationale at a press event afterwards. “DC itself is getting ready to expand its appeal,” said DC Comics co-publisher Dan DiDio, “and we’re beginning a new plan to expand our marketplace and reach out in as many ways possible. It’s also a way to take advantage of all kinds of talent.” (I’m hopeful that Didio’s “all kinds of talent” line means DC will hire more diverse creatives for the Young Readers roster.)
In general, I’m super excited that DC wants to focus on young readers, who are not only a great audience for superhero fare, but also often under-served by the Big Two. It’s particularly encouraging to see this imprint after the launch of DC’s Super Hero Girls – a franchise of animated shorts, books, and action figures that, as Heidi MacDonald over at The Comics Beat observed, “has been a huge success in toys and publishing and represents a concept once unthinkable in the superhero world.” All-ages series like Gotham Academy have also done well for the company.
Given how female-skewing these all-ages successes have been, I like to believe that DC has learned its lesson after the “We do not want girls watching these shows” fiasco surrounding Young Justice. Plus, the Young Readers imprint will be overseen by a woman – and while that’s no guarantee, it’s heartening.
I do worry that this new content won’t come with a new marketing strategy. The vast majority of parents of young readers aren’t going to have the time or the know-how to make their way to a comics shop, and I believe some of DC’s previous imprints – for example, the Cartoon Network one – have suffered as a result of selling in the direct market. While I love my LCS, it’ll be important for DC to also make these titles available in a wider market if they want them to be successful. They should put together resources for teachers, get the series into libraries, and provide clear numbering and naming – all-in-all, they’ll need to make it easy for parents and kids to find these books. Anyone raising an elementary school kid will tell you that they aren’t exactly flush with spare time. If the Young Readers imprint is tricky or complicated to buy, they’re going to opt for a different franchise for their kids.
But I’m still hopeful that DC can make this thing work. Chase brings plenty of experience in the children’s book industry with her, so her expertise should point them in the right direction. If they can make the Young Readers line accessible in both content and distribution, I think they’ll have a success on their hands.
What do you think? Which DC heroes would you like to see in a Young Readers title?
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