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Comics A.M. | Penguin Group to launch kids’ graphic novel line

Penguin Group

Publishing | The Penguin Group plans to wade into the market for children’s graphic novels with a new line aimed at middle-grade and young-adult readers. “Clearly it’s a huge, growing market, the kid’s graphic novel market,” Penguin’s Rich Johnson told ICv2 at New York Comic Con. “You see those titles making the bestsellers list all the time. So we are looking to do work in that area to get more kids reading comics.” [ICv2]

Creators | Feisty as ever, Stan Lee talks about his World of Heroes YouTube channel and breaks up the camera crew a couple of times in an interview shot New York Comic Con. [MTV Geek]

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Stan Lee Excelsior Award shortlist announced

What, you’ve never heard of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award? Well then, you must not be a teenager in the U.K. The awards were started last year by a teacher in Sheffield, and students in 17 different schools voted for their favorite graphic novels. This year, 66 schools participated. The books must be suitable for readers aged 11-16, and yes, Stan Lee did authorize the use of his name, although other than that he doesn’t seem to be personally involved (however, the website does say organizers work closely with the Stan Lee Foundation).

Here’s what’s interesting about this shortlist: It reflects what tweens and teens are actually reading, as opposed to what the adult gatekeepers think they should be reading. That means the list is fascinatingly eclectic and also devoid of any award winners — I know when I was a kid, that foil Newbery Award seal was the kiss of death. Things don’t seem to have changed much. Here’s the 2012 shortlist:

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Wimpy Kid outsells all rivals while giving it away on the ‘net

Heidi MacDonald points to an article in the Hollywood Reporter about the runaway success of Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid novels (which are often classed with graphic novels, although they are really more of a hybrid format). There’s a lot to chew on in the article, and Heidi’s post gets some interesting comments about the fact that kids are reading—and buying—lots of comics lately; the only writer whose work is outselling Kinney right now is Stieg Larsson.

One of the really interesting angles of this story, though, is that from day one, the first three volumes of Diary of a Wimpy Kid have been available online, for free. It started out as a web-only book on the kids’ site Funbrain.com, and author Jeff Kinney has insisted on keeping it there. How does that work? I suspect there are two kinds of readers: Those who know about Wimpy Kid but not Funbrain (I’m guessing the target audience doesn’t spend a lot of time using BitTorrent) and those who go to Funbrain for math help, as my daughter did, and stumble on Wimpy Kid along the way. So he’s tapping into two separate audiences, much as comics publishers hope to do with digital and direct market sales. In addition, Kinney upgraded both the writing and the art for the print edition and threw in some extra twists that aren’t online. Although this seems to be pretty ad hoc, it sounds like a pretty good business plan to me.

Kinney had better watch his back, though: James Patterson, the author of Maximum Ride and Daniel X, both of which have done well both as prose novels and as graphic novel adaptations, has just published Middle School, a prose-graphic novel hybrid with a bit of a Wimpy Kid vibe—and he has put the first 20 chapters online for free.

Comics on the iPad: Yen Press launches its own app

Yen Press launched its iPad app this week, and it’s a thing of beauty—which is good, because it’s also expensive.

The app itself is free, of course, but the books will cost ya: Single volumes are priced at $8.99 each, which is less than the list price of $12.99 for print volumes but pretty close to the actual price most people pay for print—in fact, the print edition of vol. 1 of Maximum Ride is going for less than that on Amazon.com right now.

Let’s talk look and feel first: Yen Press feels deluxe. It opens up to a gorgeous full-color page from Maximum Ride. The catalog page is less cluttered than most, with three featured books framed in black at the top and six more in catalog listings below, with no distracting animation or scrolling. Touch any part of a catalog listing and a frame pops up with complete information. But here’s the nicest part: Touch the preview button and you immediately get a full-page preview, not the smaller images that other app developers provide in their catalogs. Everything loads quickly, so the whole thing works like a dream. The Yen folks didn’t use the comiXology or iVerse platform, like most other publishers, but they did a great job.

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