Comics are bigger than ever so do we really need another imprint out there? Of course we do! Especially when it’s powered by the publishing giant Random House and geared towards kids and young readers. Such is the case with Random House Graphic which has jumped into the scene with a splash with the release of its first graphic novel, The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowski. There are a number of titles scheduled for the rest of this year and the publisher is already looking a couple years into the future. I had a chance to visit the Random House Graphic offices on the eve of The Runaway Princess’ release for a special event.
The day’s festivities began with a small panel featuring creators of upcoming graphic novels including Mika Song (Donut Feed the Squirrels), Sophie Escabasse (Witches of Brooklyn), Aatmaja Pandya (Check Your Texts), Alison Wilgus (Project TBA), and Megan Brennan (Magic Girls). While the books from these creators are a ways off, it was nonetheless interesting to hear how these titles came to RHG and what else is in store for us down the line. It’s clear the publisher is laying the groundwork for a nice slate that reinforces the tagline “A graphic novel on every shelf.”
When asked how long they have been working on their comics, the panelists had a variety of answers since they’re all in different phases of the creative process. Some noodled around for a little bit here and there for a few years while others had it lurking in the back of their mind for some time. Song’s story was interesting as it came from a picture book that wasn’t picked up. It was able to be repurposed into a graphic novel. This goes to show you that you should never throw out ideas!
It’s interesting to hear how the graphic novel format changed the way some of the stories were developed. Brennan had originally created disparate shorts here and there for Magic Girls without a cohesive plot. After working on Gumball from BOOM! Studios, she was absolute to see how an overall narrative could come together in. She was afforded the luxury of time with how far out the graphic novel’s release was set. Additionally, since her series is set as a trilogy, Brennan was able to lay out larger points throughout each volume.
The discussion turned to writing for children and how that has changed over the years. There was a ton of content out there that had mature themes that was geared towards kids. Animorphs was brought up and that is definitely a great example. Parents are now more aware of what their kids are reading and they’re often reading with them. This makes it difficult to find a hidden gem of a book, but there are so many categories to dig into.
Wilgus praised Random House Graphic, saying it was the best thing going on in comics right now. The publisher is laser focused on kids comics. This is where the future of the industry is coming from since it will be getting the next generation into the medium. That’s some pretty exciting stuff. Wilgus joked that they were all here because of the manga aisle at Borders.
After this small panel, we went to a larger room where the panelists discussed comics with a crowd from the greater Random House. They shared some top line do’s and don’ts about making comics and enjoying them. There was a consensus that the best parts of creating comics are the very beginning and the very end. That takes care of the initial seed of an idea with all the excitement and the relief of finishing.
The panel ended with a fun activity where everyone sitting at the tables worked together to draw some monsters. It was a fitting way to close out the day. With its first graphic novel officially out there in the world, it’s an exciting time for Random House Graphic and it’s clear that the publisher is only getting started. It is settling in for the long haul with a lot of great titles on its road map. Kids love comics and they’re soon going to have a bunch more to read. That’s definitely a good thing.