DC Launches Young Adult, Middle Grade Reader Imprints

After months of teasing from DC co-publisher Dan DiDio, the publisher last night revealed their plans for the young adult/bookstore market.

The first of the two imprints, DC Ink, will be focused on young adult (YA) readers; DC Zoom focused on middle grade (MG) readers.

Both imprints will feature a line-up of authors who have established YA and MG fan bases, as well as award-winning comic book writers and artists.

The first titles from DC Ink and DC Zoom will be released in Fall 2018.

“Superheroes are more popular than ever so it only makes sense to bring these DC characters to an entirely new generation of young readers,” said Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment and president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, in a statement. “The first comic books created decades ago were for kids, and as the business evolved and matured, it became more focused on adult readers. DC Ink and DC Zoom present an exciting new opportunity to grow our publishing business and ensure beloved stories built around iconic characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are endeared as part of the fabric of childhood for years to come.”

“Two of the recent areas of growth in publishing include graphic novels and books for young readers – we’re bringing those formats together with DC Ink and DC Zoom,” said DC Entertainment Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee. “We’ve already experienced tremendous success with our DC Super Hero Girls graphic novels. The new DC Ink and DC Zoom slate, paired with a stellar author line-up, presents a major business growth opportunity and we couldn’t be more excited – we’re going big.”

The first titles from DC Ink include Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki (Supergirl: Being Super) with art by Steve Pugh (The Flintstones), and Mera by Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die series).

The first title to hit shelves from DC Zoom will be DC Super Hero Girls: Search For Atlantis, from writer Shea Fontana and artist Yancey Labat.

Based on the available information, it appears that most of the stories will come in original graphic novel form, although DC Zoom will include some that will be serialized.

All three titles will go on sale in Fall 2018, with more titles from DC Ink and DC Zoom set to follow in 2019.

Additional confirmed upcoming titles and authors for DC Ink include:

BATMAN: GOTHAM HIGH – Melissa de la Cruz (ALEX & ELIZA, BLUE BLOODS series, WITCHES OF EAST END series)
BATMAN: NIGHTWALKER – THE GRAPHIC NOVEL – Marie Lu (LEGEND series)
TEEN TITANS – Kami Garcia (BEAUTIFUL CREATURES series)
UNDER THE MOON: A CATWOMAN TALE – Lauren Myracle (INTERNET GIRLS series, KISSING KATE)
WONDER WOMAN: TEMPEST TOSSED – Laurie Halse Anderson (SPEAK and CHAINS)

Additional confirmed titles and authors for DC Zoom include:

BATMAN TALES: ONCE UPON A CRIME – writer and artist: Derek Fridolfs, Dustin Nguyen (BATMAN: LI’L GOTHAM)
BATMAN: OVERDRIVE – Shea Fontana (DC SUPER HERO GIRLS series)
BLACK CANARY: IGNITE – Meg Cabot (THE PRINCESS DIARIES series)
DEAR JUSTICE LEAGUE – Michael Northrop (TOMBQUEST series)
GREEN LANTERN: LEGACY – Minh Lê (DRAWN TOGETHER)
SUPER SONS – Ridley Pearson (KINGDOM KEEPERS series)
SUPERMAN OF SMALLVILLE – writer and artist: Art Baltazar & Franco (TINY TITANS)
SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN – Gene Yang (Avatar: The Last Airbender series, New Super-Man), will be released as periodicals first, then collected.

While the comics largely feature DC's biggest stars, the presence of a Catwoman original graphic novel, along with Black Canary and Mera, suggests that the publisher is actively pursuing readers more interested in a female protagonist. Superman Smashes the Klan, likely a modern reinterpretation of the famous '40s radio storyline that pitted the Man of Steel against hooded terrorists, indicates a more socially-conscious viewpoint.

Both of these were features of the quickly-abandoned DC You initiative, in which the publisher used the waning days of its New 52 timeline to update old characters or spotlight new ones who, it was imagined, might sell better in the bookstore market than the comics direct market. The series by and large did not last long enough to test the theory.

The bookstore market has been steadily growing while the direct market shrinks, which has led to discussions across the comics industry as to how to stem the potential loss of sales. Launching a new imprint which can be sold in bookstores and also, ideally, brings new readers into comic shops for the first time has been part and parcel of how DC has always discussed a potential YA line.

DC has had success with small, stand-alone lines of comics in recent years; Brian Michael Bendis is set to curate his own custom imprint beginning in 2018, which will be the third or fourth such imprint recently introduced.

My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way launched Young Animal in 2016, breathing new life into characters like Doom Patrol, Shade, and Cave Carson as well as introducing new characters like Mother Panic.

In 2017, DC handed control of their existing WildStorm universe of characters over to Warren Ellis, who had masterfully handled them in his Stormwatch and The Authority runs in the '90s and early 2000s. Writing The Wild Storm and overseeing other titles in the line, Ellis has re-established the Wildstorm Universe as its own stand-alone Earth in the DC multiverse, the the Wildstorm series Michael Cray has introduced dark, authoritarian versions of familiar DC heroes as villainous foils for the Wildstorm heroes.

To an extent, DC's New Age of Heroes imprint fits this description, but those comics are set in the main-line DC Universe.