Like millions of others, I recently bought a (losing) lottery ticket for the $500 million dollar Mega Millions jackpot.
Before my hopes were dashed against the brutal non-winning rocks of reality I, like anyone with a lottery ticket in hand, fantasized about what I would do with my winnings. Though I spent much of my time imagining the swanky New York apartment I would buy, as well as the sunlit pad in Los Angeles (complete with badass pool) and infinite traveling I would do, I kept coming back to one thing over and over that I’d like to do.
Start a publishing company.
Seeing the furor over The Hunger Games, and being part of it myself (I love the books and thought the movie was pretty good for an adaptation) was part of what kept me returning to the fantasy of me having the power and funds to launch a comics line with The Hunger Games graphic novel adaptation at the heart of it.
It continues to baffle me, why YA (Young Adult) Fiction continues to skyrocket – massively successful series like Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games - which are monster hits in terms of readership and sales; while YA Comics are barely even a thing in the mainstream comics market. Not only do those novels have huge readerships, but they have huge female readerships, while female mainstream comics readership continues to struggle and flounder.
I suspect YA comics aren't a thing in the mainstream because in fact most mainstream comics are supposed to be appropriate for YA audiences as well as young adults, but to be honest I can't see it. Even the more mainstream comics that I think are great these days, I have trouble imagining anyone under the age of 20 enjoying, certainly to the degree that they must have them and religiously follow them from month to month. And that's ignoring how painfully unfriendly most mainstream comics are to new readers thanks to complicated continuities. Monthly mainstream comics are painful in a way that mainstream books simply are not. It's as clear as day what you need to read and where you can get it if you want to read the latest series. But pick up a random mainstream comic series and you're going to need - at a minimum - the internet to help you navigate those complicated waters.
Like anyone, I come back repeatedly to distribution and advertising being the primary issues beyond new-reader friendliness - that kids don’t frequent comic book stores the way they do bookstores and so many other places. But I like to believe that digital is changing this...evening the playing field both between the sexes and between the age groups. The ability to buy something instantly digitally, something the younger generation is more adept at and comfortable with anyway, is a game changer.
Comics and graphic novels in bookstores still continues to be hit and miss, there's been a lot of progress, but we're still not there yet. We may never get there. In the Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan the selection is phenomenal, but I'm sure that's not always the case.
At my fictional YA comics imprint, which I am fictionally naming NOVA (awesome right? Yeah, I know you don’t have to tell me) after securing The Hunger Games adaptation (yes, for bucketloads of cash) I would put a slew of talented comics creators to work on quality projects that fit that YA vein. And I wouldn't be shy about going directly after those highly coveted female dollars that mainstream comics seem happy to leave on the table.
In truth, I would let the creators simply pitch whatever they want, they're brilliant and I have great faith in their ideas and talent. But that's not much fun for a column...so I'm going to take some of their visuals and speculate wildly as to what my "fall line" would look like alongside the first Hunger Games graphic novel. There are nearly limitless new, established, and up and coming creators I would want to approach, but I limited myself here to a solid baker's dozen.
I've raved about Ben Caldwell's Wonder Woman pitch from a while back. I ache to see it in print. DC isn't interested? Fine. But they don't own the Amazons as a concept. I say Caldwell revamps the whole thing, basing it around the Amazons, rather than one specific Amazon. And done!
Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan have proved themselves repeatedly to be one of my favorite creative teams whether they're tackling projects that hit my sweet spot like Demo, or doing something completely out of the box (for me) like Conan The Barbarian. Anything they'd do together would surely be magic. This image is from Demo Volume 1 and to me seems like something any female YA reader would pick up in an instant. Something like this please!
Faith Erin Hicks. As I said, she can do whatever she wants. And already Hicks ongoing online comic Ice about a futuristic and rather dystopian society would be a nice fit for anyone looking for something with a similar Hunger Games vibe, while still being completely different and new. That said, can I tell you how much I would adore a Lucy from Friends With Boys spinoff? Yes, I would pay Hicks buckets of cash for that story.
Mike Maihack's Cleopatra in Spaaaace! series is fantastic, his Marvel and DC sketches are the things adorable dreams are made of, and just flipping through his website is a treasure trove of interesting ideas. Hey, look at this character...yeah, what's her story...give her a story, make it a book. Sold!
Meredith McClaren draws like her life depends on it and searching through her blog is like discovering other planets, rich with ideas. It was honestly hard for me to pick just one image that I'd love to see explore further. In fact...I didn't even manage that...I cheated and am showing two. This first one is so interesting to me because it's so unlike the image that we usually see or think of when it comes to mermaids. I'm fascinated by it. Make it a book!
This one is actually a riff on Lady Gaga I believe, which I find beautiful, brilliant, and kind of hilarious (in a great way)...I'd love to see it explored into something else.
We all know what a big fan I am of Ross Campbell, and I'd of course let him do just about anything he wants, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't really interested in seeing his Abandoned world further explored. That said, just browsing his DeviantArt gallery gives a taste of how many wonderful ideas he has just waiting to be explored.
I know Fiona Staples is really busy right now with Saga, and I would NEVER want to get in the way of that, but for my fictional imprint perhaps she could PLEASE do a story about this drawing that is on her blog, and that I love so much:
And if not the futuristic pink flying Vespa chick, then a story about whatever this awesomeness is then about something like this image inspired by Viera? Yes please and thank you!
Pretty much everything Emily Carroll does is scary and cool. So I would just ask her to do something scary and cool. There really cannot be enough things in the world that are like His Face All Red - haunting, beautiful, smart, and just scary enough to leave you thinking about it for days.
Obviously she can't do Scooby Doo since that's a licensed property (even though her sketches improve on the concept dramatically as far as I'm concerned) but I would love to see Noelle Stevenson give us a crack team of kid detectives.
Jillian Tamaki is amazing. Already you can get her absolutely hilarious Super Mutant Magic Academy for free online, and if you're not reading it, what's wrong with you?! But I'd love to give her a blank check to really expand the world and do a huge print version to go with her digital comics.
Jennifer Davidson is pretty new to me, but her blog is full of beautiful dreams. Love to see some of them made reality - look at the colors in this!
From Nuno Alves' DeviantArt gallery, I believe this is supposed to be Misty Knight (and it's wonderful) but this image (or the dozens of others that live in his gallery) could easily be re-worked into its own concept. Absolutely gorgeous, kinetic, and full of life.
If this isn't the coolest damn (as yet unknown) superheroine, I don't know what is. How I would love to see this single painting by Jason Levesque turned into a concept.
So that's just a smattering of the talent I would beg, borrow, and steal to bring over to my fictional imprint NOVA, a massive publishing endeavor that would begin its life by losing money hand over fist. Yes, even in this fantasy world I'm not delusional. It would take time for a line like this to find an audience. But I do believe, however naively, that 'if you build it, they will come.'
The one caveat? You have to actually tell them you've built it. You have to let them know. You have to advertise in the places that these readers go, you have to get the product in front of them in order for it to speak for itself.
If you can do that, I really do believe there is a massive untapped wealth of young (and female) dollars out there to be captured. And bringing them in with something they are already obsessed with like The Hunger Games adaptation would be an excellent way to get their attention.
Unfortunately I did NOT win the mega millions jackpot and so this remains only a lovely fantasy.
Who would you hire for your own fictional imprint?