Viz Media to release original Hello Kitty comics

Viz Media has inked a deal with "global lifestyle brand" Sanrio to publish a series of original Hello Kitty graphic novels, as well as a special-edition comic that will debut in July at Comic-Con International.

The single-volume comic will feature a cover by Eisner-nominated artist Jacob Chabot, with interior art by Victoria Maderna, Ian McGinty and Chabot. That will be followed in the fall by the release of Here We Go!, a collection of stories about Hello Kitty's world travels and the first volume in the main graphic novel series.

If you're unfamiliar with Hello Kitty, then you've likely been in suspended animation since at least 1974, when the anthropomorphic white Japanese bobtail cat first appeared (on a vinyl purse, it turns out). She made the jump to the United States two years later on her way to global conquest: Hello Kitty merchandise, ranging from greetings cards to clothing to stuffed animals to high-end collectibles, is worth about $5 billion a year worldwide.

Created by Yuko Shimizu (no relation to the Unwritten cover artist of the same name), Hello Kitty has starred in several animated series in Japan and the United States, and many more video games.

“Sanrio and Hello Kitty are synonymous with the very essence of pop culture, and we’re very excited to have Hello Kitty as part of the Viz Kids family of titles,” Beth Kawasaki, Viz Media's senior editorial director, said in a statement. “The new wordless comic and graphic novel series will appeal to Hello Kitty fans of all ages. Viz Media is having a blast creating the fun new original series and we can’t wait for everyone to see the books.”

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