Vault Comics’ middle grade line of graphic novels is set to launch in the summer of 2021, with managing editor Rebecca “Tay” Taylor leading the charge. The imprint, which recently saw a name change from Myriad to Wonderbound, promises exciting, accessible genre books for young readers, giving kids science fiction, fantasy, horror, and more to explore.
Taylor chatted with The Beat about working with Vault on the Wonderbound brand and why books such as these are so important for children.
Deanna Destito: Tell me about your background in MG/YA?
Rebecca Taylor: Eleven years ago when I started in comics, the book market surge of graphic novels for young readers was only just emerging, so kids comics weren’t yet as politely cordoned off into middle grade and YA. It was the lawless world of what we called “all-ages” publishing. I started at Archaia, then moved to BOOM! Studios, where I got to work on amazing comics for young readers like Mouse Guard, Rust, Feathers, Jim Henson’s Storyteller, and Peanuts. When I later moved to DC Comics, I joined the movement there of wonderful editors and staffers passionately pushing for more middle grade and YA content, editing books like Batgirl, Gotham Academy and We Are Robin. I was lucky enough to come into comics at a time when this new era of young readers comics was being born–it allowed me to see the brilliant successes and the fitful starts, but more importantly, it allowed me to get to know the incredibly dedicated community of hearts and minds who refused to give up until more stories in the medium we all love made it into the hands of kids.
Destito: What about Vault’s line was appealing to you and made you decide to join in?
Taylor: If we’re talking about incredibly dedicated hearts and minds who refuse to give up until they connect directly to people through comics, that’s pretty much Vault in a nutshell. From my first phone call with them, I was so impressed with their thoughtfulness and work ethic. It was tangible how much they cared, not just about the quality of their books, but about the people they considered part of the Vault family–creators, staff, retailers, and fans. It’s a deeply personal mission for them. When they believe in something, they’re all in. There’s also a selflessness to their approach–it’s about connecting with people, creating community, giving a mouthpiece to new voices, and keeping the flame of comics burning bright for new people to discover. They put into action the concept that to tell the best stories, you first have to be a great listener. That combination of joy and service is vital to making great kids content. I knew from those first conversations with them that when faced with a decision between making the safer choice or potentially reaching even one more kid, they’d 100% of the time, no hesitation, pick the latter.
Destito: How is Wonderbound different (or the same) as other MG lines?
Taylor: Wonderbound will be a new force in what’s so far been an underrepresented area in young readers graphic novels: genre. If Wonderbound is the younger sibling of Vault Comics, then genre is the DNA the two share. Telling the very best fantasy, sci-fi, and horror stories comics has to offer has been the north star for the company from day one and that won’t change with Wonderbound. It’s a wilderness in which we have adventured time and time again, always returning with new treasures. We’re excited to show kids, parents, librarians, and educators just how vast genre can be–what a platform it can be to engage with young people about their dreams and fears.
That said, there is also an element of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” to our approach. Incredible innovators and advocates have spent years building up the current landscape of booming young readers comics in the book market, and that’s something to be honored and celebrated by anyone bringing new offerings to the space. There will be books in Wonderbound that are a simple garden bridge to genre from the kinds of stories that have already been embraced by young graphic novel readers, and there will be others that are more of a rickety rope bridge away–for those adventurous kids who are ready to strap a sword on their back, rev up their rocket boots, and follow us to faraway lands.
Destito: What prompted the name change from Myriad to Wonderbound?
Taylor: To be perfectly transparent, the primary reason was a legal one. We found ourselves in conflict with a foreign publisher and decided to use it as an opportunity to take a step back and look at the branding with fresh eyes. It ended up being a blessing in disguise because we’re so excited with where we ended up. The line had evolved so much over the course of our first year of acquisitions that getting the chance to evolve the branding in tandem was a cosmic stroke of luck. Wonderbound is where we were always meant to be!
Destito: Why are genre books important for young readers?
Taylor: I think Neil Gaiman said it best, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” I know that when I was young, genre books were what I latched onto when forming a sense of self-identity. I think stories of magic and wonder, of distant stars and monsters, can help contextualize the emotional undercurrents young people feel so deeply but don’t yet have the language to articulate. It gives them a space to explore big, messy ideas without a one-to-one metaphor, allowing them the agency to find their own meaning. Fears and dreams are larger than life at that age, and genre stories give voice to both at a scale that is worthy of their unwieldy magnificence. What’s best, though, is that not only do genre books help kids find identity, they help show them all that is possible once they do. They teach them to be brave, curious, compassionate, and that they can slay dragons. Most importantly–and I know this was true for me–they teach kids that no matter the monster they face, they are not alone.
Destito: Looking at the first two books launching, what about these titles will appeal to a broad range of readers with different tastes?
Taylor: Where. To. START?! I love both these books so much! Kicking off our line with the team behind Wrassle Castle feels a bit like having the first pick for your kickball team at recess be David Beckham. It’s kiiiinda cheating, but I DON’T CARE. Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin are such a legendary and dynamic storytelling duo when it comes to young readers comics–watching them step into the ring with Galaad, the rare jewel of an artist who can meet them pound for pound when it comes to heart, humor, and all-out FUN and still ask, “What else ya’ got?” has been a true honor. Fans from all corners are going to find each other in the stands for this book: fans of webcomics, video games, fight manga, swords & sorcery fantasy, locked room mysteries, and stories of best friendship forever.
Then The Unfinished Corner. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…” This book. THIS BOOK! People have found different ways of coping in these uncertain times–mine has been waiting for pages to come in for this book and feeling my heart grow three sizes. Dani [Colman] and [Rachel] “Tuna” [Petrovicz] have created a crew of kiddos so endearing we should put a warning label on the cover. In some ways, this is a classic portal story of a group of kids finding themselves in a new and fantastic world, but it also digs into some tougher themes, too–wrestling with cultural identity, oppression, and faith–in ways that are accessible to kids of all backgrounds. Fans of mythology are also going to have a lot to explore in this world inspired by Jewish mysticism and folklore. And wait…did I mention there’s a FLYING LION? Because there is.
Destito: What are you looking forward to in the next set of titles?
Taylor: We’d need an entire other interview for me to gush about all the different books and creative teams we have on deck, so I’ll just keep it to a brief snapshot of why I get so excited to come to work every day. Just in the last week, I have figured out how to get an ogre unstuck from a closet, discussed the migratory patterns of space-fish, orchestrated a supernatural food-fight, cried at a long-awaited reunion hug, tried to put a hat on a ghost, and worked out the engineering behind a farting skateboard. If any of that sounds up your alley, then stay tuned!
Look out for Wrassle Castle and The Unfinished Cornernext summer.