New York Comic Con certainly proved over the course of the weekend that comics are expanding their horizons from comic shops and to libraries by — appropriately — holding a Random House Graphic panel in the New York Public Library’s Trustees Room.
Before introducing the panelists, The Beat’s own New Media Editor Alex Lu talked a little about his experience finding graphic novels and comic books. He spoke first about how libraries were such a big part of his childhood, but that he wasn’t exposed to American comics until much later, and how grateful he is that children of this new generation are growing up exposed to cartoonists and comics.
“The fact that New York Comic Con has grown and grown is incredible. So first and foremost, thank you for being here as we talk about the future of graphic novels. What we’re here to talk about is a small publisher called Penguin Random House,” Lu joked before introducing everyone. The panel was comprised of Publishing Director of Random House Graphic Gina Gagliano, senior editor Whitney Leopard, designer Patrick Crotty, and marketing and publicity coordinator Nicole Valdez.
Lu began by asking how each panelist got their start in Random House Graphic, and was met with a variety of answers. First to speak was Gagliano, who spoke of her time working with First Second where she helped launch the dedicated comics imprint back in 2006.
“I got to see the potential of graphic novels. After working there for over a decade, the deputy publishers at Random House came to me and asked about how graphic novels work. Now here I am!”
Leopard said that she had always wanted to work in comics and came to Random House Graphic from BOOM! Studios, while Crotty remarked that he was excited to help be a part of building a comics community outside of his home country of Sweden. Valdez chimed in to tell the audience that, despite her climbing the ranks and genres of publicity for DC Comics, when the opportunity came to work for Random House, she didn’t hesitate to pack up and move across the country.
With such an excited and obviously dedicated team behind the helm, it’s no wonder Random House Graphic had chosen “A graphic novel for every bookshelf” as their motto.
“This came about because this is the reality of reading that we want to see today. We want everyone who has Harry Potter and the Little Prince and everything else to have a graphic novel that fits for them,” stated Gagliano. “It’s about the awareness and acceptance of graphic novels and comics. And libraries are such a big part of letting that grow and be accepted. Schools and libraries really getting behind the books and supporting them is so important.”
The panelists then had the chance to each talk about one of the four starting books to be launched in 2020 with titles that include Bug Boys by Laura Knetzger (Feb. 11), Aster and the Accidental Magic by Thom Pico and Karensac (Mar. 3), Runaway Princess by Johan Trojanowski (Jan 21), and Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky (Apr 14th).
“We have a range of styles that speak to all of the different artists and storytellers and just more ways we can put a graphic novel on every bookshelf,” said Leopard. “Our goal is to have graphic novels for readers between 5 years old and late teens. That’s our target. We want to hit every category and have something for everyone.”
When asked what, specifically, separates Random House Graphic from the many other comics imprints that have come up in the space of the comics community, Gagliano was proud to talk about the broadness of their message once again.
“The breadth of what we’re doing separates us,” stated Gagliano. “Anything that you come to us with will be in that space. It’s great to see so many other publishers following us into that space as well and branching out. It means we have more robust selections to work within for our readers.”
To round out the panel, there were mentions of some of the other graphic novels that young readers can look forward to with Random House Graphic, including Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley about a young girl dealing with her parents separating, Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse which tackles the idea of a young girl becoming an orphan and being raised in Brooklyn by her eccentric. foster family; Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song about two squirrels who have to figure out what a donut is, and The Magic Fish by Trung le Nguyen about a child who moves to the U.S. from Vietnam.
“We’re a kids-only imprint, but we’re excited to be addressing genres for everyone,” beamed Leopard.
Random House Graphic is slated to publish 12 books in their first year and plans to go up to 18 the following year. With such a lofty goal and such a wide birth of amazing titles, Random House Graphic is definitely the publisher to look out for.