Zondervan will launch a new line of graphic novels under its Zonderkidz children's imprint in August of 2007.  Twelve books will be released that month -- both the first and second volumes of six different series.  Zonderkidz will release the books in manga format, with from 160 to over 200 pages for $9.99 MSRP. 


Five of the initial six series will be created for Zonderkidz in English.  The sixth is a manhwa Bible series by Young Shin Lee and Jung Sun Hwang. All six series will be in eight volume arcs.


The series will be sold in Christian bookstores, the general book trade, and comic stores. 


According to Bruce Nuffer, Associate Publisher of Zonderkidz, the publishing program was designed after years of study of the graphic novel and Christian bookstore markets.  'We've been looking at it for a long time,' Nuffer said.  The goal was to determine what obstacles existed to making Christian graphic novels successful, and to overcome them. 


Zondervan has decided to make a substantial commitment to the graphic novel format.  'We're not just going to dip our toe in the water,' Nuffer said.  'We're going into it in a very significant way.' 


The research included interviewing Christian booksellers to understand their merchandising issues, which are different from secular bookstores; studying manga and American graphic novels; and looking at previous efforts to publish graphic novels for the Christian market. 


The format, the types of content, and the unconventional release scheduled were among the results of the research.  The simultaneous release of two volumes in the series, for example, is to work around the unfamiliarity of Christian booksellers with series books. 


Three different age groups are being targeted:  8-12, 10+, and 13+ (teen).  'One of our goals is to create material that's appropriate for younger age kids,' Nuffer said, citing Tokyopop's Cinemanga as successful titles for kids in the secular market.  Like Tokyopop's Cinemanga, Zonderkidz will be calling its titles manga, although Nuffer acknowledged that the reference was to the format rather than to the content, which will be more American in style. 


Two of the six series will target each demographic segment; one will be Biblically based, one in a more traditional comic genre.


The Biblically based series range from a straight retelling of the Bible, like the manhwa, to stories in which a fictional character (e.g., the son of Samson) 'is reflecting on Biblical stories and what that means.' 


The series in traditional comic genres include Time Flies, a story about time traveling cyborg flies; and Tomo, the story of a 13-year-old Japanese girl who comes to San Francisco pursued by creatures from a parallel dimension.  Nuffer emphasized that although these titles are not in a Biblical setting, they still have Christian messages.  'Readers will come away with the Christian world view,' he said.    


Zondervan is working with Community Comics as managing editor for its graphic novel line, with Zondervan contracting with the creators directly for their work. 


Mike Miller of Alias is involved with several of the titles, according to Nuffer. 


Previous efforts at graphic novels for the Christian market include two series published by Tyndale House based on the hugely successful Left Behind novels.  Those $5.95 48-page color books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but have been discontinued by the publisher. 


The Serenity manga from Realbuzz and Barbour has been selling well (see 'Serenity Sales Soar').  The Eye Witness books are also picking up a little steam behind press and a signing tour (see 'Eye Witness Sees Media Attention').