We recently spoke with IDW Publishing Editors Sarah Gaydos and Bobby Curnow to talk about the publisher’s children’s comics and graphic novel offerings, what titles/properties sell best, upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and Disney comics offerings, and their advice on how retailers can improve merchandising of children’s titles.
What are IDW’s bestselling kids lines?
Bobby Curnow: I would say My Little Pony is our top seller month-to-month over the past couple of years. We’ve had a lot of success with Disney titles recently and also Jem and the Holograms.
Do you have titles that skew one way or the other in terms of gender?
Sarah Gaydos: Some of them, like My Little Pony, have more of 60/40 female split, and Skylanders skews more male, but I think a lot of the other books are much more evenly split. Even with The Powerpuff Girls we saw a lot of fans of the show of both genders, same for Dexter’s Laboratory and Disney titles as well.
What about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?
Curnow: Turtles are predominantly boys. There’s definitely a fair amount of girls who are enjoying it too, but it I’d say it skews toward boys.
In terms of channel, are there titles that are more heavily mass or specialty retail, or are there titles that do better in comics stores?
Gaydos: The nice thing about our Micro Comic Fun Packs is that we’re able to get kids content into stores like Target or Walmart, especially our Skylanders which was bundled with a Skylanders toy (see “'Skylanders' Comic Gets 'High Six Figures' Launch”). Bobby can speak to Pony’s popularity outside of the direct market. We’re also looking to target not traditional comic book fans with our Disney line but perhaps fans of Disney in general as well as kids.
Curnow: We had good success with Littlest Pet Shop trade paperbacks and in libraries.
Sarah, you’re editing the Disney line. Disney slices and dices their licenses with Princess, Classics, etc.; what kind of Disney licenses do you have (see “IDW To Publish Disney Comics”)?
Gaydos: The quick and easy way to talk about it is that we have access to the classic characters. We’re focusing mostly on European material though there will be some domestic material as well. Most, if not all, of the material has never been seen in America before. We’re very excited to bring it here for the first time.
Gaydos: In April we saw the release of our first series, which is Uncle Scrooge. It’s a monthly book. May sees Donald Duck added; June sees Mickey Mouse, and then July is Walt Disney Comics and Stories. Each one of first issues is 48 pages for a regular price, which is another really exciting thing that we’re able to do. After the first issue, it drops down to 40 pages, which is still a great value.
Is that Italian material, or where does it come from?
Gaydos: It’s a mixture, some Italian, some American. I believe there’s some Dutch stuff coming out. We’re working with our archival editor David Gerstein who has a long history of working with Disney comics. He’s helping us bring the best material here to America.
What era is the American material from?
Gaydos: It really varies. Some of it looks to be from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Will it include Carl Barks material?
Gaydos: I think we’re looking to differentiate ourselves from the wonderful books that Fantagraphics does, so we’re not looking to reinvent that wheel. We may visit that somewhere down the line, but we’re really looking to push into the European stuff because it’s so great and it hasn’t really been distributed here properly in America.
Gaydos: Those will start in August. We’ll be doing trade paperbacks and then down the line we’ll be collecting those as hardcovers.
With multiple paperback editions or just library editions of the same volumes?
Gaydos: Basically the way it stands now is three issues for a softcover and then two softcover trades collected into one hardcover.
Bobby, can you tell us about what you’ve got coming up that is of interest to our readers?
Curnow: We’ve got our Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures which is sort of a spin-off from the current cartoon. That’s going to wrap up in June. We’re going to take a little hiatus and then it re-launches as Ninja Turtles Amazing Adventures. What’s cool about that is we have a free leash now in terms of continuity. We can start developing our own characters and our own storylines. We’re also going to see back-up stories by noted cartoonists like James Kochalka (American Elf, Dragonpucher) and Andy Runton (Owly).
It’s going to be a nice mix. We’re going to get a nice ongoing, developing continuity that’s set in the animated world, but not confined to it 100%, and some fun one-off eight-page stories. It should be a little bit of something for everybody.
And who’s doing the series?
Curnow: It’s going to be rotating group of writers: Landry Q Walker, Matthew K. Manning, Caleb Goellner, a variety of people. Chad Thomas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles New Animated Adventures) is going to be the primary artist.
Any suggestions or thoughts you want to tell our audience about improving sales of kids’ graphic novels and comics?
Gaydos: I’m a huge believer in not just kids’ comics but comics for all ages. I think our Little Nemo is a great example of that (see “Comic-Con Round-Up: IDW Publishing”), that literally anyone at any age can enjoy it on their own and maybe enjoy it as a family.
In terms of retailers, I love seeing really awesome, well-stocked kids sections in stores. If I was to offer any advice, maybe it’s pushing past whatever cartoons are currently on the air today and just diving down a little bit more and finding these new stories, or maybe something like Powerpuff Girls that’s not currently on the air but is still a great book. That would be my suggestion.
Curnow: Visibility is extremely important. There are a lot of kids who love Ninja Turtles, per se, and if they see a Ninja Turtles display in your store window then that will get them in the door when maybe they’re not so interested in Green Lantern or another superhero comic that they might be a little bit too young for. Having good displays that kids can see walking outside, because you know they’ll tug on their parent’s sleeve and say “I want to go in there!” Also having a bright, clean kids section that is not hidden in the back but is up front and easy to get to and is easily identifiable. I think making it as fun and friendly for kids as possible is a big boon for any business.