ICv2 caught up with Dark Horse Comics founder and CEO Mike Richardson to get his views on the recent growth in the kids market and which Dark Horse kids titles are doing best, and where.

It seems to us like there’s been a lot of change in the kids graphic novel business in the last 12 months.  What are you seeing?
People have been talking about it for years and we’d try them every once in a while, but then it seemed like no one would order them.  There’ve been several calls from publishers to create comics for kids, and we’ve listened to that call in the past, and we’ve been very modestly received, to put it kindly.

But in recent years there has been a movement in that direction.  I think publishers have had success.  Some of our competitors have put out some very good books that have found an audience, and while we’ve always had them, we’ve noticed the success of some of the books, so we’ve started making plans to build up that part of our line.

Over the last 12 months, what are some of the bestselling Dark Horse books directed at younger readers?
We had a nice little surprise with Zodiac Starforce; that exceeded our expectations.  Plants vs. Zombies has been a huge success, not only in the direct sales market, but we’ve had great response outside of that market.  Obviously some of the books that we’ve had for several years like [The Legend of] Korra and [Avatar: The]Last Airbender have both done well.

We’ve also launched some one-shot graphic novels like Poppy! and the Lost Lagoon and Tree Mail that we plan to do more of.  We’ve started a line of books called Itty Bitty.  We’ll take any character and do a sort of Little Archie version of them.  We’ve most recently done Itty Bitty Hellboy and those books have done pretty well for us, too.

We have new licenses like How to Train Your Dragon, aimed toward that audience.

Dark Horse’s kids titles are perhaps a little less book store-skewed than some publishers’ kids releases are.  What is the mix of your kids’ sales between the direct market and the book or mass channels?
I think it depends on the title.  It’s really interesting because I think we experience different levels of success for different titles in different markets.  Probably the one that’s been the best crossing across all markets has been Plants vs. Zombies.  It’s done extremely well in a variety of formats and markets, but we’ve had cross-market success with Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra, books like that.  I don’t think that with our books you can say there’s just one market that defines all of the particular books that we do.

They’re very different.  Poppy! And the Lost Lagoon, for instance, is very different than Zodiac Starforce.

So with those two books, is there a difference in where the audiences are responding—what kind of stores?
We hope that book stores will respond more to a book like that, in the kids market.

Anything you think retailers should be paying attention to in your kids line?
I think retailers should pay attention to the fact that we’re expanding our line, if they’re looking for kids’ books.  We’ve got some very exciting projects.