To kick off our Kids Week, we talked to Richard Rivera, EVP of Scout Comics and Publisher of Scout’s young-readers imprint, Scoot! (see "Scout Comics & Entertainment Will Launch Scoot!"). Scoot! publishes comics for a wide array of age groups, from their Launch titles for early readers to a YA line that’s still in development. Their original graphic novel Unikorn, by Don Handfield and Joshua Malkin, is being developed as a feature film by Armory Productions.

Which age groups are you targeting with Scoot!?
For the youngest readers, even pre-readers, we have the Launch books, which are meant to bridge the gap between comics and picture books. They are eight by eight, about 24 to 32 pages, and we have three stages. The first stage centers on fun sounds and letter sounds that a parent could enjoy with a child. Everything is a single page [i.e., each page is a single panel]. Then in stage two, we still keep single-page illustrations, but we add a little bit of vocabulary and repetition, and the illustrations go along with that. In stage three, it gets a little more complex. Reading a comic book isn't necessarily easy if you don't know where to start, so we've got very easy-to-follow comic books, and the vocabulary is increased. It is definitely more of a read-along book.

So basically, we have books that start with children who can't read at all and go up to children who are fairly comfortable with a number of different words, although there’s still fairly simple vocabulary on all of those. And we're going to have Launch Interactive, which is going to be a book where you make choices.

Like a choose-your-own-path book?
Yes. The last Launch category is J, which is Journeys. These are meant for a person who already has a better grip of reading, to read with a younger reader—to take them along the journey.

What about your magazine?
That’s Scoot Frontiers. [Holds one up.] I believe there are 10 different stories in here.

Comics stories?
Comic stories that end with activities that either go along with the story or refer back to things that happened in the story, such as a word find.

Your Launch and middle-grade books are not sequential. You don’t move them out at the end of the month. What about the magazine?
You've hit on a point that is one of the core concepts within Scoot!: everything is evergreen.

We do have issue #1s, but they are basically an introduction to a trade. So, here’s Action Tank #1, a comic book. It's the first 22 pages of the story, and then you graduate to the trade.

Then we have standalone one-shots, like Space Cadet, where a child dreams of going to the moon, literally, and in that dream is greeted by a friendly astronaut. The astronaut shows them some of the features of the moon and explains how you make your dreams come true, and it ends with their footprints on the moon. So maybe it was a dream, or maybe it wasn't.

What I loved about comics books, when I was a child and when they were everywhere, was that you could just pick up a comic and enjoy it. Now the industry has changed so much, where there’s eight different Spider-Men.

So these are one-shot comics that any kid can enjoy?
Right. What we wanted to do is if, say, a mom, or a grandma, or an uncle goes to a comic book store and says "I'd love to get my kid something, but I don't know if they're familiar with Supercats," the store owner can say "It doesn't matter if they're familiar with Supercats or not, because every issue stands alone."

We want to make that very retailer friendly, because unlike with our Scout line, where an issue comes out, it is featured that month, and it's done, but it will appear in trade paperback later, we will support all of our [Scoot!] titles and print them forever. So if you want more, we are going to reprint that title and treat everything like it's a book.

How are they distributed?
We're [distributed] through Diamond and Lunar, and we're in Universal for Canadian distribution. We have our own direct retailer program where retailers can order directly from us at 50% off, and if their orders $150 or more, there's no shipping [cost].

And Simon & Schuster is your distributor to the book channel?
Yes. In January, we will be putting [the Launch titles] through Simon & Schuster. They're exactly the same size, page count, format, as a Curious George book, so we're going to lean into that and get those distributed through the book market as well.

But they're available right now in comic shops.
Yes. When we released them through Diamond and Lunar, we released all four of them at the same time. For stores that are thinking about having a children's section but don't want to branch out to other distributors, we wanted to offer them enough content that they can order Scoot! books and have a little children's section. That's going to be growing. We're working with some of the creators of our older books to do simpler stories and do a Launch 1, 2 and 3. They will start with a book that just has sounds in it, go through learn how to read comic books, and then actually read the comic book with the same character and follow it all the way through.

Scout Comics does a lot of variant covers. What about Scoot!?
On our issue ones, and sometimes too for our one-shots, we do the standard cover and then through our webstore and our select retailers, we do a white version of matte paper with just the outlines, so it’s a coloring cover. And then we also do a VHS cover [that resembles] the old Disney clamshell. I think there's 18 or 19 of them right now. We've got some parents that have collected all of them.

Are Scoot! comics creator-owned?
We are creator owned. Scout proper is starting to get a few of few properties where we are developing them as well, but as far as Scoot! goes, everything's creator-owned. We approach people at comic book conventions and on Kickstarter, but we’re always open to submissions. I’d say between 30 and 40% of our titles are by first-time creators.

Are you focusing on particular genres?
We really let quality and submissions drive that. We don't shop specifically for cartoony zaniness; we don't shop specifically for science fiction. We have a pretty wide range. We have everything from space adventure to grounded contemporary [stories].

I would say that a common thread that runs through our [Launch and middle-grade titles] would be that it's very much a safe haven for people knowing that it's completely family-friendly, that certain approaches to topics would never happen, that certain language and content and positivity are inherent. In YA we tackle some other issues—the single mother trying to get by, a government that has conscripted superheroes—but even that is going to be handled tastefully.

Where are most of your sales taking place right now?
Right now, I would say the majority of our initial sales come through the direct market, and we want to keep those relationships strong. We do have retailers that have dedicated children's books areas, so long term we're always going to have that market. But I think the best way to reach more children will be with the focus of our book line through Simon & Schuster. The majority of the things we put through Simon & Schuster will be our Scoot! line.

What are you doing to make it easier for retailers to sell Scoot! comics?
Our retailer relationships are very important to us, and each one is different. One of the things that made sense to me was to get enough product out there so if they want to start a children's book section and they don't have one now, they really could start one with just us. For any retailer that wants to reach out to us, we’re very happy to supply them with some shelf toppers or things that can draw attention to their children’s area.

We do have retailer programs, where if a retailer wants to establish an account with us it’s very, very easy to do. We give them updates and also let them purchase some materials that aren't available through Diamond, and Lunar.

With all the books out there, retailers can't always read all of them and then you have some nasty surprises, where there'll be a scene or something controversial that will pop up in a book expectedly. So for our Launch and our Scoot! books, there's absolutely never going to be a reason to be concerned or be hesitant to add that to your shop’s inventory.

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