Scholastic’s Graphix imprint is finding success with collections of a pair of Tapas webtoons featuring LGBT storylines for younger readers, a growing segment of the increasing flow of webtoon content to print. The audiences for webtoons generally skew young, according to Tapas Vice President of Content Michael Son, who told us a majority of their readers are between 18-24, with content that appeals to younger readers as well.

One reason for the webtoon appeal to younger readers is the direct connection to the artist, Graphix Editorial Director Cassandra Pelham Fulton told ICv2. "I think it’s appealing to read comics that are directly posted by the artist, and to be able to participate in that immediacy of content," she said. "If we consider a fan who has read the story from the very beginning, reading it in real time as the artist posts each page, the reader is right there with the creator in that story’s journey, and that can make for the gradual building of a special and strong bond between reader and story, and perhaps between reader and creator, too."

The typical webtoon format of chapters connecting into a longer story also appeals to young readers, Graphix Media Executive Editor Michael Petranek suggested. "The binge able format of webtoons is so attractive to readers – when you discover a new series on a web platform, you can immediately dive into hours and hours of story that’s comparable to multiple print graphic novels," he noted. "The chapter format then helps to break down these massive stories into manageable pieces, too."

And perhaps most importantly, younger readers can find stories by and about people like themselves. "I believe that one of the most beautiful aspects of Tapas is that we’re an open publishing platform where anyone can publish and we’ve empowered our creator community to be bold and adventurous in the types of stories we tell," Tapas VP Son explained. "We take a lot of pride in telling stories that you can’t find anywhere else and I feel like that really resonates with a younger readership. I believe that they see themselves being represented a lot more and that’s something really worth celebrating."

Creators also skew young on the Tapas platform. "We’ve got a lot of creators who skew younger and are first time storytellers which has also contributed positively to some of the bolder stories on the platform," Son said.

Two series for younger readers collected by Graphix fit that profile and are resonating with readers.

Heartstopper is a four-volume series by young British writer Alice Oseman about two high school boys who meet and fall in love. Scholastic acquired the U.S. rights after a pitch at Frankfurt Book Fair. "Graphix publisher David Saylor and I were introduced to Heartstopper via Scholastic Trade publisher Lori Benton, who had met with Susannah Palfrey—the Hachette UK rights director selling rights to Heartstopper at the time—at Frankfurt Book Fair," Fulton told us. "We quickly fell in love with the story and devoured all the pages that were available online as we prepared our offer."

The online audience has followed Oseman to the print collections, Fulton said. "Alice Oseman had an incredible following on Tumblr and Tapas before launching Volume 1 on Kickstarter. Alice has an extraordinarily devoted and loyal fanbase, and her audience has only continued to grow." Oseman was 23 when the first Heartstopper collection was released.

The series was picked up by Netflix for a live action adaption written by Oseman, which dropped in April (see "Netflix Drops Comic-Based Series"), and has now been renewed for second and third seasons.

Magical Boy, the story of a young trans man in high school who’s next in line to be a magical girl, is a newer series that launched earlier this year. The series has 140,000 subscribers and 5 million views on Tapas. The creator is Taiwanese American artist The Kao.  The second volume is due out in September, and response has been good. "Magical Boy Volume 1 is off to a great start for us," Petranek said. "And sell-in on volume 2 for fall 2022 is going really well."

Because of the way the original story was formatted, this title represented some special challenges in the conversion to print, Petranek told us. "Putting together a print graphic novel from a webcomic can feel like assembling Frankenstein’s monster – we’re taking hundreds of single pieces of artwork, laying them out page by page, and then re-lettering them," he said. "We sort of re-build the story piece by piece. We lose a lot of balloon space going from webcomic to print, and we have to be mindful of the page turns and making sure the new flow that comes out of these new page layouts we are creating feels good."

Both series are rated for grades seven and up by Scholastic. Tapas content accessible to younger readers (there is also a gated area of the app) has a fairly complete list of content guidelines, including a creator code of content, to make sure it’s appropriate for younger readers.

Other Tapas series popular with younger readers include Unfamiliar by Haley Newsome, launching in print in October from Andrews McMeel (see "Tapas Teams up with Andrews McMeel"), Rock and Riot by Chelsey Furedi, and Ultramarine Weather by Kan.

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