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DC Comics is making graphic novels for kids, including a book about Superman vs. the Klan

DC superheroes in the hands of some of the biggest talent in the book world

Promo art for DC Zoom, featuring Shazam, the Green Lantern Simon Baz, Hawkgirl and Supergirl.
Promo art for DC Zoom, featuring Shazam, the Green Lantern Simon Baz, Hawkgirl and Supergirl.
Mayo “Sen” Naito/DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Not to be outdone by its big screen counterparts, DC Comics also had a mid-Super Bowl announcement to make this weekend: The company is launching not one but two new graphic novel imprints, aimed squarely at young readers.

DC Ink and DC Zoom will publish graphic novels based on DC Comics characters, from some big names in the young adult publishing world, all aimed squarely at young readers. DC Zoom (promo art above) will take on the “middle grade” market of 8-12 year olds, while DC Ink will publish books for the teenage, “young adult” reader. What are some examples of upcoming titles, you say?

Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries, will pen Black Canary: Ignite for DC Zoom, while Melissa de la Cruz, author of The Witches of East End, is writing Batman: Gotham High for DC Ink. But, according to the New York Times, DC Ink will kick off with writer Mariko Tamaki (Supergirl: Being Super) and artist Steve Pugh’s (Animal Man, Preacher: Saint of Killers) Harley Quinn graphic novel, as well as a graphic novel about Mera, Aquaman’s long-time love interest and future queen of Atlantis, written by bestselling author Danielle Page.

That’ll put the imprint in a strong place to catch readers coming off of Suicide Squad and this year’s Aquaman movie. The first few books from the imprints are female-focused, reflecting overall trends in the world of YA books — but Michele Wells, VP of content strategy at DC, stressed to the New York Times that the lines would have plenty for every kind of reader.

The most arresting of the currently announced titles comes from award-winning YA cartoonist Gene Yang, creator of the award-winning graphic novels American Born Chinese and Boxers and Saints. Yang, currently writing New Super-Man at DC Comics, is working with DC Zoom on Superman Smashes the Klan, which will be released in a serial format before being collected into a single edition.

At the moment, all we have to go on is that title, but given Yang’s penchant for weaving history into even very modern stories, it’s easy to speculate that Superman Smashes the Klan will at the very least reference “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” a 1946 arc of the radio serial The Adventures of Superman. Written with consultation from a human rights activist who had infiltrated the post-war Ku Klux Klan, the arc earned sky-high ratings, while it trivialized the rituals of the white supremacist group and of course featured its defeat at the hands of Superman. Historians consider the show to have had a demonstrable negative impact on the Klan’s recruiting efforts at the time.

Diane Nelson, president of DC Entertainment and president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products, also called back to that earliest era of comic book superheroes in a press release.

“The first comic books created decades ago were for kids,” she said, “and as the business evolved and matured, it became more focused on adult readers. DC Ink and DC Zoom present an exciting new opportunity to grow our publishing business and ensure beloved stories built around iconic characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are endeared as part of the fabric of childhood for years to come.”

Promo art for a new Teen Titans series from DC Ink.
Promo art for a new Teen Titans series from DC Ink.
Gabriel Picolo/DC Comics

Growing DC’s publishing business isn’t just a platitude here. The company has repeatedly acknowledged the reach it has found in the young adult book market for several years now. The DC Super Hero Girls line of toys and merchandise rests on the strength of its associated middle-grade reader line of graphic novels, which have sold as well as classic DC Comics fare since their inception, and will now fall under the DC Zoom imprint.

DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis was our No. 2 book on units [in 2016],” DC’s vice president of sales told the Hollywood Reporter in August. “Our No. 1 book was The Killing Joke. So our list goes, Batman: The Killing Joke, DC Super Hero Girls: Finals Crisis, Suicide Squad Vol. 1, Watchmen, Preacher. And what that number [for DCSHG] doesn’t include is our Scholastic Book Club sale.” Sales from Scholastic’s Book Club exceeded those shipped to book stores, he added.

There are an awful lot of parents out there who love DC Comics characters and have been buying DC Super Hero Girls books to share them with their kids — and they’re about to get a lot more options. The first titles from DC Ink and DC Zoom will be released in fall 2018, according to a press release.

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