Graphic Novels: Inclusivity Fuels the Continued Boom!

In 2023, graphic novels are no longer a new category but an established staple on library shelves. All signs point to the continued boom and increasing expansion of the format across all genres.


In 2023, graphic novels are no longer a new category but an established staple on library shelves. All signs point to the continued boom and increasing expansion of the format across all genres. Six of the seven publishers featured below have launched dedicated graphic imprints in the last year, indicating their investment and commitment to the format for years to come.

“When I was young, comics and graphic storytelling really was niche. It had its own very specific community, and sometimes it could feel unwelcoming,” says Victoria Stapleton, executive director of school and library marketing at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Stapleton adds that one of the priorities for Little, Brown’s new graphic imprint, LB Ink, has been to make comics accessible and welcoming to everyone.

Adding to the mix are new sources of content for publishers. Yen Press recently launched Ize Press, an imprint dedicated to Korean content, much of which originates as vertical-scroll webcomics. “The potential success of Korean vertical-scroll comics as printed books was realized when we published Solo Leveling, which became one of today’s best-selling graphic novels series,” says Mark de Vera, sales and marketing director of Yen Press.

Alexander Antone, Skybound editorial director, concurs and points out that webcomics are “appealingly accessible to readers and there’s no downside to acquiring them for print. “If you’re publishing on the web, a greater connection between reader and author develops,” he says. “They’re your core audience.”

The titles featured below illustrate that publishers are committed to creating visually rich stories that span genres—from humor to horror to sci-fi/fantasy to teen romance and drama—for all ages, identities, and reading levels.

Yen Press

Founded in 2006, Yen Press has become one of the leading publishers of Japanese manga in the United States. And with the launch of new imprint Ize Press in April 2022, Yen now leads in the U.S. publication of Korean comics as well. Releasing its first six titles in November and December 2022, Ize is a collaboration between Yen Press and Korea-based REDICE Studio and RIVERSE. Ize will bring many stories from several Korean publishers—most originating as vertical-scroll web comics—to print for the first time.


The World After the Fall, Vol. 1 by singNsong and Undead Gamja, November 2022, ISBN 9798400900044, is a series inspired by RPG video games. In this world, a tower appears in the sky one day as a beacon of doom. The heroic Walkers scale the tower to save humanity, but only one makes it to the top and discovers an even greater conspiracy than anyone had imagined. “It’s filled with great action and adventure,” says Mark de Vera. “It’s got a lot of fun, addicting video game references, like getting special weapons, leveling up, and developing new abilities that young audiences really enjoy.” Volume 2 is slated for April 2023.

Also inspired by video games, Villains Are Destined to Die, Vol. 1 by SUOL and Gwon Gyeoeul, ISBN 9798400900006, November 2022, takes the reader on a journey through an otome, or dating simulation game. Our protagonist finds Easy Mode too easy, playing the game as the attractive daughter of the duke. But in Hard Mode, she plays as the misunderstood villain Penelope and finds the character much more relatable. She wants to get Penelope a happy ending, but she falls asleep and wakes up inside the world of the video game as Penelope. “From there, it’s a really intriguing love story with some of the prettiest art that we’ve seen in Korean comics published in English so far,” de Vera says. Ize will release Volume 2 in February 2023.

In another romance series, The Remarried Empress, Vol. 1 by Alphatart and SUMPUL, November 2022, ISBN 9798400900051—which started as a web novel—Empress Navier had a fairy-tale life with the Emperor of the Eastern Empire until he falls for another woman. But it’s Navier who shocks everyone when she asks for a divorce and approval for her remarriage—to another emperor. “If you love telenovellas, you're going to love The Remarried Empress,” says Marketing Assistant Rachael Scarlett. “There is drama on each page.” Volume 2 publishes March 2023.

Sports drama graphic novels haven’t done well historically, but de Vera says The Boxer, Vol. 1 by JH, December 2022, ISBN 9798400900082, is off to a great start. It’s the story of an unlikely boxer, Yu, and world-class Coach K, who has a gut instinct about the enigmatic prospect. “The Boxer actually is natively a book as opposed to a vertical-scroll webcomic,” de Vera says. “It’s brilliant in the way it lays out the art, the way it pages the story, the way it showcases action, and the way JH chooses which moments are depicted in smaller images and which in larger ones.” Volume 2 comes out in April 2023.

Mad Cave Studios

Miami-based Mad Cave Studios is an independent publisher of horror, sci-fi, action-adventure, crime, noir, and fantasy stories, founded in 2014 by CEO Mark London. The company publishes 40 to 50 titles per year across three imprints.

The Mad Cave imprint focuses on teen+ (more mature content than YA) and adult horror, sci-fi and fantasy comics, and graphic novels. Maverick is a YA imprint, launched in fall 2021 to publish coming-of-age stories, from slice-of-life to urban fantasy/horror. And Papercutz, acquired in spring 2022, is a graphic novel imprint for kids and middle grade readers that aims to help kids discover new worlds.


Like the characters in the Maverick YA title Paper Planes, by Jennie Wood, art by Dozerdraws, ISBN 9781952303548, May 2023, both Wood and Dozerdraws identify as nonbinary. “Maverick has been a place for us to create content for young readers who need stories that mirror their personal struggles,” Marketing Director Allison Marie Pond says. This story not only touches on being nonbinary but also how to move past letting differences in class, race, and income level affect friendships.

“Kill Bill” meets “Clash of the Titans” is how Pond describes the new mature, action-packed Mad Cave series “Hunt. Kill. Mark London, art by Francesco Archidiacono and Marc Deering, November 2023, ISBN 9781952303517 (Volume 1). Greek gods invade earth and society has to comply with their new rulers. “Anyone can pick this up,” Pond says. “It is inspired by Greek mythology, but I think that the story on its own is really impactful, regardless of whether you are familiar with Greek mythology.”

Another teen+ title, Don’t Spit in the Wind by Stefano Cardoselli, coloring and lettering by Dan Lee, September 2023, ISBN 9781952303708, is set in the near future when humanity has exhausted all of Earth’s resources. With the planet a toxic waste pit, everyone moves to space except a few people tasked with cleaning up Earth—our main characters. “When they go down to Earth in these big cyberpunk sci-fi suits, they find radioactive animals and have to deal with all these mutations from the waste,” Pond says. “It’s a dystopian sci‑fi series.”

In the Papercutz title Yahgz by Art Baltazar, August 2023, ISBN 9781545810590, a father and son venture through a mythical world to save the city of Yahgz from giant green gorillas. They get help from their friends and allies, including a wise wizard, and encounter all manner of foes. For ages seven to 12, Pond says, “We really want kids to discover these worlds and spark their imaginations.”

Geronimo Stilton: 4 in 1 by Elisabetta Dami, August 2023, ISBN 9781545810644, features four stories about the green tuxedo-wearing mouse reporter Geronimo Stilton in one volume. Geronimo travels through time to report on different historic events, including the Lumière brothers inventing the cinematograph and a 1911 expedition to the South Pole. “Kids don’t even realize they’re learning about history and geography while they’re reading it,” Pond says. “And these books are filled with Dolch words that teachers need to teach.”

Sequoia Kids Media

Chicago-based children’s book publisher Phoenix International Publications launched Sequoia Kids Media, an imprint dedicated to graphic novels for the school and library markets, in 2021. But the company’s first foray into graphic novels was in 2020, with the "It’s Her Story" biography series. Each four-color, 48-page book for ages seven to 10 covers the life of an historic female figure from childhood to death.

“The series is meant to highlight the challenges and successes of these trailblazing women, essential historical figures who are often either unknown or understudied in schools,” says Casey Griffin, senior marketing manager. “It’s definitely hitting that market that’s maybe not quite thrilled to be reading yet, or reading chapter books, but still enjoying the pictures.” Each book includes teachers’ notes and educator guides.

The first two titles in the series covered Rosa Parks and Marie Curie. Sequoia has since released books on Dolly Parton, Ida B. Wells, Shirley Chisholm, and Amelia Earhart. In January 2023, the following two titles joined the series.

It’s Her Story: Rosalind Franklin by Karen de Seve, illustrated by Samantha F. Chow, January 2023, ISBN 9798765400289, features Rosalind Franklin, the female British chemist who worked in the sciences during the 1940s and 1950s. Though her “Photo 51” was central to the discovery and understanding of the double-helix structure of DNA, all of her work was credited to the two male coworkers in her lab. “She’s the one who actually took the photo,” Griffin says. “It totally changed how we think about DNA structure and what we knew. But they [the two men] won the Nobel Prize in medicine, and she was not included.”

It’s Her Story: Josephine Baker by Lauren Gamble, illustrated by Markia Jenai, January 2023, ISBN 9798765400272, tells the fascinating life story of Josephine Baker. Born in St Louis, Baker left the segregated United States in 1925 and became the most famous entertainer in Paris. In addition to her stage work as a dancer and singer, she was the first Black woman to star in a movie. Less well known is that Baker volunteered to spy for the Allies during WWII. “She would write in invisible ink on her sheet music to pass information,” Griffin says, adding that instructions to make invisible ink are included in the book’s back matter.

Two more additions to the series coming in 2024 will feature Irena Sendler and Sacajawea.

LB Ink

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group, introduced its new graphic-novel imprint, LB Ink, last fall. “LBYR has had some experience with graphic-format storytelling, whether that was manga through former imprint Yen Press, or through selected other titles over the years like the “Twilight” graphic novel adaptations,” says Victoria Stapleton, executive director of school and library marketing at LBYR. “The new imprint works within our overall editorial vision of publishing authentic stories that will resonate with young readers.”

LB Ink will publish around 20 books a year—primarily acquisitions for middle-grade readers—but the imprint will also publish books ranging from early-reader to young adult titles.

Upcoming middle grade title Wildfire by Breena Bard, September 2023, ISBN 9780316277655, is the story of a young girl whose family is displaced to Portland when a wildfire destroys their home in rural eastern Oregon. “This sense of displacement is extreme,” Stapleton says. The main character has to contend with adjusting from a small town to a crowded city, all the while dealing with the trauma of losing her home.

In the forthcoming graphic novel Enlighten Me, illustrated by Chan Chau, September 2023, ISBN 9780759555488, author Minh Lê shares a fictionalized account of his childhood experience at a silent Buddhist meditation retreat. The main character has experienced racist bullying at school, and the retreat helps him better connect with his family and community. “It’s a portrayal of the inner life of the mind and dealing with feelings and the ethos of nonviolence,” Stapleton says. “That can be a powerful idea for kids, to be not just reactive but rather to develop inner resilience and identify what’s meaningful to them in their own lives.”

Curlfriends: New in Town by Sharee Miller, Fall 2023, ISBN 9780316591478, is the start of a graphic novel series about four very different Black girls who are fast friends. The first book is “a fish-out-of-water tale,” as the main character’s family moves a lot, and she needs to introduce herself again and again. The book’s focus is on making fresh starts and the anxieties of fitting in, experiences that resonate with all kids. Stapleton also points out that books with a full cast of Black characters are rarer than they should be, and that we don’t often see military families depicted in children’s literature either.

Mark Sahagian, Author

After drawing hundreds of political cartoons and autobiographical mini comics for adults, graphic designer Mark Sahagian began getting story ideas for family-friendly comics. While looking at a picture of the classic Frankenstein’s monster cartoon poster by Jack Davis, an idea hit him: “What if Frankenstein’s monster was a 10-year-old kid that I grew up with?” What if he wrote a comic about the adventures of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi as two young monster fans? “All I wanted to do for my whole life was a monster comic,” Sahagian says. “I could never really think of one, and it all kind of happened by accident.”

This was the genesis of Boris & Bela, ISBN 9780578403311, the graphic novel he wrote and self-published through Amazon’s print-on-demand service in 2019. The book follows the boys (around age 10) and their sidekick, eight-year-old Elsa, through seven different adventures in 72 pages. “Basically, they’re the humorous adventures of three young monster movie nerds,” Sahagian says. “In the characters’ minds, they’re kind of living in a monster movie, playing hide-and-seek, spying on neighbors who they think are mad scientists.”

Sahagian had so much fun creating the first novel that he wrote, drew, and published a follow-up, Boris & Bela: The Library and Other Tales, ISBN 9798831553963, in June 2022. Book Two features five stories in 72 pages, following our intrepid trio to the library, to a spooky camp, and elsewhere. Sahagian draws each page by hand. He is now at work on Book Three, Boris & Bela: Into the Archive, featuring five stories in 96 pages for fall 2023. In one new story, the kids visit their dad at work, a trip loosely based on the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in the labyrinth.

Sahagian has plans for at least six books in the series. The first two books are all black and white, but Book 3 will be in four color to make it more appealing to a broader audience. Each short story can stand alone and be read in any order. He says the books are for kids of all ages. “There’s no blood and guts, no bad words, none of that stuff. This is the whole 8-to-80, old-school Disney audience kind of thing, the best Saturday morning cartoon you never got to watch, the best Saturday afternoon monster movie you never got to see.”

Lerner Publishing Group

Lerner’s 15-year-old Graphic Universe imprint has evolved a great deal since its inception. “Originally, the model was series-based publishing, very much directed toward the school and library markets,” says Editorial Director Greg Hunter. “In the years since, it’s become more eclectic—a big-tent imprint by design within the category of graphic novels for young readers, with a deliberately broad range of genres and sensibilities.” The imprint publishes 20-plus pre-K to college-level titles a year.

A lightly fictionalized story for ages 8 to 12, Another Band’s Treasure by Hua Lin Xie, April 2023, ISBN 9781728460376, is set in a neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, that subsists on recycling waste from its landfill. When a local musician wants to give kids music lessons, they start gathering waste materials—forks, knobs, cans, boards—from the landfill to make instruments. The black-and-white art then transforms to partial color, highlighting the materials repurposed for the instruments. “This is a real thing,” says Rachel Zugschwert, executive vice president of marketing. “They actually play these instruments, and they’re so good.”

The Green Girls by Loïc Nicoloff, illustrated by Antoine Losty, March 2023, ISBN 9781728460369, is two stories about a trio of 13-year-olds who want to save the planet. They form an activist group on social media and begin documenting their bold actions to raise awareness. Their first adventure is to crash the launch of a polluting container ship. In the second story, the girls get busted for using graffiti to raise awareness. “I really like the way the book tells the stories,” Zugschwert says. “It doesn’t downplay their intentions, while showing that they’re not thinking through the best ways to make ‘good’ trouble or to raise awareness. There are consequences as a result, but the book really supports and upholds their intention to protect the planet.”

The second book in Lerner’s “Seekers of the Aweto” series, Strange Alliances by Nie Jun, May 2023, ISBN 9781541597853, features four-color watercolor paintings with cartoonist line work. Set in a fantastical medieval China, bands of seekers are on a mission to steal plantlike treasures from the deities they hope hold the key to immortality. “Although it’s a very vivid, beautifully rendered fantasy story, in the background there is the question of what we take from the Earth and the moral toll that takes on the people doing the taking,” Hunter says.

Skybound Entertainment

Skybound Entertainment builds franchises across multiple platforms. Their flagship series, The Walking Dead, is a case in point. But “Skybound books are really about family and relationships and the human core to all of these stories,” says Editorial Director Alexander Antone. The middle grade and young adult titles published by the Skybound Comet imprint exemplify this focus. Skybound Comet launched in 2022 with three titles and will publish the following five in 2023.

Scurry by Mac Smith, February 2023, ISBN 9781534324367, has been available as a middle-grade web comic since 2016 but never before in print. The story follows a group of house mice in a post-apocalyptic world. With humans gone, the mice have been surviving on scraps, but they need to resupply—in the forbidden territory of the forest. “It’s a really stunning book for the upper end of middle grade,” Antone says. “They do encounter life-or-death stakes. I would equate it to Watership Down.

In Outpost Zero: The Complete Collection by Sean Kelley McKeever, art by Alexandre Tefenkgi, April 2023, ISBN 9781534324374, a group of teenagers negotiate typical teen dramas while living on an outpost in space. “It’s a very traditional coming-of-age story that just happens to be on an ice planet far, far away,” Antone says. “There is an existential threat to this society and these teens, but it's also about functioning while that existential threat is just there all the time.”

Former Dreamworks and Pixar animator Michelle Fus’s popular sci-fi fantasy web comic will come to print in Ava’s Demon Book One: Reborn, May 2023, ISBN 9781534324381. A young girl named Ava discovers that the demon that haunts her is actually the reincarnation of an ancient alien queen, Wrathia. On the verge of death, Ava makes a pact with Wrathia to help her defeat her enemy Titan. Antone says this YA title is a kind of Orwellian “Star Wars” romantic coming-of-age story.

The YA “Sea Serpent’s Heir” trilogy by Mairghread Scott, art by Pablo Tunica, centers on a young girl who finds she is the reincarnation of a sea serpent and is destined to destroy the world. “Her path is discovering what that means, how she got to this place, and ultimately determining her own future,” Antone says, calling this a high-seas fantasy adventure with pirates. Book Two: The Black Wave, September 2023, ISBN 9781534399938, is a revenge plot in response to the end of Book One, which came out in October 2022. The third book in the series is expected in 2025.

Just in time for the 20th anniversary of The Walking Dead comes Clementine: Book Two in the YA trilogy by Tillie Walden, October 2023, ISBN 9781534325197. The characters who survived Book One (June 2022) end up on an island—which has its pros and cons. “But underneath all of the zombies and survival horror, this is really an LGBTQ+ love story between Clementine and another character,” Antone says. “Clementine’s arc is really about whether she can love someone in this kind of world, when she knows they could be taken from her.”

Astra Publishing House

New York–based Astra Publishing House launched Hippo Park, an illustrated books imprint for zero to middle grade, in September 2022. Publishing 15–20 titles each year, graphic novels will comprise about 25 percent of the list. “Astra already had very robust school and library imprints,” says Jill Davis, editorial director of Hippo Park. “And I came in with the idea of doing fun books that kids want, like candy—a bit of an antidote to how heavy things have felt in the last few years.”

The first in a series of four early chapter books, One Cool Duck: King of Cool by Mike Petrik, May 2023, ISBN 9781662640186, features three chapters introducing Duck, the leader, and his gang of friends. “We get to see Duck sticking up for his friends when Cat [the adversarial character] isn’t nice, but giving him the benefit of the doubt, because Duck has social-emotional leadership skills,” Davis says. The “One Cool Duck” series is appropriate for grades 1–3.

In The Love Report by Beka and Maya, ISBN 9781662640414, June 2023, for readers aged 10 and up, two best friends set out to uncover the mystery of love. While they’re investigating how it all works, they also discover that people aren’t always what they seem. Originally published in French with an Italian illustrator, this book stood out for Davis among French graphic novels as a natural fit for the American market. “Here, we have two best friends who have two very different skin tones,” she says. “And it’s not focused on anything racial whatsoever, and that’s something I look for—the representation without the messaging.”

Translated from Norwegian, Cross My Heart and Never Lie by Nora Dåsnes, September 2023, ISBN 9781662640544, is a diary-style coming-of-age story. When Tuva starts seventh grade, she feels as if the whole world is suddenly divided into two groups—girls who love boys and girls who don’t. Then she meets Mariam and writes in her diary, “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone I wanted to be friends with so badly. Is that what soul mates are?” The novel “captures the way it feels to be a twelve-year-old when you’re worried about what everyone thinks, about who you like, and if they like you,” Davis says.



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