I keep thinking about the announcement earlier this week – just after I’d finished the last newsletter, dammit, or else I’d have folded it in – that Abrams ComicArts has signed Monstress creators Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda for a new trilogy of graphic novels going under the series name The Night Eaters. (The first volume, wonderfully, is called The Night Eaters: She Eats the Night.)
It’s not because this is the first time that a mainstream book publisher has announced a graphic novel for grown-ups*, as some suggested in the wake of the news; just a quick look at the Abrams ComicArts back catalog
alone proves that, with titles from Eddie Campbell, Nate Powell, and Sarah Mirk’s Guantanamo Voices
anthology available to pick up. While it’s true that YA graphic novels have been a focus for mainstream publishers for a number of years, it’s not as if those outside of the demographic have gone entirely ignored this entire time.
Instead, it’s the feeling that Abrams is turning its attention to towards what might be described as the Direct Market audience that’s got me curious. As if a new series from the multiple-Eisner Award winning creative team of Monstress
wasn’t enough, let’s not forget that it was only a few months ago that Abrams announced that it was partnering with Marvel for a series of original graphic novels
, starting with an Alex Ross-written and illustrated Fantastic Four
book**. Doing Image-style books with Image creators is one thing, especially given the breadth of material Image publishes and the success of certain Image collections in bookstores; but doing that as well as actually releasing all-new, official, Marvel comics feels like there are certainly moves being made.
There’s some level of irony in seeing a mainstream publisher court the Direct Market fanbase, given the long held belief by a significant number of creators and publishers that the future of comics was the mainstream bookstore rather than the comic store. Of course, in the couple of decades since the heady days of Artbomb and the WEF, there’s an argument to be made that the Direct Market took over pop culture as a whole: Beyond the Marvelization of everything, there’s also the Walking Dead of it all to consider, not to mention the streaming success of things like The Boys, The Umbrella Academy or other comic properties***. Maybe Abrams is simply responding to what it perceives as a gap in the market for Direct Market-style storytelling that doesn’t actually require the single issue Direct Market format or pacing…?****
For now, let’s wait and see if Abrams ComicArts (or, indeed, any other mainstream book publisher) signs up similar projects from creators known for their Direct Market work anytime soon. Who knows? Maybe this could be the start of a new trend.