explorercover_325Last week I saw two tweets come up from Kazu Kibuishi, author of the Amulet and Copper graphic novels from Scholastic and the Editor-in-Chief of the Flight anthologies:

Flight Explorer is still looking for a publisher. The first one did well, but publishers seem hesitant to take a chance on this. Explorer sold through its 20k copy first printing with little to no support. I have heard from so many people that kids and parents love it, yet the project remains orphaned. I really feel there is a need for a book like this. - Kazu Kibuishi, @boltcity on Twitter

I have to admit to being more than a little surprised that neither Villard/Random House (its original publishers) nor any of the pubs that Kazu has a relationship with would be willing to pick up Flight Explorer. A little-brother to the popular Flight anthologies, Explorer was designed to be a high-quality anthology of comics stories for younger readers in the 8-12 age, safe from the often older-reader centric material in the main Flight anthology.

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Since Explorer was published in early 2008, I’ve been hoping for a follow-up and was kinda bummed to hear that there wasn’t one in the works from Kazu and Amy at that year’s San Diego Comic Con. I tried my best to give them a pep-talk, citing the strong sales we’d had with the title at The Beguiling and the relative lack of good comic books for young readers. Explorer was kind of a God-send for us at the time–a totally kid-safe graphic novel, at the right size for little hands, and with a ton of creator-owned and original IP. It was quite-literally the “What’s Next?” when a kid got done with the Bone series by Jeff Smith, and a great introduction to tons of new series. There’s more stuff for kids out on the market now (18 months later) but much of it is licensed stuff that doesn’t find as much favour with some parents or hardcore librarians (seriously, the librarians that HATE Disney are plentiful… and angry).

The other thing that kind of weirds me out a little about this situation is that despite a 20k sell-through on the book (which is great news!), of the stories in the first collection, 4 of them have ALSO been picked up as full-fledged graphic novels: Kazu Kibuishi’s Copper and Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse will both be coming out from Scholastic/Graphix in early 2010; Kean Soo’s Jellaby just finished up at Hyperion; Zita The Space Girl by Ben Hatke is due sometime in 2010 as well.

I realize that it’s a truism that ‘anthologies don’t sell’, and I’m fairly certainly it’s easier for publishers to get behind less-complicated publishing contracts (particularly when it comes to sequels, right-of-first-refusal, ancillary rights, etc.), but you know…  Flight does well, Flight Explorer did well, the spin-off projects are all great-looking books! A Kibuishi-edited Flight Explorer seems like a slam dunk for any publisher. Here’s hoping it finds a home soon.

- Christopher

PostScript: I was at a party last night, and bumped into Kean Soo, creator of Jellaby and one of the authors featured in F:E. We were talking about the situation and my husband, a manager at Indigo Books in Toronto (kind of like Canada’s B&N) overheard and he was shocked (shocked!) that there was no new Flight Explorer on the way. “It’s such an easy sale!” he exclaimed. Hopefully a smart pub gets on the ball soon…!

Post-PostScript: Congrats to Kazu and Amy on the recent birth of their son Juni!


9 Comments on “Flight Explorer Homeless?”

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  1. Faith says:

    Is the sheer cost of producing these full colour books putting off publishers, so that even a 20,000 copy sellthrough is not profitable enough? I pitched my current graphic novel to First Second as a black and white book, but they wanted it colour. I don’t know if colour books sell better, but the expense of producing a colour book verses a black and white one makes me nervous. I personally wanted to do a black and white book, but was told it’s colour or nothing.

  2. Chris says:

    Faith- I tried not to speculate too much in the article here, but I’d say cost is an issue. It’s more difficult to sell anthologies in the marketplace than single-creator books as well. And who knows what kinds of contractual terms were on the table?

    All of that said though, that was a great, strong anthology and would definitely fill a whole in the marketplace. There’s literally nothing else like it, 2 years later, and I know we’d love it.

    As for First Second? All of their books are in colour, except the manwha and the Lat books. I think they even announced that they’d be colouring Paul Pope’s THB at one point, even though he wanted it in B&W (it was announced as coming out in two formats). That’s just their publishing model :).

    - Chris

  3. Faith says:

    Isn’t speculation what the internet’s for? Speculation and videos of cats. ;)

  4. Kat Kan says:

    You may call many US elementary and middle schools prudish, but a couple of the stories in Flight Explorer used language that these schools ban from use on campus. Because of that, I could NOT select Flight Explorer for my school library collection. Look, I don’t like it either, but the schools have to deal with uptight prudish people in their communities. Flight Explorer could have had better sales in schools if 2 or 3 words had not been used. I have the same problem with Chiggers; in fact, even the local public library has had to face a challenge from a parent because of the use of ONE word (bitch). I have to find out from the librarians what happened with that challenge; they were fighting it with gusto because they love the book.

    As far as color or B&W – a lot of kids just won’t read a comic book or graphic novel if it isn’t in color. Others don’t care and will read both color and B&W comics. My own teenage son reads both, but prefers Bone in color, for example.

  5. Rob Peters says:

    I wonder if Flight Explorer’s success works against it in some ways. If kids read Flight Explorer and love it, they’ll buy Copper, Missle Mouse, and the other books that spun out of it. But those are all from different publishers. In some ways, Flight Explorer can be seen as advertisements for other publisher’s material (which I doubt any publisher would want).

  6. Matthew says:

    Kat Kan: What were the words?

  7. THE BEAT » Blog Archive » Kibbles ‘n’ Bits 11/17/09 says:

    [...] All of which makes the lack of a publisher for the kids comics anthology Flight Explorer all the more puzzling. [...]

  8. Kat Kan says:

    Missile Mouse used the word “crap” several times. That word is banned at the school where I work. Chiggers had the word “bitch” – and that triggered a challenge in the public library. That particular challenge has a somewhat happy ending: the parent didn’t follow through with her threat to bring her pastor into the discussion and make it a huge public debate. The book was returned to the teen room shelves with no problem.

    Crap, bitch, suck – these words are absolutely banned in a number of elementary and middle schools (usually in conservative communities and in conservative private schools). Any book aimed at younger readers that includes these words can’t be put into the schools’ collections. Otherwise terrific books for kids that include these words therefore lose out on a considerable portion of the market. It’s very frustrating for me as a school librarian.

  9. Jason Marcy says:

    Why anyone wouldn’t want to publish a great anthology for kids like this is beyond me. My son is getting close to the age where I want to introduce him to some awesome comics that aren’t necessarily licensed material (or generic superhero work…), and this book sounds like the ticket.
    Here’s hoping it all works out…

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