This May, tween girls will have a new source for graphic novel goodness. Papercutz is introducing its Charmz imprint, releasing comics and graphic novels geared toward bridging the content gap for comic fans who are graduating from younger reading fare to comics that are moving toward more mature content.
I recently spoke with Charmz line editor Mariah Huehner about the launch of Charmz, the genesis behind the imprint, and what we can expect from the line moving forward.
FreakSugar: What can you tell us about the genesis behind the Charmz imprint?
Mariah Huehner: So, initially this line was conceived of by editor Rachel Gluckstern who approached me and the other first wave of creators for titles. Rachel is an awesome person but she had to move on to other pastures. Papercutz asked me if I’d like to take over the line and guide it because of my editorial point of view. I jumped at the opportunity (almost literally, I was really excited by the email). I had been looking for exactly this kind of project, it’s one reason I was thrilled to be asked to pitch Stitched. I love writing for young women and being able to guide a whole line for them was something I absolutely could not pass up.
FS: Papercutz has been around for a decade. How does Charmz fit into Papercutz’s overall mission?
MH: Papercutz has been publishing graphic novels specifically for kids and teens for a decade now. Since Charmz is a line for tween and teen girls, it fits neatly into their mission to create comics for kids, whether they’re already familiar with them or new to the whole medium. This line let’s us be a bit more focused on an audience but it’s welcoming and inclusive, just like the rest of the Papercutz offerings.
FS: Speaking of 10 years, it’s incredible that Charmz is launching the many years to the day of launch of DC’s Minx. The comic book/graphic novel field has changed quite a bit in the last decade. What makes now a good time for Charmz’s debut?
MH: The audience is already there thanks to creators like Raina Telgemeier, so shops already know these readers, they know what they like to pick up, what books to hand them next. The last ten years have seen a huge increase in readers for graphic novels. It’s no longer surprising to dedicate a line to tween girls, to tell stories for that audience. There are less hurdles. They already love comics and they want more to read!
FS: How has your past work writing and editing, including your work with Minx, informed your approach to the Charmz imprint?
MH: Whether I’m editing or writing, creating stories for kids or adults, I always approach them the same way. You need to trust them, to engage them, to tell stories about characters that are interesting and diverse, with stories that matter. It’s simple but it’s not easy.
As an editor I think my job is to help creators tell their story, and when I’m writing I think a lot about what I’d want to read, but also what my daughter may want to read eventually (she’s 2), or my niece or my friends kids. Offering different genres and perspectives from creators and characters is important. And I think all readers, regardless of age or background, want to be treated with respect.
FS: When deciding what kind of content you want to be part of the Charmz imprint, are there any driving forces or factors that guide that process?
MH: Definitely. The stories need to be engaging, character and relationship driven, and they need to be smart and compelling. Other than that, I’m open to all kinds of works by creators, and every book will have a woman on the team as a writer or artist. Other than that, it’s pretty wide open in terms of genre. All the books involve relationships, crushes, friendships and personal drama. But that can take place anywhere from a cemetery to space to medieval France.
FS: You’re both overseeing the imprint and writing one of the books. What can you tell us about some of the books arriving with Charmz’s big launch?
MH: Well! The first two are imports, Chole and Sweeites, from France. Sweeties is adapted from a popular prose series about a blended family of sisters. Family drama, relationships, crushes, family history, lots of fraught, intense emotions. And a handmade chocolate company!
Chloe is a very classic tween story about a girl who moves to a new school and encounters mean girls, bad hair choices, fashion anxiety, and boys. But it’s also about figuring out who she is beyond those things and traversing adolescence. You root for Chloe even when she’s being kind of a pill.
And then there’s my book with Aaron Alexovich, Stitched. Crimson Volania Mulch wakes up in a crypt and has no idea who, or what, she is. She’s made up of different dead girls and has to start all over with friends, a two-headed hedgehog named Crust, and feelings. Everything is new to her and it’s kind of overwhelming. We have all the usual spooky subjects but told in a new way. And there’s the mystery of who Crimson’s mom is and what her ultimate purpose in the world will be.
FS: I’m loving what I’ve seen of the books and, frankly, I wish I had had some of these types of books on hand when I was first wading into graphic novels when I was younger. Was this at all in the back of your mind in your approach to the Charmz line?
MH: That’s so great to hear! Stitched is the kind of book I would have picked up when I was younger. Anything weird and spooky would have been my go-to and I thought about that a lot when writing the story.
One of the reasons I wanted to work with Aaron on this is because of how he approaches storytelling. Stitched is both a great introduction to readers new to comics, and sophisticated and fun for those who are already old hats. Aaron has the most amazingly expressive, lived in way of drawing. So I’m really excited for people to see what he did with our characters and how he made a technically “dead” world come to life.
FS: What is the big takeaway that you want readers to have from their experience with the Charmz titles?
MH: I really want them to feel like they can own this line, the books, the characters, the stories and worlds. I want them to feel like these stories matter, that they’re fun and smart and worth sharing and being excited about. Hopefully they’ll feel like they really get to know these characters and find something special about each one.
FS: Is there anything you can hint about what can expect down the road for the imprint?
MH: Absolutely! Stitched is a series, so there are two more books to come. The same is true of Chloe and Sweeties. Our next wave of creator driven books are already underway with stories by Amy Chu, Monica Gallagher, and Kata Kane. The first book, Ana & The Cosmic Race with Amy and Kata is a sci-fi puzzle that goes all over time and space. The second, Ghost Friends Forever, is a haunted tale about two girls and ghosts. We’ve also got an amazing title from France called Scarlet Rose that’s a period drama with a bandit heroine that I’m really looking forward to.
I’m also already talking to another group of creators with some incredible ideas that you’ll have to wait for because I do NOT want to spoil how awesome they are.
So basically stay tuned because there’s a lot of Charmz still to come.
The Charmz imprint launches May 2nd with Stitched #1, which you can pre-order at Amazon.
And if you’re in the Los Angeles area, head on over to the University of Southern California for the Festival of Books, where the Papercutz crew will be doing a book signing. You can find the schedule and directions here.
Also, for more Charmz goodness, check out these photos from Ms. Huehner’s appearance as guest author at the ABC Children’s Institute, an American Booksellers Association Conference, from earlier this month!