Anyone who has an even passing familiarity with the Young Adult book industry knows that the genre is currently experiencing a boom of success like it hasn’t seen in decades. Of course, Harry Potter, that wizard fellar with his own line of YA novels which you might have heard of, helped conjure the recent growing trend in capitalizing on the youth reader market. And, let’s be honest, it’s not just the young adults who read novels like The Hunger Games and Divergent: Adults line up in droves in anticipation of a midnight release for the next chapter of their favorite YA series.
That’s why, then, it was no surprise when Marvel, always looking for the next opportunity to reach more readers of their properties, announced during the Women of Marvel panel during the New York Comic Con last week that it would be tackling the Young Adult novel market. Marvel released the news in its Marvel way, dropping the word that Margaret Stohl, co-author of Beautiful Creatures, would be penning a YA novel based on the Black Widow, set for publication next fall.
The move makes sense on a number of levels, but they all round back to a key worry in regards to new comic book readers: accessibility. While Marvel Entertainment has made big moves in order to make their characters across media—on TV, in movies, and in comic books—to resemble one another to make the uninitiated feel at ease when picking up a comic book for the first time, the fact of the matter is that comic books are not as accessible as they could be, at least where Marvel and DC Comics are concerned. No amount of relaunched titles is going to change the fact that many new readers delving into a series might have a big learning curve and time of feeling lost in the weeds and not know what’s going on in a story.
However, with a young adult novel series based on Black Widow, for example, fans of her role in The Avengers films can read her adventures without necessarily being bogged down by years’ worth of comic book continuity. Ideally, they could read her tales in a self-contained tale that’s accessible to older and newer readers alike. In addition, it looks as though Marvel has no intention of diluting their characters’ tales for the YA market. As Stohl said during the NYCC, “…with the YA stuff, Marvel is hardcore about it. It’s not a watered down version of what a fangirl would want, so I would say that will extend to a pretty mainstream audience as well.”
We know that the Black Widow is primed for her own YA novel, but what other characters could Marvel conceivably thrust into their own series of YA books?
This one is the most obvious choice, as Spider-Man is Marvel’s most recognizable character and its most bankable one. Up until 2011, the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book series told the tale of a younger Peter Parker for the 21st century, going through the trials and tribulations of being both a superhero and a teenager in the world of today. After his death, Miles Morales, a young black/Latino teen, took on the mantle of the webslinging wall-crawler. Either Peter or Miles (or both?) would be tailor-made for a YA series, as their tales have all the tropes found in many young adult novels, but with their own unique personalities and backstories an author could use to put her own spin on the characters.
The newest superhero to take the name Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenager with shapeshifting abilities and the first Muslim character to headline Marvel Comic series. While the character just debuted a little over a year ago, Kamala would be a perfect character to headline a YA series, for reasons similar to why a young Spider-Man is an excellent pick. Kamala is a teen navigating the waters of superheroics and adolescence, trying not to get pulled under by either. Also, as a Muslim teen and a daughter of Pakistani immigrants, her character’s background and unique experience could give readers tales they had been exposed to before.
Many viewers who saw The Avengers loved Hawkeye, but may only be familiar with him within Marvel’s cinematic universe. Writer Matt Fraction is doing a phenomenal job bringing depth and personality to the character in Hawkeye’s solo comic book series. However, like Black Widow, a YA series about archer Clint Barton would be a wonderful lens through which to view Hawkeye’s younger days: how did he become such a skilled archer, what adventures shaped him into such a wry badass, how he became involved with S.H.I.E.L.D.
For the uninitiated, the Runaways are the children of super-criminals who leave their homes after discovering their parents’ double lives. Writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y the Last Man, Ex Machina) wrote the initial story run of the series and did a phenomenal job mixing superheroic derring-do with the angst that comes with growing up and teenage relationships. If the feel that Vaughan brought with Runaways could be translated to a YA novel or novels, they would fly off the shelves.
Kitty Pryde is one of the X-Men’s most beloved characters, as she is often used as the lens through which the reader can view all of the craziness that pops us at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. Kitty, who often goes by the codename Shadowcat, in addition to be a mutant with the power to phase through objects, is smart, sassy, and a strong young woman. These attributes make her the perfect protagonist that younger and older readers alike could rally behind in a YA novel. Further, she has such rich history and background as an X-Man, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., a member of the British superhero team Excalibur, as a woman trained in martial arts and swordsmanship, and a computer whiz that a YA series focusing on her exploits is a no-brainer.
Margaret Stohl’s Black Widow YA novel hits shelves sometime next fall. Which character do you think is begging to star in his or her own Marvel Young Adult novels? Let us know in the comments!