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First Second graphic novel cover reveal for Gene Yang, Jason Shiga, more

Exclusive: See the covers for all 14 books in next fall’s lineup

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A boy without a shadow falls in love with a ghost. A serial killer learns braille to help his blind cellmate read Dante’s Inferno. An Indian-American girl living in Orange County discovers her heritage with a little help from a magical pashmina.

First Second Books boasts a diverse lineup for fall 2017, and EW can exclusively reveal the covers for all 14 graphic novels, including titles by acclaimed creators Gene Luen Yang, Ben Hatke, Alex Alice, and Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi. The slate features creators from varying cultural backgrounds and stories that cover a wide range of themes.

“We want to be holding up a mirror to the human experience in as many facets as possible, so it’s always nice to have something that breaks the mold in some way,” says Mark Siegel, First Second’s editorial director. “The first criterion is quality and depth and voice, and then we look at making sure that we’re not narrowing our focus on one piece of humanity at the expense of another. … Our readers can expect a wide range of voices and genres and themes, but in general what we’re trying to put forward is a voice, a person, another human inner life that can speak to you inner life and add to the human inheritance.”

The small graphic novel imprint, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has experienced tremendous growth since 2006, when it released 12 books; nearly 40 titles are scheduled for 2017. And First Second routinely puts out books that are recognized at the comics industry’s Eisner Awards. Several titles have earned Printz honors, one earned a Caldecott Honor, and Yang’s American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel to be a National Book Award finalist. Siegel says 2017’s lineup might be the strongest yet.

“Honestly, this year, 2017, is what we’ve been running at for 11 years,” Siegel says. “This was the dream. … Part of what we’re trying to do is contribute to the medium itself, and in America now, it’s not really a battle anymore. By and large, it feels like people know that there is some really good and important and exciting and amazing work that’s waiting for them in the graphic novel section.”

See the covers for all 14 graphic novels below, as well as insight from Siegel on each book.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

By Ben Hatke, Sept. 5

“Ben Hatke is already one of our stars. The Zita the Spacegirl Adventures is really a beloved series. In this one, he’s continuing to open up his storytelling universe; he’s at the height of his powers as a storyteller. There is some kind of connection to the Zita universe… Zita fans will not be disappointed.”

Castle in the Stars

By Alex Alice, Sept. 12

“This one is Jules Verne meets Miyazaki. It’s the space race in 1869 in a kind of alternate past. … When you see the book itself, it’s this big, oversized object with this incredible watercolor comics style, and it’s this really big, epic, sweeping story of a boy following in his mother’s discovery and then opening up the solar system, but in the age of the 1800s. It’s got a kind of steampunk but also a kind of young, classic children’s story feel to it.”

Spinning

By Tillie Walden, Sept. 12

“This is a rising star. I think [Walden] is going to be someone you’re going to be hearing about a lot. It’s the story of an ice skater, but it’s about a lot more than that. It’s just really remarkable in every respect. And Tillie, there’s a lot more where that came from inside her.”

The Hunting Accident

By David Carlson and Landis Blair, Sept. 19

“On the adult end of our list, this is a true story. It’s an incredible story. It’s a big, fat, brick of a book. … It’s this guy who was blind, and his family always believed he had been blinded in a hunting accident. And then one day when his son was starting to have trouble with the law, he took him aside and said, ‘Look, you can’t go down this road, and I have to tell you why I’m really blind.’ And it turns out it was a botched robbery, and he was sent to a maximum-security prison after being blinded in this botched robbery, and he ends up being cellmates with Nathan Leopold, from Leopold and Loeb, the serial killers. … He’s kind of strangely a genius who speaks 12 languages, and Leopold teaches himself braille so that he can introduce his cellmate to Dante’s Inferno. This serial killer gave him a second chance at life and a love of literature and a deep understanding of Dante. It’s a prison story and a kind of redemption story, and it’s true.”

The Dam Keeper

By Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi, Sept. 26

Based on Pixar alumni Kondo and Tsutsumi’s Oscar-nominated short film, the graphic novel “looks like oil painting brought to life,” says Siegel. “That story is a really beautiful fable. It’s a fantasy with these animal characters, and there’s just an atmosphere about it and a feeling that runs through it, and the world-building that went into it is very very unique. These are very rare and exceptional storytellers. … The film just hints at what is in this world, and what these characters are about. … You kind of cover that ground very quickly, and then you start moving beyond the dam, and there’s a very big quest.”

Robots & Repeats

By Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes, Oct. 3

“That’s a continuing series with Gene Yang and Mike Holmes doing the artwork. It’s Gene’s other great mission in life to bring coding to the world, but also to do it in this really fun, sort of goofy but also really kind of coherent fantasy. It’s a funny thing, ‘cause I think Secret Coders — there’s not that many people who can pull off doing a fun story and a didactic intention, and Gene Yang is one of those few people who can pull that off, and he really does.”

Pashmina

By Nidhi Chanani, Oct. 3

“[Chanani] is the first Indian-American creator prominently doing an original graphic novel. … It’s just an amazing story of an Indian-American girl in Orange County, California trying to thread her connection back to India, with a mother who doesn’t want to even talk about her life in India. And then there’s kind of magical dimension to it, which is the title, a magic shawl. … It explores all kinds of really deep and far-reaching and topical things to do with women having choice and not having choice in different parts of the world, but it’s also just an incredible, young adventure.”

Cucumber Quest

By Gigi DG, Oct. 10

Based on Gigi DG’s webcomic of the same name, “this is another really beautiful thing to look at,” Siegel says. “Her work, her color palettes are so kind of unexpected. There’s this candy deliciousness about her artwork, but it’s also really, really funny. … There’s some really juicy wordplay and silly, goofy antics between characters. I think Adventure Time fans are going to love this, Steven Universe fans, but then it really has its own voice, its own feel. It’s going to be the first of at least four books, maybe many more.”

Cast No Shadow

By Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa, Oct. 10

“There’s a love story, there’s a ghost story, and there’s this boy who doesn’t cast a shadow, all in this kind of suburban, American town. It’s just a really unique feel and atmosphere. It’s also very funny. And Anissa’s work is really beautiful. … There’s something about the feeling and expressiveness of her people, especially, that I find very inspiring.”

Head Games

By Craig McDonald and Kevin Singles, Oct. 24

“From Craig McDonald, who’s an award-winning thriller author, this is a hardboiled kind of [story]. It has a bit of a Chandler vibe, but it’s in the Southwest, and you find yourself on the set of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, and you meet Orson Welles and Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway, and there’s like this Skull and Bones society, and an early Bush dynasty character, and there’s a missing head. It is kind of a caper but with this Philip Marlowe vibe to it. … And Kevin Singles does remarkable work on the artwork as well. … It’s in two colors, black and yellow, and it’s just really, really striking.”

Pelé

By Eddy Simon and Vincent Brascaglia, Oct. 24

“This is a biography of Pelé, translated from the French, and it’s great. I wondered about sports books, because I feel like some of the sports kids who wouldn’t necessarily read a graphic novel — or in some cases a book at all — I wondered how to find our way to them. And then this appeared, and who better to start with than Pelé. He’s one of those really big, world citizens of the sports world.”

Science Comics: Dogs

By Andy Hirsch, Oct. 31

“We’re continuing Science Comics. I’m super proud of this line. I feel this is one of the crowning jewels. … We have about 18 more coming now. There’s all different branches of science, natural sciences, there’s going to be physics and computers and all kinds of things. What happens is each one, whether it’s volcanoes or coral reefs or crows or whatever happens to be the topic or computers, there’s the broad topic, but then in each case, it’s a way into a particular subject of science. So with Dogs you get into genetics; it’s an entry point. … It’s a really wonderful way to have these science comics be both really delightful, great bonified comics, but also with real, solid science, and packed with it.”

Demon 4

By Jason Shiga, Nov. 7

Demon is kind of the most twisted, perverse, crazy thing, but it’s genius. Jason Shiga is really … in a space all his own. This is the fourth book of this crazy, insane, extremely violent, debauched kind of thing. But it’s very, very good. This closes out the story, so it’s an event in itself.”

Cici’s Journal

By Joris Chamblain and Aurelie Neyret, Nov. 7

“It’s a young story about a girl, and I think the thing that stands out here is that it’s really about a writer. It’s about a writerly life. I don’t think I’ve seen a graphic novel, especially for young, middle-grade readers. I see my 8-year-old daughter … she really does have a passion for making comics and little prose books and things, and I love the idea of something that encourages that, that nourishes that. … It’s young, it’s full-color, very beautiful and kind of painterly.”