Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

The Iron King, Graphic Novels/Comic Books, Reluctant Readers, Crowdsourcing – OH MY!

The true confessions of reluctant reader Darren Davis and his attempt to use crowdsourcing to help turn The Iron King by Julie Kagawa into a grapich novel
Editor’s Note: Just last week, the largest (and fastest) crowdsourcing project ever occurred.  In just  a few hours millions of dollars were raised via Kickstarter to fund the Veronica Mars movie. There are a lot of articles out there about it and I recommend reading up on it.

We are currently working with Julie Kagawa on developing a manga/ comic book version of the best selling YA novel “The Iron King”.  As a huge fan of the YA world, this benefits both me as a publisher and Julie for her love of manga.  Her agent contacted us to see our interest level; We have done YA adaptations with fame SE Hinton so they knew we would take care of their project.   It has been fun working with Julie on this to get her characters right.  She has her hands totally in it.  I am not a fan at licensing something – I want to make sure we work one on one with the people.  And yes, working with SE Hinton was a dream come true for me (but more on that later).

We decided to do the crowdsourcing to have the fans be involved with the process  – seeing it from the character designs to the final product.  Fans of the Iron Fey series in general are very invested in this.  We want their feedback.  We have made some changes already because of their feedback.  Crowdsouring is a fun way to give back to her community – we have a lot of fun Iron King stuff – from sketches from Julie (she is an artist too), to t-shirts.  Julie is also helping us out a lot in this.  At the end of the day I want her to be proud of this as much as I am .  The people at Harlequin Teen have been wonderful too in their support of the brand.   

We are working with some great people, too, that are involved in the YA world.  Sara Gundell, from “Novel Novice” is adapting the book into a comic book.  Sara did a biography comic book on “Suzanne Collins” for us last year.  Also, we are working with famed manga artist Lidia Chan to draw the book.  

The hardest part of crowdsourcing is the constant ask.  I have resorted to telling stories on my personal Facebook page – like a telethon.  It is not an easy process to do these.  It reminds me of when I was a kid selling magazines door to door! We are posting brand new images everyday to get feedback from the fans.  I also want to do this project because it will get even more kids reading.  

I was one of those kids who was always afraid of reading.  I was your typical reluctant reader growing up.  Seeing a book that was more than 100 pages – I automatically shut down.  It impacted by school work and I was pretty much a C student (with a couple of D’s).  There were two tools that helped my reading skills growing up – one was SE Hinton books (it shocks me when teachers do not know who she is) and the other was comic books.  My parents did not care at the time what I read, as long as I was reading. 

The good news is that I did go to college and get a full education.  But I am still a reluctant reader as an adult.  I look at huge bound books and will not read them.  They freak me out…. 

I did find a tool recently that has helped 100%.  The Kindle.  I know some people hate these things, but I am a person that loved to hold a book in their hands.  The feel, the smell, the having it on my shelf as a trophy that I read it.  But since I got the Kindle, I have read more books in the last two years than I have in the last 10.  I read almost a book a week from “Gone with the Wind”, “Dorian Gray” to all of the Janet Evanovich books.  I just finished “Gone Girl” and started on the “Ender’s Game” series.  Things that I never thought I would read because they were too long don’t freak me out.  

The odd thing about my job is that I am a publisher of a popular comic book company called Bluewater Productions.  We do some of our own titles – like an updated “Dorian Gray” and the fiction works with William Shatner, John Saul and Logan’s Run.  My favorite book we have done is getting to work with my hero, SE Hinton, and bringing some of her titles to graphic novel form.  We have also gotten a lot of notoriety from doing biography comic books on politicians, YA authors, celebrities & sport stars.  We also do a female empowerment series about women who have made a difference in the world called “Female Force”, from Hillary Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, Sonia Sotomayor and more.  We do these unbiased with an empowerment twist.   The coolest thing about the biographies is they are taught in schools for the reluctant readers!  I love that and I am very proud to be part of that.  

I am talking from a kid who spent a lot of time in the libraries.  It is were I did my research, it is also where I hung out with my friends.  You can see all the outreach we do to get kids reading.  It is my passion project!  

We do a Comic Book 101 at libraries for kids and teens.  But we do it different, as a kid I wanted to be a comic book artist and saw my peers who were better at this than I was.  So I felt discouraged and took another path (I worked in the entertainment world in marketing).  What we do is teach kids that not only is there different types of artists out there, but other types of jobs to be creative in comic books.  It is not all about the art.  We team kids up together and have them work together so each feels empowered.  They love it because some can write, some can draw, some can ink, some can just come up with a cool idea.  It shows them that it is not one person that does just do a comic book – it takes a village.  They leave with new friends and contacts!  

We developed a book called Violet Rose which I use in the Comic Book 101’s to show them that kids can create.  My niece was 11 when she created this character and I hired an artist to work with her.  She is the youngest published comic book author.  When her graphic novel came out (still available), it helped pay for her college.  She is now 22 and an amazing creative force.  But it shows that you are never too young to create.  We even had some television interest in her property!  

We are offering any library or school this Comic Book 101 as a thank you for helping us pass the word on the IRON KING manga series campaign – We will send this FREE do-it-your-self program to teach kids how to create a comic book without needing to know how to draw!  This graphic novel we are producing is not only to get kids reading – but comic books can be used as a tool for reluctant readers like me!   No gimmick – this is a passion project and we need help getting the word out.  

“The Iron King” is a huge YA novel written by Julie Kagawa.  It is on the best seller list of the New York Times and USA Today.  It is a great series (I have read this, Hunger Games & Twilight). Not only will “The Iron King” be a cool comic book/ manga series – but also a tool for the reluctant reader. 

So please help us spread the world about YA novel IRON KING by Julie Kagawa as a manga book http://bit.ly/ZLl0Zh get kids reading! Even $1.00 for each person will help this out.  If you are a fan of the series, YA novels, comic books, the arts, kids reading or anything we have to make the goal to make this happen.  

Darren G. Davis
President/Editor in Chief
Making his way in the world by marketing the entertainment industry at such companies as E! Entertainment Television and USA Networks, Darren left to pursue his creative dreams in publishing, taking on a position at Wildstorm Studios – which shortly after joined with comic book conglomerate, DC Comics. After his tenure in Corporate America, Darren joined on as President of Joe Madureira’s Beyond Entertainment, with such title as Battle Chasers. Following several years with Wildstorm, Darren took the next step towards creative freedom and formed his own publishing company known as Bluewater Productions, in which he created such popular titles as 10th Muse, the sixth highest selling comic in November 2001. Darren continues to represent the top comic book talent in the industry while writing comics and novels, as well as serving the role of Editor-in-Chief of Bluewater.

Want to know more about reaching “Reluctant Readers”? Join us the week of Aprl 15-20 as we host Reluctant Reader week with Orca Books, lots of information and an awesome giveaway.


  1. Anonymous says

    My son, who is 25, was very happy to read on the computer, but was also intimidated by novels. He started reading on his i-phone and has finished so many novels since. It's not only seeing the length, but having fewer words per page. A thought for all of us teen librarians who encounter reluctant readers…

  2. I thought that the books get better from The Iron King! I can't wait for The Iron Knight!

  3. Hi! Where can I buy Iron King manga?

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