From Up and Out to on the rise, Julia Kaye’s debut collection Super Late Bloomer: My Early Days in Transition has captured people’s hearts and attention — and for good reason. Kaye’s comics are authentic, and her personal journey illustrated in her book is full of universal experiences that connect to a range of readers.
From the Publishers Weekly starred review: “Kaye skillfully and effectively relates the daily indignities borne by trans women and the triumphs and quiet joys as well. Her tenacity in this hopeful story will be resonant for readers going through personal transitions of many kinds.”
Super Late Bloomer emerged from Kaye’s webcomic Up and Out, which Andrews McMeel Syndication acquired in early 2015 for its online catalog GoComics. As Kaye began her personal gender transition, her strip simultaneously evolved and became an outlet of self-reflection — a place to process her inward and outward experiences, said Director, Comics and Acquisitions Shena Wolf.
“I’m not at all surprised by the interest or the success of the book,” said Wolf, who discovered Kaye (an animator for Disney TV Animation). “It’s vulnerable, honest, emotional stuff, and she is a fantastic cartoonist. I think the wide appeal is because the content is good, the art is accessible and the content is personal, funny and heartbreaking — it’s very real. The authenticity of it comes across and people respond to that.”
The comic’s new direction acquired a viral following, which did not go unnoticed by Andrews McMeel Publishing or Sarah Andersen, creator of Sarah’s Scribbles, who praised Kaye’s work. AMP gave Kaye autonomy to select the collection’s comics, which created the book’s narrative structure and allowed the art to speak for itself as a diary of sorts.
“The material was incredibly personal to Kaye, but it also felt kind of universal,” said Editor Allison Adler. “A lot of her work deals with the kinds of insecurities, body image issues and self-doubt that many of us go through as we become the people we were meant to be.”
Since being published in May, Super Late Bloomer was featured in Amazon Editors’ Picks: Best Books of 2018, was named a 2018 Ignatz Award Nominee for Outstanding Collection, was chosen as one of The Advocate’s Best LGBTQ Graphic Novels of 2018 and received an honorable mention in Publishers Weekly’s 2018 Graphic Novel Critics Poll. The first printing sold out quickly, in a matter of weeks, and Kaye has been asked to attend and speak at events across North America.
AMP invited Kaye to the American Booksellers Association’s 2018 Winter Institute, as well as the American Library Association (ALA) Annual in June, where she hosted an at-capacity book signing and spoke on a panel about how comics can help people understand personal identity. Kaye’s message also resonated with librarians, who are always looking for new materials to help kids cope and process their differences.
“It was a really powerful reception, and a signal to us that we needed to continue to target schools and libraries,” said Marketing Manager Sarah Peiper. “Numerous attendees commented that meeting Kaye was the highlight of their ALA trip.”