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For anyone who doubts the impact that Rachel Smythe’s recasting of ancient myths has had, all it takes is one look at 2023’s top graphic novel sales to see: Lore Olympus is so big that calling it a hit feels like an understatement.
According to ICv2’s ranking of the best-selling graphic novels of 2023, Lore Olympus takes up eight slots of the Top 20 best-selling “author” graphic novels of the year — quite a feat, considering that there have only been five collected editions of the webcomic to date. (It can take eight slots because hardcover and softcover editions are counted as separate books for the purposes of the ICv2 chart; hardcover editions of all give books show up in the chart, along with with paperback editions of volumes one, three, and four.)
In terms of sales, it’s a performance that’s unmatched by any other series on the list, and that’s something that Random House Worlds, which publishes the print editions of Lore Olympus has noticed. Spring 2024 sees the official launch of Inklore, a new imprint of — as the publisher puts it — “the best in manga, manhwa, manhua, webcomics, and graphic novels for adults, both young and young-at-heart,” that isn’t just inspired by Smythe’s success, but centered around her individual voice. Beyond including Lore Olympus as its core offering, part of Inklore’s output will be the Rachel Smythe Presents line, described as “a graphic novel program at Inklore that will give a platform to new creators who are looking to tell updated, romantic versions of classic stories and mythologies, and caters to readers looking for bingeable, relationship-driven stories with a distinct visual voice.” In other words, attempts to replicate Smythe’s success with other creators and other mythologies.
Smythe is clearly involved in this process, beyond simply lending her name to it; as part of the launch announcement, future news is promised on Smythe’s social media pages. It’s a canny move on her part, especially with Lore Olympus coming to an end at some point this year, but one that risks devaluing the series, and by extension, what Smythe brought to the series as a creator. After all, Lore Olympus is far from the first updated retelling of classic mythology, yet it’s the one that’s resonated with contemporary audiences more than almost anything else — beyond the success of the print editions, the original webcomic has more than 1.5 billion views, don’t forget. No small amount of that is down to Smythe’s individual talents as a writer and artist, rather than the high concept of the series, and honestly, how easily can those be repeated by new creators for the new imprint?
With such a strong sales presence in bookstores, it entirely unsurprising that Inklore and Random House would be looking for more of the same, especially knowing that the original series is winding up in the foreseeable future. (And, tellingly, looking to create that “more of the same” itself, instead of publishing an already-existing WEBTOON series, to boot.) The question across the next few years will be whether or not an attempt to recapture the same lightning in a bottle over and over again as part of a new publishing line is a safer bet than allowing Smythe to do something entirely new and betting on her as an individual and as a creator, instead.
Lore Olympus was, in part, inspired by Disney's animated Hercules movie, according to Smythe.