“Graphic Novels Come of Age” was the title of the Booklist forum on the first evening of the American Library Association's annual meeting, held this past weekend June 24-29 in Washington DC, and graphic novels were on the agenda for many of the librarians in attendance. Some were looking for basic information about how to start a graphic novel collection and where to shelve it in their library, while others attended panels on more sophisticated topics like the psychology of superheroes and spent time talking to creators and publishers about their work.
In the Booklist panel, Matt Phelan credited libraries' acceptance of children's graphic novels with opening the door for books like his own The Storm in the Barn, which won the Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction. Indeed, every member of the panel was involved with a graphic novel that had won a traditional book award from librarians: Gene Luen Yang, the creator of American Born Chinese, which won the Printz award for excellence in young adult literature; Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second Books, Yang's publisher and a Sibert Award winning author himself for the graphic novel To Dance; and Francoise Mouly, editorial director of Toon Books, whose line includes the Geisel award-winning Benny and Penny in The Big No-No and the Geisel honor book Little Mouse Gets Ready.
Graphic novels got mixed treatment on the exhibit floor, with some publishers giving them an enthusiastic push and others pretending they didn't exist. At W.W. Norton, which distributes Fantagraphics books, the featured titles included Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream, Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales, and the second volume of Castle Waiting, as well as their best-selling adaptation of the Book of Genesis by Robert Crumb. At Simon & Schuster, an enthusiastic rep discussed Hope Larson's Mercury and the newest volume in Jimmy Gownley's Amelia Rules series, The Tweenage Girl's Guide to Not Being Unpopular. On the other hand, no one at the Random House seemed interested in talking about any of the graphic novels on display.
It was a different story in the graphic novel area, where several publishers had their own booths and Diamond Book Distributors hosted several others. At the NBM/Papercutz booth, visitors enthusiastically snatched up previews of the Smurfs graphic novels, which will start coming out in the fall. The graphic novels, which are reprints of the Belgian originals, will tie in with the Smurf movie due out in 2011. On a more serious note, publisher Terry Nantier also highlighted Networked: Carabella on the Run, a graphic novel designed to teach teens about online privacy, and had brought privacy advocate Linda Ackerman to discuss the book with librarians. Nantier's presentation included the news that the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys graphic novels would be relaunched with a larger trim size, lower price, and more supernatural tone.
For most of the weekend, the graphic novel area was busy but not overwhelmingly so. Although a variety of events were offered on the stage, for the most part librarians preferred to browse and ask questions at the individual booths.
At the BOOM! Studios booth, librarians looked over a selection of graphic novels based on The Incredibles, Cars, and other Pixar properties, The Muppet Show, and Scrooge McDuck, as well as more mature series such as Farscape and Irredeemable. Creators Andy Runton (Owly) and James Kochalka (Johnny Boo) signed autographs and sold t-shirts at the Top Shelf booth, while Art Spiegelman, creator of both the pioneer graphic novel Maus and the children's graphic novel Jack and the Box, signed books and chatted with longtime fans at the Diamond booth.
The books attracting the most attention at the Dark Horse booth were Troublemaker, an original graphic novel by mystery writer Janet Evanovich and her daughter Alex, and Heart Transplant, by Andrew Vachss and Frank Caruso, which deals with the problem of bullying. The Fillbach Brothers, creator of Star Wars Clone Wars, arrived on Sunday to sign books for fans. IDW was promoting a new line of GI Joe graphic novels and The Outfit, Darwyn Cooke's adaptation of the novel of the same name by Donald Westlake (writing under the name Richard Stark) and featuring the character Parker. Also on hand were previews of a graphic novel based on James Patterson's Witch & Wizard novels.
Several publishers took the opportunity to announce or promote new projects. David Dabel, formerly of Dabel Brothers Publishing, was there on Friday to announce his own line of young-adult novels and graphic novels, Sea Lion Books. The line will launch with a graphic-novel adaptation of Paolo Coelho's The Alchemist, followed by Storm Born, a graphic novel by urban-fantasy author Richelle Meade.
Joe Brusha of Zenescope discussed his company's new children's line, Silver Dragon Books, which will include two Discovery Channel tie-ins, Top Ten Deadliest Sharks and Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators, and the small publisher Hermes Press, which focuses on reprints of vintage comics, will be publishing collected editions of the Steve Canyon newspaper strip.