While this year’s San Diego Comic-con didn’t have giant billboards or star-studded panels just to show off manga, there was lots of news and trends to watch from the world of Japanese comics that emerged out of this year's pop culture fun-fest. The most intriguing developments to come out of this year’s show were both a nod to manga's past and a look toward its digital future.

Indie publishers like Fantagraphics, Drawn and Quarterly and Top Shelf have been making more moves toward publishing classic manga in classy, collectible and affordable editions. For the future, Japanese publishers Square Enix and Kodansha announced plans to offer manga online in English to international markets (including North America), and US-based manga/manhwa publisher Yen Press revealed more about the new online-only edition of their Yen Plus anthology magazine.

First Class Editions from Indie Publishers

Fantagraphics unveiled a gorgeous hardcover edition of Moto Hagio's A Drunken Dream at Comic-Con, six weeks prior to its general release in September, and they had good reason to do so, because shojo manga legend Moto Hagio was their special guest for the event. Accompanied by translator and manga scholar Matt Thorn, Hagio-sensei charmed Comic-Con attendees at her panel appearances and autograph sessions with her self-effacing wit and effortless artistry as she drew sketches for many lucky fans. Comic-Con International also presented Hagio-sensei with an Inkpot Award, an honor reserved for Comic-Con guests to mark their contributions to the world of comics, movies, animation and sci-fi.

Drawn and Quarterly announced that they had secured the license for two graphic novels by Shigeru Mizuki: NonNonBa and Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. Shigeru Mizuki is the godfather of manga about yokai—Japan's mischievous spirits/demons who dwell in the darkness. His series GeGeGe no Kitaro, about a yokai boy who has adventures in the human and spirit worlds,has influenced creators of popular series such as Bleach and Natsume's Book of Friends. NonNonBa is a semi-autobiographical tale about a woman from Mizuki's childhood who introduced him to the world of yokai. Meanwhile, Onward Toward Our Noble Deaths draws from Mizuki's experiences as a soldier in World War II. Both books have won numerous awards, but few works by this influential creator have been published in English. This makes D&Q's planned 2011 release of these books a big event for manga readers.

Drawn and Quarterly had other reasons to celebrate, as A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi won two Eisner Awards at Friday night's ceremonies for Best U.S. Edition of International Material-Asia and Best Reality-Based Work. Tatsumi's double Eisners win in one night for a single title is a first for manga published in North America.

Top Shelf debuted their much-talked-about edition of AX: Alternative Manga at Comic-Con and had editor Sean Michael Wilson on hand to chat up this collection of indie comics from Japan. Top Shelf also announced that they would be publishing Cigarette Girl, a first-ever English edition of work by Masahiko Matsumoto, a manga creator mentioned in A Drifting Life as one of Tatsumi's peers as well as a pioneer of the gekiga ("dramatic pictures") movement.

Dark Horse Comics hosted signings and a panel with artist Yoshitaka Amano and filmmaker/author mink to promote the recent release of their hardcover edition of Shinjuku, a sci-fi/film noir illustrated novel that is the first of three planned books in the series.

Ultimo co-creator Hiroyuki Takei made a surprise appearance at Saturday's Shonen Jump panel. Peepo Choo creator Felipe Smith greeted fans and signed books at the Vertical's table on Saturday and Sunday as well. Smith will also be appearing at Otakon in Baltimore from July 30 – August 1, 2010.

New Online Manga Options

Looking toward the future, Japanese publishers Square Enix and Kodansha both announced plans to offer manga online to readers in North America and beyond. Square Enix showcased a soft launch of their new online manga site at their booth. To start, English and French editions of the first chapters of Black Butler, Fullmetal Alchemist, O-Parts Hunter and Soul Eater will be available for free download, with more titles to follow. Reps for Square Enix weren't able to share more details about pricing, release schedules or access for multiple users for libraries, but promised that more will be announced in the coming weeks.

After announcing that their July 2010 issue of Yen Plus magazine would be the last of the print edition earlier this Spring, Yen Press publisher Kurt Hassler and Senior Editor JuYoun Lee provided more details about the new online edition of their monthly manga/manhwa anthology. Fans can now go to Yen Plus online to check out the August 2010 issue for free, from now through September 10. Readers will be able to read two issues at a time, the current month and prior month's chapters for $2.99/month.

Kodansha Editor Kaori Kitamori was also at Comic-Con, promoting the Morning International Manga Competition and the August 2010 debut of the online edition of Morning magazine in seven different languages, including English. Details are still being worked out regarding which series will be featured on the site, but given international fans' hunger for up-to-the-minute manga content from Japan, this should be interesting.

New Manga for Kids and Grown-Ups

Viz Media, Tokyopop, Bandai Entertainment, Yen Press, Seven Seas Manga and Vertical all had new manga title announcements to share at Comic-Con, aimed at a variety of age groups and interests.

Viz Media announced a new addition to their Viz Kids line, Mameshiba. These cute 'bean dog' characters will be appearing in a series of original all-ages manga stories by James Turner, Jorge Monlongo and Gemma Correll, as well as board books, sticker and puzzle books in Spring 2011.

Also new from Viz Kids are two new titles for younger readers: Panda Man To the Rescue by Sho Makura and Haruhi Kato, and Taro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto. Both titles feature a mix of kid-friendly humor, comics-style storytelling and puzzle pages. The first volumes of both titles will be out in October 2010.

Yen Press revealed five new titles for 2011: High School of the Dead by Daisuke Satō and Shoji Sato, The Bride's Stories by Kaoru Mori (in a hardcover edition!), Higurashi: When They Cry Demon Exposing Arc by Ryukishi07 and En Kitou, Betrayal Knows My Name by Hotaru Odagiri and Aron's Absurd Armada by Misun Kim.

Vertical announced Lychee Light Club (Lichi Hikari Club), a sci-fi-tinged battle of the sexes satire by Usamaru Furuya (creator of Short Cuts, and Genkaku Picasso). Bandai Entertainment announced the 2011 release of the manga version of Kannagi: Crazy Shrine Maidensby Eri Takenashi.

Seven Seas Manga announced three new titles via Twitter just before Comic-Con: Toradora! by Yuyuko Takemiya and Zekkyo, Amnesia Labyrinth by Nagaru Tanigawa (the author of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels) and Kohane Natsumi, and A Certain Scientific Raygun (Toaru Kagaku no Railgun) by Motoi Fuyukawa, a spin-off series based on the light novels by Kazuma Kamachi.

TokyoPop announced Sakura no Ichiban, an early series by Chibi Vampire creator Yuna Kagesaki, Pavane for a Dead Girl by Koge Donbo (creator of Di Gi Charat) and Mr. Clean: Fully Equipped by Toya Tobina.

Udon Entertainment celebrated their 10thanniversary as a manga publisher/creative services group by publishing VENT, a first-ever anthology featuring original illustrations, comics stories and art how-to tutorials from the Udon creative team. The hardcover edition debuted at Comic-Con, and the softcover edition will follow in September 2010.