The first volume of Congressman John Lewis’ Civil Rights memoir March, and God is Disappointed in You, an unusual prose work based on the Bible by Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler, both from Top Shelf, a new issue of Adrian Tomine’s acclaimed Comic Optic Nerve from D&Q, and the latest volume of David Petersen’s Mouse Guard fantasy series were among the new titles on display during preview night at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. The traditional kickoff for Comic-con, Preview Night draws throngs of fans and media to the San Diego Convention Center for a chaotic three-hour of preview of the biggest pop culture convention in North America.
Doors opened at 6 p.m. on the evening before the San Diego Comic-Con International officially starts and fans as usual flooded the exhibition floor looking for new works, autographs, swag and all manner of giveaways and samplers. While Saturday is usually the day of maximum attendance—capped at 130,000 over five days by fire marshals, it’s estimated that 150,000 actually attend Comic-Con—in recent years Preview Night can be almost as overwhelming.
But once you navigate past the big booths of videogaming franchises, movie promotions and TV and cable networks, usually set up at one end of the hall, the show floor thins a bit and you can actually find the comics publishers, especially the independents, like Top Shelf. This year Andrew Aydin, co-writer of Rep. John Lewis’ March Book One and a member of Lewis’s staff, was on hand signing copies of the book and working the Top Shelf table in preparation for Lewis’ appearance at the show on Saturday. Aydin was hyped by an unusual "marketing" event that happened earlier that day on Capitol Hill during testimony on the Voting Rights Act during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Rep. Lewis was testifying and committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy held up a copy of the book—it documents Lewis’ life as a Civil Rights activist—praised it and encouraged everyone to buy and read it. Not a bad endorsement.
Top Shelf is also publishing God is Disappointed in You that is essentially a satirical, but sincere, synopsis of the Bible that turns it into a very funny historical survey. Though it includes cartoons, the book is not a graphic novel and Top Shelf publisher Chris Staros told PW, the book surveys accurately—if not always reverently—every page of the Bible. Russell and Wheeler are essentially our guides and take through every page of the holy book—especially the sexy parts you don’t usually hear about in church—accompanied by wry New Yorker-style cartoons by New Yorker cartoonist Wheeler.
On the heels of last year's 30th anniversary of Los Bros.’ Love & Rockets, Fantagraphics is releasing the Love & Rockets Companion: 30 Years and Counting, that compiles essays, interviews and a comprehensive look at everything about the Eisner award winning series. Fantagraphics’ publicity director Jacqueline Cohen showed off the book's jacket, which is also a poster that has family tree/guide to every character. In addition, Fantagraphics is releasing Love & Rockets: The Covers, which collects each and every iconic cover of the comic over the last 30 years.
At Oni Press, publisher Joe Nozemack was showing off Wars in Toyland by Joe Harris and Adam Pollina, a dark kids fantasy based on the classic Babes in Toyland tale, in which Toyland has become a dictatorship after the rise of a Teddy bear tyrant. Drawn & Quarterly editorial and marketing manager Julia Poh-Miranda handed PW an advance copy of the latest issue of Adrian Tomine’s comic book periodical Optic Nerve #13. On sale at the end of the month, the comic includes two major short stories. D&Q is also showing advance copies of Art Speigelman’s Co-Mix: A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps, an overview of Speigelman’s rather amazing career and a two volume trade paperback collection of Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie.
Boom!/Archaia marketing manager Mel Caylo was presiding over the newly combined booths of the two comics houses after Boom! Studios acquired Archaia earlier this month. Boom! publishes a growing list of Adventure Time titles, all based on the popular animated series by Pendleton Ward, and Caylo was highlighting Mouse Guard: Black Axe, the latest volume in David Petersen’s Eisner Award winning fantasy series,as well as Hactivist, a new book conceived by actress Alyssa Milano and written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly.
And finally as the evening and our stamina was coming to an end, PW stopped by the booth of First Second, the graphic novel imprint of Macmillan, to chat with the editorial director Mark Seigel. Two First Second artists, Vera Brosgol (Eisner Award winning Anya’s Ghost), and Faith Erin Hicks (Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong) are Comic-Con Special Guests; Paul Pope (Battling Boy, received a starred review in PW) has released The Death of Haggard West, one-shot comic book prequel to Battling Boy, that Seigel said, “was Paul’s idea. It promotes the book and is great for the comics shop market.” And editor Calista Brill was beaming about a new acquistion, Bera: The One Headed Troll by Eric Orchard, the story of troll that finds a baby and embarks on quest to find its guardian.