New books from Image Comics, new Archie collections in the wake of “the death of Archie,” a 20 year hardcover tribute edition of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy and new titles from D&Q, Top Shelf and Fantagraphics were among the works on display at preview Wednesday night at Comic-Con International: San Diego. The traditional kickoff night for Comic-Con attracted the usual mob of fans looking to get their first glimpse of a show floor full of comics, games, TV shows and all manner of giveaways, swag, and collectibles.
While the crowds on the floor were big, the floor at this year’s preview night did seem slightly more subdued once you fought your way past the crush of fans gathered around the gaming, collectibles and media exhibitors at one end of the hall. This year Comic-Con put restrictions on the sale of 4-day passes to the show—which previously came with an automatic invitation to preview night. Now fans must purchase four single day tickets to get the option to buy a ticket to preview night and some exhibitors speculated to PW that the new restrictions likely suppressed attendance. Over the past few years, the crowds on preview night have often been compared to those on Saturday.
Also on Wednesday, hot indie comics house Image Comics held another Image Expo at the nearby Hilton, the latest in a series of pop-up all-Image comics media presentations. Publisher Eric Stephenson gave another pugnacious presentation on the state of comics publishing, criticizing the industry’s dependence on licensing, “gimmicks” and “robbing the past,” and highlighting Image’s growing list of original creator-owned titles. Stephenson said Image was having its best year in over a decade, with sales up month over month over 2013. Among the works announced were new titles by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger (Southern Cross), Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (Descender), Ray Fawkes (Intersect) and Joe Casey and Paul Maybary (Valhalla Mad).
At the Archie table, publicity director Alex Segura showed off new trade paperback collections of Archie Afterlife, a not-for-kids zombie tale, and a new collection of Life with Archie, the hot graphic novel after recent media coverage of a “death of Archie” sequence in which Archie is shot and killed. Segura also noted collections of The Black Hood, The Fox and The Shield, three revived superhero series being used to relaunch its Red Circle superhero comics line, now called Dark Circle.
Among many new titles Dark Horse was showing off was Hellboy In Hell: The Descent by Mike Mignola and Dave Stewart, a new hardcover published in honor of the 20th anniversary of Hellboy. Drawn and Quarterly was showing Mimi Pond’s Over Easy, John Porcellino’s memoir The Hospital Suite, along with Bumperhead, a new book by Los Bros’ Gilbert Hernandez. Fantagraphics' publicity director Jacq Cohen highlighted fall titles by Lucy Knisley (An Age of License),Eleanor Davis (How to Be Happy) and Don Rosa (Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck.)
Top Shelf featured The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century (volume three), a new $50 limited edition hardcover (500 signed copies for the show) by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill that collects all the comics of the LEOG series. And Top Shelf’s Leigh Walton pointed to longtime Top Shelf author Jeffrey Brown, who also publishes bestselling kids’ parodies of Star Wars properties, including Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan, published by Scholastic, and Good Night Darth Vader, from Chronicle.
PW finished the 2014 preview night trek around the exhibition floor at the First Second table talking with editorial director Mark Seigel and with Scott McCloud, author of such acclaimed comics nonfiction works as Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics. McCloud had a galley of The Sculptor, his much-anticipated 496-page graphic novel, the story of a New York City sculptor who makes a deal with death to be able to create anything with his hands. The Sculptor is McCloud's first work of fiction in many years and features a richly illustrated and engaging narrative that takes on the nature of love, the compulsion to make art and the relentless approach of death. It is due out from First Second in February 2015.