The oddest thing about the alternative graphic-novel publishers exhibiting at this year's New York Comic-Con was that, even though almost none of them had major new releases, they mostly reported decent-to-excellent sales. Most publishers aren't yet rolling out their 2009 releases, although a few took the opportunity to build buzz for forthcoming books—Pantheon was handing out drink coasters to promote David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp, and talking up Josh Neufeld's A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge.
The biggest exception to the "nothing new" rule was Oni Press, which debuted Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, the fifth volume of Bryan Lee O'Malley's widely acclaimed series and the buzz book of the convention. Oni sold 600 copies of Universe over the course of the weekend, and the few other vendors who were lucky enough to have copies on hand sold out as well; O'Malley's panel was attended by several hundred enthusiastic fans, a few of whom asked questions about the Edgar Wright-directed Scott Pilgrim movie that's planned for next year but most of whom just wanted to know more about the comics themselves.
Otherwise, publishers reported that what was selling were the perennials—"Star Wars" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (whose artist Georges Jeanty drew a crowd for a signing) titles at Dark Horse, various volumes of The Walking Dead and Liberty Meadows at Image, Coraline and other Neil Gaiman titles for HarperCollins. Boom! Studios reported significant interest in their adaptation of "Farscape" (still in pamphlet form--a book is due in April or May).
IDW announced an extensive slate of new books, mostly focused on its licensed offerings, including an ongoing Spike series, Star Trek projects to tie in with the movie, Astro Boy comics, including an adaptation of the upcoming movie, and several Doctor Who mini-series written by Tony Lee with art by, respectively, Paul Grist and Al Davison. In original series, projects mentioned include Groom Lake by editor Chris Ryall and Ben Templesmith, J.M. DeMatteis's Savior 28, and Bob Fingerman's From The Ashes, which Fingerman later described as a “speculative memoir” about him and his wife surviving a nuclear apocalypse.
Dark Horse announced a few new projects: a hardcover edition of Pixu, the acclaimed anthology by Beck Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon; Beasts of Burden, a mini-series by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson a bout a pack of stray animals; and Noir, a crime anthology edited by Diana Schutz with stories by Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker ,David Lapham, Rick Geary, Jeff Lemire, Alex de Campi and more.
Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly were conspicuous by their absence, and few other publishers from the artier end of alternative comics were present. Top Shelf and First Second both had booths, but no brand-new releases to promote (although Top Shelf did have a recent Johnny Boo book by James Kochalka that did well on Sunday, when many parents brought kids to the show). A few self-publishers were doing solid business, too: Thom Zahler sold a substantial pile of the trade paperback collecting Love and Capes, from his own Maerkle Press, and at the Dumbrella booth, Meredith Gran sold 100 copies of her self-published Octopus Pie web-comic collections.
(Additional reporting by Heidi MacDonald and Laura Hudson)