Sparkling early spring weather put a spring in everyone's step as the 2008 New York Comic-Con, held at the Javits Convention Center in New York from April 18-20, drew an estimated 64,000 fans and professionals in what everyone agreed was a strong show that spotlighted the many facets of the world of graphic novels.
While there were a few glitches—a nexus of very popular panels on Saturday afternoon caused a shutdown of the aisle outside the panel area—for the most part the huge crowds moved smoothly through the venue. "The aisles were wide enough so that everyone could walk around comfortably," said Dynamic Forces president Nick Barrucci. The crowds were biggest Saturday, when a mix of comics, movie and animation panels brought out a throng—many of them dressed in anime or pop culture inspired costumes.
NYCC show manager Lance Fensterman said he was “really happy” about the show’s performance. Fensterman pointed to heavy traffic on Saturday; crowds of 3,000 people for various screenings at the IGN theater and packed panel halls, “just a lot of people.” Fensterman said there were 10,000 fans lined up on Saturday morning in the adjacent vacant hall and show personnel were able to get them inside the exhibition hall in about 20 minutes once the floor opened. He said he was unaware of some complaints about staff confusion on Friday morning over professional credentials as well as complaints once again about some panelists not being notified about their participation in the programming. Fensterman acknowledged that there had been “some issues, nothing major. Stuff that we can fix.”
He also acknowledged the overcrowding in the programming area following the Venture Bros and Robot Chicken programs on Saturday afternoon, when thousands of people jammed the hallways after the packed programs all ended at the same time. Fensterman said there were simply “too many people and popular programs in the same place at the same time. But we have to schedule the programs when the artists can do them. Public safety officials stepped in and eventually dispersed the crowds.”
Fensterman also said the preliminary attendance figure of 64,000 over three days could rise when the show staff has had a chance to go over the figures more carefully. And he praised his staff for handling the big crowds so well. “Public safety officials were impressed with the spread of people on the floor and there were no concerns about safety,” Fensterman said.
Next year the show will return to February—and it will be held much earlier in the month, February 6-8, prompting concerns about bad weather. Fensterman said the new date “was not my first choice,” and blamed it on the crowded Javits Center calender. “There’s nothing else available,” he said. He said exhibitors were split over moving back into February or moving further into the Spring and possible conflicts with other conventions, especially San Diego. “With this date we’ll be the first show of the convention season and there are no conflicts.” Next year’s show will be held in the same exhibition hall and will have at least the same amount of space. Fensterman said the show needed “more panel rooms and more theater space,” and said he believed that this year’s exhibition space could be better configured to increase the number of exhibitors. “We can grow inside the present hall,” Fensterman said.
Inside the hall, Marvel and DC dueled with panels spotlighting their big 2008 initiatives—Final Crisis a 7 issue mini series by Grant Morrison and JG Jones for DC; and Secret Invasion for Marvel.
Saturday's Secret Invasion panel covered several tie-ins: one with Thor, written by upcoming Uncanny X-Men writer Matt Fraction, The Inhumans, written by Bill Pokaski, and Front Line, written by Brian Reed. There will also be a Secret Invasion crossover between She-Hulk and X-Factor, both of which are scripted by writer Peter David. Marvel's Joe Quesada said that the crossover would involve Marvel’s cosmic heroes in titles like Nova and Guardians of the Galaxy, and that Namor would be making an appearance in the event. Marvel will also launch an ongoing Deadpool series from and artist Paco Medina in November, with the first three issues tying into Secret Invasion as well.
During the question and answer portion of the panel, Quesada unequivocally denied rumors that a blogger name “Marvel B0y,” who claimed to be a Marvel staffer leaking plot spoilers, was actually another viral marketing effort by Marvel. When one attendee asked whether “that you guys playing a joke on us,” Quesada simply replied, “No.”
DC-wise, Grant Morrison was everywhere, turning up on DC Universe panels, Vertigo panels, the Final Crisis panel, his spotlight panel (which began with the moderator reading a very long, meticulously coordinated speech-with-PowerPoint-presentation). Best Q&A from the Morrison spotlight panel: guy in audience: "So, that latest issue of All Star Superman... does that mean that Superman is God?" Morrison (you need to imagine this with his accent): "Superman loves you! Doesn't that make you feel good? He's a proactive God!" At Sunday's Final Crisis panel, he also mentioned that an animated All Star Superman is being kicked around as an idea, and noted that after FC is over, he's mostly going to take a break from superheroes for a couple of years—but will continue to write Batman.
DC's concentrating very heavily on promoting Final Crisis with a slewof tie-ins and spin-offs, $3.99 and 30 story pages (in a 40-page book), with trade dress designed by Chip Kidd. With the schedule given there will be a Final Crisis title every week from the end of July to almost the end of the year.
At the Vertigo panel, somebody pointed out that more than usual of their forthcoming titles—Madame Xanadu, The Unknown Soldier, House of Mystery—are riffs on existing DC properties. Karen Berger responded that that was true, but wanted to note that Vertigo's still committed to doing creator-owned work too. On Saturday Vertigo featured the programs original graphic novel list and showed off a lineup of current and forthcoming titles and the creator teams.
Artist Dean Haspiel and novelist Jonathan Ames (the creative team for the forthcoming graphic novel The Alcoholic), novelist Mat Johnson (who wrote the much praised graphic novel Incognegro) were on the panel. Other creators of other forthcoming Vertigo original graphic novels include journalist G. Willow Wilson (who wrote last year’s Cairo), who has written a new series called Air; and writer Joshua Dysart, who is overseeing the adaptation of singer Neil Young’s 2004 concept album Greendale into a graphic novel. Berger noted that Vertigo has also named editors Joan Hilty and Jonathan Vankin to oversee an expanded line of Vertigo original graphic novels, as previously reported in PWCW.
Elsewhere, major book publishers and indie houses promoted their graphic novel offerings on many levels. Top Shelf reported that the American Library Association giving Jeff Lemire's Tales from the Farm an Alex Award gave its sales an enormous boost—immediately after it was announced, they got orders for 10,000 copies (mostly from libraries).
Simon & Shuster had advance reader copies of Hope Larson's Chiggers, which quite a few people were ducking into corners to read. Lots of buzz, also, on the Scott McCloud black-and-white Zot! collection, which he mentioned that he'd tweaked extensively—redrawing Jenny's hair, toning down some vulgarities, and so on.
Fantagraphics sold a pile of Dash Shaw's brick-sized graphic novel The Bottomless Belly Button, and had well-attended signings by Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik. They also had preview copies of the super-good-looking Jules Feiffer omnibus—the first decade of his strip for the Village Voice—as well as Blake Bell's Steve Ditko book.
NBM reported that they'd done well with Lewis Trondheim's Little Nothings, and that Papercutz had had to go back to print on their Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys books. Meanwhile, at the First Second booth Abel & Madden's Drawing Words and Writing Pictures was the center of enthusiasm.
Oni sold 150 copies of Matthew Loux's kid-friendly Salt Water Taffy, and reported that Scott Pilgrim and Queen and Country TPBs were selling like crazy. And at their panel on Friday, Oni talked about upcoming books like Labor Days by writer Philip Gellat and artist Rick Lacy, which is due out this Fall, and Apocalipstix by Cameron Stewart and writer Ray Fawkes, which is due out in July.
Over at Dark Horse's booth, it was total Hellboy mania, with signings by Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro. Hellboy creator Mike Mignola answered questions about working with del Toro on both Hellboy movies, telling stories of practical jokes they pulled on Dark Horse president Mike Richardson (trying to convince him they hated each other on first meeting). He also talked about his inspiration for Baltimore, an illustrated novel he wrote with Christopher Golden. “A little bit of Dracula, Frankenstein, Moby Dick and all the other gothic stuff I love,” Mignola said.
At their panel on Saturday, Dark Horse revealed the five writers who will write an issue apiece of Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Doug Petrie, Jim Krueger, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson and Drew Greenberg. They also announced a sequel to Gerard Way's Umbrella Academy, which will see Way and artist Gabriel Ba return. Look for that new miniseries in November, as a well as an over-sized hardcover collection of the first series sometime in the near future. Writer Rick Remender, of Dark Horse' Fear Agent, will be writing a new creator-owned book for the company called Gigantic, about "giant robots and monsters."
The show has also become a buzz-generator for prose books—there's rather a lot of excitement about Kelly Link's short story collection Pretty Monsters, from Viking, which was circulating as an ARC.
In non-comics news, one of the biggest stories was the Venture Brothers panel and the overcrowding in the programming area on Saturday afternoon. Fans lined up for two hours or more to get into the panel, a repeat of the standing-room-only crowd of 2007. This year the crowd had doubled, and the convention moved the panel at the last minute, doubling the size of the room to accommodate the crowd. Jackson Publick, Doc Hammer, James Urbaniak and Michael Sinterniklaas presented a long trailer for season three which premieres on Adult Swim on June 1. Publick and Hammer confirmed rumors of a soundtrack CD in the works before taking questions from the audience. Work on season four is about to begin. A fifth season is unlikely, according to the show's storyboard coordinator, who quoted Publick saying he "might die" if he had to direct another season.