This year's BEA will be a much changed affair, and with fewer attendees, fewer galleys and reduced booth space for many giant publishers, but graphic novel publishers will still be there. In many ways graphic novels—an exotic newcomer at Book Expos seven or eight years ago—are now mainstream. For instance, graphic novels will be spotlighted on both buzz panels, and comics creators will be speaking on the author's stage and in several separate panels not focused on graphic novels.
Publishers contacted by PWCW had a variety of reasons for not attending. Some were looking for a way to cut costs in a challenging economy. Other publishers continue to question the expense and utility of BookExpo America. First Second editorial director Mark Siegel, whose parent company Macmillan is not attending, noted that he will be attending BEA and will be on a panel discussing his graphic novel list. However, he said, “attending a show like the American Library Association is vital to us. But BEA is not so clear. It’s expensive and while it had a certain validity in the past, now BEA has to reinvent itself.” Nevertheless, Siegel said he was looking forward to the show. “We’ve got a lot of important meetings set up at BEA, especially with publishers from abroad.”
However, some still see much value in BEA. Fantagraphics, which is distributed by Norton, is debuting a new booth, and marketing director Eric Reynolds still sees BEA as the best way to reach many industry people. "BEA represents unique opportunities that no other shows offer in terms of meeting with booksellers and librarians who can help us get our books out to a much wider readership," he says.
Although some big guns will be shooting elsewhere—Tokyopop, Viz and DC will not have booths, and Macmillan's meeting-room-only presence means First Second, Hill & Wang and Drawn & Quarterly won't be on the floor. But Diamond Book Distributors and its publisher-clients will still have a big presence. Marvel celebrates its 70th anniversary with a party in the booth on Saturday and features signings by the creators of X-men, Dark Tower and some of their Classics Line as well as Barry Lyga, author of Wolverine: Worst Day Ever.
Manga publishers may be in short supply exhibiting on the main floor but they’ll be roaming the halls and meeting rooms. Viz Media publicity director Evelyn Dubocq says Viz v-p, sales and marketing Gonzalo Ferreyra will be taking meetings. Tokyopop COO John Parker and associate publisher Marco Pavia will also be on hand to meet and greet. Korean manhwa publisher NetComics is also not exhibiting and while Udon publisher Erik Ko will not be at BEA, he told PWCW that Udon will be exhibiting in the Diamond Comics Distribution booth.
Other traditional book publishers will also be missing—or sort of missing. Scholastic Books will be exhibiting but publicity director Tracy van Straaten tells PWCW that although although they have no GN authors scheduled to sign, they have several graphic novels on the fall list, including Holly Black's Good Neighbors: Kith (October) and Kazu Kibuishi's second Amulet book, which has been optioned as a film by Will Smith's production company, Rose, by Jeff Smith, a prequel to the popular Bone series, and series books by Frank Cammuso and Scott Morse.
Over at Random House, Pantheon Books, known for literary graphic novels, is not releasing any graphic novels in the fall—although the house is publishing David Mazzuchelli’s much anticipated new graphic novel Asterios Polyp in June. Pantheon’s sister imprint, Ballantine/Del Rey, a prolific publisher of manga and other comics works, also does not plan to promote any titles at this year’s BEA.
B ut over at Bloomsbury, associate editor Benjamin Adams says that while Bloomsbury's parent company, Macmillan, will not be exhibiting, Bloomsbury will have its own booth (#3658) and they will be handing out galleys of Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, their lead fall title and an unusual and much-touted graphic examination of the life and work of philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell, slated for release in October.
As mentioned, one publisher that isn't scaling back is Fantagraphics (#3422). Their new booth will host signings with Kim Deitch, Michael Kupperman, Dash Shaw and Monte Schulz, who will be giving away his novel This Side of Jordan. Of course Norton will have more than a few comics works—indeed major comics works—of its own to promote at BEA, including a long anticipated look at R. Crumb’s adaptation of The Book of Genesis; and the release of an American hardcover edition of Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book, that will feature new and previously unpublished material. Norton is also launching an unusual and notable memoir called Stitches, the first graphic novel ever created by David Small, who is an award-winning and bestselling children’s book illustrator. And Abrams’ ComicsArts imprint will have a variety of signings and promotional events for Wimpy Kid creator Jeff Kinney, Fiona Robinson (323 Detective Agency), Brien Fies (Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow) and Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly (Toon Treasury of Classic Children’s Comics) and other authors on their list.
The Diamond booth (#2758) should be a hub of activity. IDW will announce details of a new line of books, and copies of the eagerly awaited The Hunter, a graphic adaptation of the Donald Westlake/Richard Stark Parker novel by Eisner-winning creator Darwyn Cooke. They'll also spotlight their growing line of comic strips reprints with samples of their upcoming Bloom County and Family Circus collections. Dark Horse signings include Star Wars comics creators Jan Duursema and John Ostrander and Tara McPherson (Lost Constellations) and Becky Cloonan (Pixu and Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
At Image Comics (booth #2767), popular zombie author Robert Kirkman, whose The Walking Dead is a perennial bestseller, will sign, along with Frank Cho, Ron Marz and Chris Giarrusso, with his new kids' graphic novel G-man. Publisher Eric Stephenson, Silverline's Jim Valentino, Top Cow's Filip Sablik and marketing coordinator Joe Keatinge will all be on hand.
New York-based Papercutz, which recently announced a license to create a series of graphic novels based on Disney Fairies, will promote its growing tween-targeted comics line with signings by Nancy Drew writers Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney. There will be giveaways for the fall launch of Geronimo Stilton, a new line of graphic novels featuring a time-traveling mouse, and for Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid, a Wimpy Kid parody. Papercutz’s affiliated company NBM will be offering previews of new books by Neil Kleid (The Big Kahn) and Ted Rall, a memoir-in-comics called The Year of Loving Dangerously created with artist Pablo Callejo.
In programming, the trend is more innovative ways to look at classic topics, and this year graphic novels are featured on two high-profile editors buzz panels, something not ordinarily seen. W.W. Norton executive editor Robert Weil, who has edited multiple National Book Award winners, will make a presentation on Stitches on the Thursday editors' buzz panel. And on Friday, First Second editorial director Mark Siegel will discuss Danica Novgorodoff’s Refresh, Refresh on the YA editors' buzz panel. On Thursday, the panel "African Americans, Comics and Graphic Novels" will discuss the experiences and works of African American comics creators and look at the role of diversity in American comics. The panel will feature multiple Eisner Award winner Kyle Baker (Nat Turner), Shawn Martinbrough (How to Draw Noir Comics), Jeremy Love (Bayou), Lerner Graphic Universe editorial director Carol Burrell and Alex Simmons, veteran kids' comics writer and cofounder of Kids Comic con, among others.
On Saturday, "Hot Fall Titles for Libraries" spotlights librarians commenting on what they think will be the hottest titles of the fall. "Personally, I think this is going to be a lot cooler than the standard editors' buzz panels because you will get to hear what the librarians think will be hot instead of sticking with a narrower focus," says Diamond Book Distributors sales manager John Shableski, who will moderate the panel. Also on Saturday, DBD v-p, sales and marketing Ku-yuo Liang will moderate the panel "Uncovering The Potential of Library Sales,"which will look at the data on sales of graphic novels to libraries, with reps from B&T and Random House also on the program.
Click here for more BookExpo America 2009 coverage from PW.
[An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Scholastic had no graphic novels on its fall list, but they have several as stated above. PWCW regrets the error.]