Although the big two of comics publishing, Marvel and DC Comics, and a number of major indie houses, among them Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, Oni, Archie and Dark Horse, have opted to sit out BEA this year—fear not, there will still be plenty of comics publishers dotting the Javits Center floor. And several of the events will also be part of the BookCon scene.

Comics publishers in attendance are bringing along some high-profile talent, from actor John Leguizamo, who will be promoting a new graphic memoir for Abrams ComicArts to ever-popular (and bestselling) Scholastic cartoonists like Jeff Smith and Raina Telgemeier. There will also be plenty of book debuts, as well as a full slate of comics-themed programming.

Today, at 2 p.m., on the Uptown Stage, PW senior news editor Calvin Reid will moderate the panel “Best in Fall 2015 Graphic Novels,” featuring artists Derf Backderf (Trashed, Abrams), Ben Hatke (Little Robot, First Second), Jeremy Sorese (Curveball, Nobrow), and Maggie Thrash (Honor Girl, Candlewick). The cartoonists will discuss their upcoming projects and the current state of graphic novel publishing.

At BookCon, on Saturday, at 11:30 a.m. in Room 1A, PW graphic novel reviews editor Heidi MacDonald speaks to cartoonists Ben Hatke, Jenni Holm, Jeff Smith, and Raina Telgemeier about how the popular cartoonists create their work, while each of the artists draws in front of a live audience.

Although not exhibiting, Marvel Comics will be hosting a panel today, at 3:30 p.m., focused on the recent return of the Star Wars franchise to the superhero publishing powerhouse. Marvel editor Jordan White will moderate the discussion with Charles Soule and Alex Maleev, the writer and artist respectively behind the newly announced series Star Wars: Lando. Also today, Marvel executive Daniele Campbell will be on hand for the panel “Reading in the Time of Subscription,” in Room 1E07, at 11 a.m.

First Second (booth 3056) is set for a big presence at the show. The Macmillan graphic novel imprint is championing Zita the Spacegirl author Ben Hatke, whose forthcoming kids comic, Little Robot, is set for a September release (see interview on page 40). Hatke will also make time in his busy schedule to appear on BookCon’s “Comics Are Awesome” panel at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, and “Graphic Novels: In the Studio” on Sunday at the Macmillan Stage 3139 at 2 p.m. in a behind-the-scenes discussion along with artists Jonathan Fetter-Vorm and Pénélope Bagieu moderated by First Second editor, Calista Brill. Signed copies of the participating artists’ books will be raffled off at the ticketed event. First Second’s editorial director, Mark Siegel, will be joined by Michael Link, Joseph-Beth Booksellers public relations and events manager, on Friday at 10 a.m. in Room 1E08 for “The Modern Bookstore’s Graphic Novel Section,” a discussion about how comics are sold in today’s bookstores.

Abrams (booth 2827) is marking BEA with two big October releases, Ghetto Klown, a graphic memoir written by actor John Leguizamo, based on his award-winning one-man show of the same name and illustrated by Christa Cassano and Shamus Beyale; and Derf Backderf’s Trashed, his upcoming autobio comic about life as a sanitation worker. Both authors will be signing at the Abrams booth, Backderf at 3:15 p.m. today, and Leguizamo during BookCon on Sunday at 4:15 p.m.

NBM and its sister company, the kids comics publishing unit Papercutz, plan to cram a bunch of book debuts into its single shared booth (3065). NBM will show off previews of Walking Wounded, Uncut Stories from Iraq, by Olivier Morel and Mael; Fires Over Hyperion, by Patrick Atangan; and Religion, a Discovery in Comics, by Margreet de Heer. Artist Julian Voloj and former gang leader Benjy Melendez will also be available to promote the recently released Ghetto Brother, a remarkable comics nonfiction account of how Melendez brought peace to warring Bronx gangs in the 1970s.

Papercutz, meanwhile, will be promoting a new line of Nickelodeon-branded graphic novels, beginning with the titles Breadwinners and Sanjay and Craig. The publisher will also be showing off a newly revamped version of the much missed Nickelodeon Magazine. On top of that, BEA will see the debut of The Lunch Witch, by Deb Lucke, who will be signing copies at the publisher’s booth on Friday at 2 p.m. Review copies will also be available for Scarlett, by Jon Buller; The Red Shoes and Other Tales, by Metaphrog; and a reprint of Neil Gaiman’s Teknophage.

As ever, Diamond Book Distributors, the trade book and pop culture merchandise distributor will play host to a number of independent publishers at its booth (2740, 2741). This year, the list includes IDW, Top Shelf, Image Comics, Paizo, Valiant, and Lion Forge. The Portland indie Top Shelf will be debuting Jennifer Hayden’s breast cancer memoir, The Story of My Tits, which is set for a September release. Hayden signs galleys of the book Friday at noon, and at BookCon on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Diamond’s booth.

This article appeared in the May 27, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.