Comics publishers generally offered mixed to positive reviews of this year's BookExpo 2019. Publishers were enthusiastic about the expansive presence of graphic novels throughout the programming at BookExpo and BookCon, highlighting the continuing mainstreaming of comics publishing in the book trade.
From the presence of novelist/comics writer Majorie Liu, co-creator of the Eisner Award-winning graphic novel series Monstress, on the star-studded adult author breakfast panel, to DC Comics, which used the show to highlight the launch of its book-focused adult and young reader imprints, BookExpo 2019 welcomed established and new comics publishers, as well as librarians, retailers and fans, looking for new works.
The popularity of middle-grade and young adult graphic novels was on display throughout the show. DC showcased its middle grade imprint DC Ink and the young adult DC Zoom imprint, with appearances by writers Kami Garcia (Raven with artist Gabriel Picolo), Meg Cabot (Black Canary: Ignite with artist Cara McGee), Lauren Myracle (Under the Moon, with artist Isaac Goodhart), and writer Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass, with Steve Pugh). In addition, artist Sean Murphy (Batman: White Knight), and writer Kelly Sue Deconnick (Aquaman), signed for the DC Black Label adult line.
Beloved Star Trek actor George Takei was promoting They Call Us Enemy (Top Shelf), a graphic memoir (with cowriters Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker) that details his Japanese-American family’s internment during WWII; and Disney Worldwide Publishing showcased Eoin Coifer’s Artemis Fowl The Graphic Novel and Molly Brooks’ Sanity and Tallulah, graphic novels.
Scholastic showcased its superstar cartoonists Dav Piley (Dog Man) and Raina Telegemeier; indeed Telgemeier, whose forthcoming graphic memoir Guts will have a million copy initial printing, was ubiquitous. Telgemeier was featured on several BookExpo panels, among them The Graphic Novel Comes of Age, along with comics artists Sara Varon and Catia Chien, as well as appearances over the weekend at BookCon.
And there was graphic novel programming aplenty: The Graphic Novel Buzz Panel on Friday (moderated by this reporter), also featured an impressive lineup of artists that featured Jen Wang’s middle grade graphic novel Star Gazing (First Second), John Muth’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s delightful sci-fi time-travel story "The Seventh Voyage" (Scholastic), Melanie Gillman’s queer cowboy adventure Stage Dreams (Lerner), and acclaimed cartoonist Chris Ware’s dazzling new graphic novel, Rusty Brown (Pantheon), which he has been working on for 16 years.
The Indie Insights panel on Wednesday featured three publishers offering distinctive comics works including a nonfiction work on gender identity (a topic that continues to grow in popularity), history/memoir and an adaptation of a classic work: Gender: A Graphic Guide by Meg-John Barker and Jules Scheele (Icon), Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children by Kath Shakleton and Zane Whittingham (Sourcebooks), and Pilgrim’s Progress The Graphic Novel by Ralph Sanders, a comics adaptation the John Bunyan religious allegory from 1678.
Udon Publisher Erik Ko was taking meetings and showing off his Manga Classics line, in particular a series of unabridged (every word of the play’s text) 400-page manga adaptations of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, and MacBeth) that he said are very popular with teachers and students. And Titan owners Nick Landau and Vivian Cheung showed PW preview pages of an original comics story set in the Blade Runner universe (the original 1982 movie was set in 2019 L.A.) slated to released as a book collection in the fall.
The Diamond Books Distributors booth was the focus of signings by a number of Lion Forge authors, including Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir and Wendy Xu (who just signed a solo three-book deal with Harper) and Suzanne Walker’s Mooncakes, a popular LGBTQ webcomic turned print queer fantasy work; and Hazel Newlevant was signing her much anticipated memoir, No Ivy League, which was previewed in PW's The Fanatic newsletter.
DBD executive v-p Josh Hayes praised the show, citing in particular the librarians and bloggers. Popular books among his clients, he said, included Kieran Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker Vol. 1 (Image) and Garth Ennis’ The Boys Omnibus, a new trade paperback collection of the dark superhero series, whose sales will likely be driven by the new Amazon TV series.
The French Comics Association/BIEF party at the Hudson Bar Room near the Javits Center, and the joint Oni Press/Boom! Studios party at the Porchlight Bar in Chelsea, were both lively and well attended. VIP Brands’ Ivanka Hahnenberger, who organized the FCA party, said the party featured more than 320 French language titles from 17 comics publishers, all on display throughout the packed hotel bar and available for licensing in English.
Oni Press publisher James Lucas Jones was also pleased with the numbers of librarians at BookExpo and the crowds of teenagers swarming BookCon over the weekend. And while sales "weren’t over the top, they were good. There were lots of fans and lots of discoverability for our titles.”