While comics and graphic novels did not have a commanding presence at BEA, comics publishers and imprints were nevertheless spread throughout the show and the category was featured in major panels during BEA and BookCon, BEA’s relaunched consumer event. And the arrival of BookCon, a more consumer focused show run by ReedPOP, the fan-oriented arm of Reed Exhibitions, may have given comics publishers a bit of a boost. Diamond Comics had a prominent spot at the very front of the BookCon area, perhaps to allow con-veterans to deal with the flood of eager galley grabbers on Saturday.
But there were big titles showcased in many places at the show, including Raina Telegemeier’s new autobiographical work Sisters, coming in August from Scholastic/Graphix with a 200,000 copy first printing. In August, Jules Feiffer’s retro-noir graphic novel Kill My Mother will be published by W.W. Norton/Liveright, and Farel Dalrymple’s wildly imaginative graphic novel The Wrenchies will be released by First Second in September.
In addition there were many comics publishers—among them IDW and Image Comics—presenting their books and taking meetings at the Diamond Comics Booth. The legendary Stan Lee appeared at the BookCon event to showoff Zodiac, a new illustrated children’s novel he brainstormed, written by Stuart Moore and drawn by Andie Tong, to be published by Disney Publishing in January 2015. Other comics publishers sighted at the show include Fantagraphics Books, Amazon’s Jet City Comics, Titan Books, Boom/Archaia, NBM/Papercutz, Nobrow and Abrams ComicArts in addition to Viz Media, Fulcrum Publishing, Arsenal Pulp, Pantheon, Yen Press and HarperCollins’ Ecco imprint, which were all showcasing significant new comics releases or walking the floor and taking meetings.
BookCon, Diamond Comics and Amazon
“We’re overrun by the fans. We totally underestimated the size of the crowds,” said Kuo-you Liang, DBD v-p of sales and marketing, as crowds of teenage girls swarmed through the Diamond Comics booth area Saturday at BookCon. BEA has struggled over the issue of admitting consumers and even comics publishers, used to the demands of fans, were surprised by the size and enthusiasm of the BookCon crowds. “We go to 52 or 53 shows a year, so we’re happy. We live in a consumer world,” he said, noting that his publishers had “sold out of everything” by the early afternoon. Liang was also very happy about Diamond’s new partnership with Trajectory Inc., a digital vendor that will supply digital conversion and global distribution for Diamond publishers. “It's great news. Our customers are looking for digital comics," Liang said.
Kids comics, Liang said, continued to be one of Diamond’s “biggest growth areas,” noting titles from IDW, Boom, Papercutz and Image’s Shadowline kids imprint. He singled out Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, a children’s fantasy graphic novel coming from Top Shelf in August and described it as “the next Coraline." As for Image's Saga and Sex Criminals series, they “just keep getting bigger.” On the international front, Liang pointed to growth of Diamond’s business in Puerto Rico, Indonesia, China, Japan, Brazil, and even Nigeria, citing the launch of the Lagos Comic Con, coming in September. Diamond will also supply American comics to the comics zone at the Shanghai Kids Book Fair in November, a deal that grew out of meetings at BEA. “Sales have been up every year since the lowest part of the recession” Liang added, “We’re seeing more new customers and our existing customers want to expand.”
While parent company Amazon was getting scrutinized for its battle with Hachette nearly everywhere, its comics imprint Jet City Comics, was announcing its upcoming plans. Initial releases based on George R.R. Martin's books have done well, and the summer’s big release is a graphic adaptation of Hugh Howey’s Wool by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray and drawn by Jimmy Broxton. The book will be digitally serialized in six issues via Kindle Serials, as well as on digital comics marketplace Comixology, Amazon's newest acquisition. The collected print edition will be available in August. SF author Neal Stephenson will also pen his first original graphic work, a steampunk samurai tale called Cimaronin for later in the year. Jet City aims to eventually publish 24-30 titles a year.
The Kindle Worlds program that offers approved fan fiction published for certain properties—among them Vampire Diaries, Gossip Girl and Veronica Mars—has extended the license to comics with a program for Valiant titles. And according to Jet City Comics publicist Justin Golenbock, more comics licenses for Kindle Worlds are possible.
Indie and Euro-Comics
Not surprisingly, Fantagraphics Books, which attends BEA every other year, had a bonanza of impressive titles on display, most prominently The Complete Zap Comix, a two-volume deluxe hardcover boxed set collecting every issue of the revolutionary underground comix series featuring the work of R. Crumb, Spain Rodriquez, Robert Williams and the rest of the Zap Comix crew. Associate publisher Eric Reynolds also singled out new works by Lucy Knisley such as An Age of License, a travelogue that Reynolds said will “likely be our bestselling graphic novel of the last few years.” He also cited Eleanor Davis’s forthcoming collection of short stories, How to Be Happy, coming this summer, and Michael Jordan: Bull on Parade, a new biography of Chicago basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan by Wilfred Santiago (21: The Story of Roberto Clemente), coming in October.
Image Comics, located at the Diamond booth, continues to deal with the success of The Walking Dead, but has expanded it to titles like Saga, Sex Criminals, Black Science, Pretty Deadly, and others. A big push for them this fall will be the relaunch of HowToons by Nick Dragotta, a collected edition of an all-ages series that uses comics to show kids how to build various ecologically friendly devices. It’s part of a push by Image to get more involved in the kids and YA spaces, says Image director of business development Ron Richards. “We’ve had titles like G-Man and Super Dinosaur that are popular but we’re looking to push this more,” he says.
Over at the Boom/Archaia booth, v-p of publishing and marketing Filip Sablik and marketing manager Mel Caylo showed off a new hardcover edition of actress Alyssa Milano’s cyber thriller Hacktivist coming in July, Six-Gun Gorilla, a sci-fi/Western mashup starring a genetically enhanced gorilla gunslinger by Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely, and Peanuts: The Beagle has landed Charlie Brown!, the third volume of Boom’s kids line of original Peanuts graphic novels. And the new Peanuts movie comes in 2015. Consortium, the small press distributor, featured a bunch of publishers with significant comics properties including NoBrow (with impressive fall titles by Jamie Coe, Pierre Christin/Olivier Balez and Dustin Harbin), Arsenal Pulp (Adrian and the Tree of Secrets by Hubert and Marie Caillou, a sweet story of two young boys falling in love), and Fulcrum Publishing, with a series of graphic nonfiction works focused on multicultural history including Joel Gill’s Bass Reeves: Tales of the Talented Tenth, from a forthcoming series of clever black history comics.
One growing trend among US publishers has been the success of French comics. NBM has long occupied this space, and this fall they have several books in the “nouveau” style, including Girl in Dior by Annie Goetzinger, that follows the stylish adventures of a fictional model in 1947; Ettiene Davodeau’s Jude Nude, a follow-up to the well received The Initiates, about an unemployed woman who goes to the shore and finds unexpected experiences; and Beauty, by Hubert and Kerascoet (Miss Don’t Touch Me) a fable about a homely woman who becomes beautiful and learns it isn’t all it's cracked up to be.
Viz and the Manga Market
While Viz Media was not an exhibitor, the manga publisher was represented by its distributor Simon & Schuster and PW spoke with Kevin Hamric, Viz Media’s senior director sales and marketing, at the S&S meeting rooms. According to Hamric, the manga market continues rebound and grow. “We had a strong year, all divisions are up and that includes print and e-books, which are not hurting print sales, and in fact are helping print.”
The manga and anime distributor will publish about 300 titles in 2014 in addition to about 30 titles (including non-manga originals and licenses) coming from Perfect Square, Viz’s children’s imprint. The house is also launching 14 new manga series this year (up from its usual 5 or 6). Viz began selling its English language print manga in India this year (distribution is by S&S U.K.) and the fans “are eating them up,” Hamric said. Viz launched the program with 25 series from Shueisha and expect to increase that number after the program is reviewed in June.
And the house is preparing for a summer season of promotional and release events that include Pop Culture Month in July, as well as the acquisition and re-release of all 200 episodes of the international anime favorite Sailor Moon franchise (including three feature films) in digital for the first time with new dubs, subtitles and a new cast of voice actors. Viz/Perfect Square is showing off Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A 40th Anniversary Tribute, a 40th anniversary hardcover salute to the internationally beloved merchandising phenomenon. The book will be released in October, supported by the first annual Hello Kitty Reading Day on October 25 (in conjunction with Abrams, Penguin, Quirk, SourceBooks, Priddy Books) with activities planned at more than 250 retailers and libraries.
For comics publishers, the rush of BookCon fans spreading throughout the Javits Convention Center was nothing new: they’re veterans of Comic-Cons nationwide, consumer shows that are packed with fans for days. While some were confused by explanations of who would be attending BookCon and often did not bring enough merchandise to sell, for those who did it was a success. “We were sold out of books by 11:30,” said Image’s Richards. “And they knew what they wanted—they knew all our titles and snapped them up.”