New York Comic Con, which will run from Oct. 3-6 at the Javits Center, kicked off the 2019 show at another venue, the New York Public Library, offering a full day of programming aimed at librarians and teachers; and with a flurry of announcements that include the launch of Surely Books, a new LGBTQ graphic novel imprint, to be launched at Abrams ComicArts under the direction of acclaimed comics writer Mariko Tamaki.
Tamaki, coauthor (with her cousin Jillian Tamaki) of the graphic novel This One Summer, and most recently, the YA graphic novels Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me (First Second) with artist Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, and Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass (DC) with artist Steven Pugh, gave the closing keynote speech at NYPL @ NYCC, a day of programming held at NYPL. Answering questions after her keynote, Tamaki said she will oversee the titles released by Surely Books, which will be “LGBTQ stories written by LGBTQ writers.”
Surely Books will publish three to four books a year, including fiction and nonfiction and will release its first titles in 2021. Surely Books’ inaugural list will feature a graphic biography of suspense writer Patricia Highsmith by Grace Ellis; an account of the openly gay Revolutionary War hero general Baron von Steuben by Josh Trujillo and Levi Hastings; and a work of fiction about a group of friends and a surprising secret by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre.
“I am excited to have this opportunity to take on a new role in the creative process, to learn more with the writers and artists I’m working with, to find new ways to support queer creators and queer stories, and new voices in our community,” Tamaki said.
Tamaki’s closing keynote was part of an event organized by the NYPL’s Shauntee Burns and Emily Drew (with support from the ALA’s Graphic Novel and Comics Roundtable and the Black Comics Collective), that featured eight channels of panels including an introductory presentation on Random House Graphics, PRH’s new young readers graphic novel imprint, under the direction of publishing director Gina Gagliano, formerly with First Second Books. The RHG panel showcased its staff and its initial list of four titles: Witchlight, a queer fantasy by Jessi Zaborsky, The Runaway Princess by Johan Troianowksy, the story of adventure-obsessed princess, Bug Boys, a story of friendship by Laura knetzger, and Aster and the Accidental Magic, the story of a young girl discovering a new world by Thom Pico and artist Karensac.
And if there was an overriding theme to the day's programming, it would have to be the importance of supporting new and diverse creators—in particular from the black, Latinx and LBGTQ community—as well as offering comics that will appeal to a new generation of young comics readers. The Black Comics Collective, a nonprofit that organizes events in support of African-American comics, hosted the panel It’s Not Easy Being Teen, with self-published comics creators Michiline Hess (Malice in Overland), Riley Wilson (Little Apple), and Grey Anderson-Elysee (Is’Nana: The Were-Spider).
In other first-day NYCC announcements, Lion Forge said that Magnetic Press, an indie publisher specializing in Eurocomics in English translation, will return to some form of independent operations under Polarity, a holding company launched in the wake of the merger/acquisition of Lion Forge and Oni Press, that controls the combined firm’s publishing assets. Magnetic Press was founded by Mike Kennedy and was acquired by Lion Forge in 2016. The status of MP and its publisher were unclear in the aftermath of the merger/acquisition, although questions still remain about its status. Nevertheless Magnetic Press announced plans to release at least seven titles in 2020 with more likely to be announced shortly.
In addition, Lion Forge founder David Steward II announced plans to donate $100,000 to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, to create the Forge Fund, a special fund to support direct market comics shops and their employees during times of hardship. The fund will feature an additional donation of 5% of the proceeds from select Lion Forge titles—beginning with writer Gail Simone’s new Catalyst Prime superhero series Seven Days—that will also go into the fund.
And certainly one of the best attended Javits Center panels on Thursday was Gangsters, Lovers, Heroes, Warriors and Gods: Jack Kirby’s Women, a wide ranging discussion of the work of legendary superhero artist/writer Jack Kirby. Indeed this was the first panel ever devoted to a discussion of the host of female characters created by Kirby and it featured a panel of women comics and pop culture professionals that included moderator Elana Lavin from the Graphic Policy blog, cosplay organizer Jay Justice, comics artist Adrianna Melo, and GameSpot editor Meg Downey. Panelist Heidi MacDonald, editor-in-chief of comics news blog The Beat and cohost of PW’s More to Come comics podcast, told the enthusiastic audience: “I’ve never heard women talk about Kirby’s work like this, because it’s never been done before.”