This year’s New York Comic Con will kick off next week at the Javits Center on Wednesday, October 10, with the ICv2 Conference on Comics and Digital II, a gathering of top executives in the comics and pop culture industries. The conference will feature ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp’s annual White Paper on comics and graphic novel sales along with a slate of panels that will examine the current state of comics publishing, the impact of technology on it and broad trends in the overall pop culture marketplace.
Organized by the pop culture trade news site ICv2.com and cosponsored by Publishers Weekly, this year’s ICv2 Conference on Comics and Digital II is a one-day comics and pop culture symposium, held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ICv2 organized symposiums generally attract 200 or so of the top executives in comics publishing and related industries, and in a phone conversation, Griepp said registration for the event was “good” and that he expected the “usual” level of attendance. The conference is a separate ticket ($199) from New York Comic Con, and there are discounts ($99) available for creators, retailers, librarians, and educators.
Griepp also said that his much anticipated annual White Paper on the comics marketplace, will outline the overall strength and good news coming from the comics shops market, which is reporting increased sales for periodicals and book format comics. However, he said, “while the strength in the comics shop market is well known, the surprise is the weakness in the bookstore market. The numbers are tough because of the Borders liquidation, and the trends in the bookstore market are daunting--its tough to replace 600 stores.” But he added that are “some bright spots, particularly in kids’ comics.”
Panels include Kids: The Future of Everything, on the growth in kids’ comics publishing featuring Carol Burrell, editorial director of Lerner Graphic Universe, Francois Mouly, Toon Books publisher, Jim Salicrup, editor-in-chief of Papercutz, and Ed Masessa of Scholastic Book Fairs. Griepp noted that Mouly will speak on the growth of comics aimed at “very young kids,” and he also singled out the growth of foreign licensing of kids’ comics at Lerner, and kids’ comics publisher Papercutz, “which gets incredible numbers” on licensed comics properties like Geronimo Stilton and Lego/Ninjago comics. Griepp also pointed to Scholastic book fairs which puts on more than 120,000 book fairs a year; this should be the most exciting panel, its all about creating new comics readers at an early age. Publishing for young kids is a huge opportunity.”
Other panels include Comics—The New Medium, a look at how digital technology is changing, “what we think is a comic book,” Griepp said. Moderated by Publishers Weekly’s graphic novel reviews editor, Heidi MacDonald, the panel features Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, a principal in Madefire, a new interactive digital comics publishing venture; John Roberts, cofounder of industry leading digital comics vendor Comixology, and Hank Kanalz, senior v-p of digital at DC Entertainment. In addition, the panel Comics—Transforming the Business Model, will include Marvel president and publisher Dan Buckley, Viz Media executive v-p Alvin Lu, and Iverse CEO Michael Murphy, among others, talking about “two trends,” Griepp said, “the growth of digital: Comixology sold more than $70 million in new dollars this year—that’s pretty incredible—and transmedia, the use of comics in other media, is bigger than ever.”
There’s also a “Fireside” conversation between Chris Harwick, founder of Nerdist Industries, and Fred Seibert, founder of animation house Frederator Studios, producer of the popular Adventure Time cartoon show, also on the rise of Transmedia licensing and the convergence of related pop culture media. Griepp even pointed to another sign of change: the cocktail party that traditionally ends the conference will be cosponsored this year by Samsung and Nerdist Industries, “in years past we’ve always been sponsored by a printing company, now we’ve got Samsung, a digital sponsor. It’s a sign of change.”
“I’ve been in this business for 40 years and I’ve seen a lot,” Griepp said, “but what’s happening now is the most radical change I’ve ever seen. There are fundamental changes that go to the core of what a comic book is and how you make money on them. It’s a really exciting time.”