“If this is the valley,” Scott McCloud said at a discussion during the 40th annual San Diego Comic-Con International this past weekend, “then we’re doing pretty good.” McCloud was referring to the dip in the economy which was not reflected too severely in the mood or business climate of this year’s event. “Graphic novels are still experiencing a growth period.” McCloud said. While some the publishers and vendors on the manga-side of the graphic novel business scaled down their booths or did not attend, others put on a strong show.

Viz Media maintained their presence as a stronghold in the industry, with advance copies of animation pioneer Hayao Miyazaki’s autobiographical book of essays, Starting Point. Miyazaki attended Comicon to promote his new movie, Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which will open in U.S. theaters this August. Viz also had copies of the Ponyo ani-manga, a book made up of screen grabs from the movie, as well as the Ponyo art book. Viz also hosted their guest of honor, Hiroyuki Takei, creator of Shaman King and the artist for Ultimo, a manga collaboration between Takei and Marvel icon Stan Lee. Both Takei and Lee spoke to attendees during a panel on Ultimo. Viz was also showing off the launch of SigIkki.com, a line of 9 contemporary manga series aimed at older readership in an online magazine-form that will offer free previews and seek feedback from the fans.

Of course, the announcement that Yen Press will publish a graphic novel adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s mega-bestselling Vampire-romance, Twilight, caught everyone's attentionand the Yen Press booth was swamped by Twilighters looking for vampire swag. The book will be adapted by Korean artist Young Kim although no publication date has been set. Yen Press publishing director Kurt Hassler was not giving out any more details on the project but promised more info on the book down the road.

Across from Viz on the convention floor, the Dark Horse booth hummed with energy as creators mingled with fans. The publisher is continuing its CLAMP campaign with an omnibus publishing program in which they will rerelease Chobits, Card Captor Sakura, and Magic Knight Rayearth collections in 800 page omnibus editions. Dark Horse will launch the CLAMP omnibus program in March of 2010 with the first volume of Chobits, and will continue releasing the omnibus editions on a quarterly schedule. The publisher does not yet have a definitive release date for their much anticipated CLAMP project, but has plans to bring over Okimono Kimono, a book of kimono designs by CLAMP artist, Mokona. Dark Horse will also publish a Blade of the Immortal artbook and a three-volume hardcover Final Fantasy box set featuring the artwork of Yoshitaka Amano.

Del Rey Manga announced plans to publish a manga-style graphic novel adaptation of M. Night Shyamalan's forthcoming film The Last Airbender, that will be written by Dave Roman with art by Joon Choi in addition to a prequel to be created by artist Nina Matsumota (Yokaiden), who won an Eisner on Friday night. Del Rey Manga associate publisher Dallas Middaugh showed off cover images of X-Men: Misfits, its manga-style graphic novel coventure with Marvel created by Raina Telgemier and Dave Roman; and fans squealed at images of the“talking bacteria manga ,” Moyashimon by Ishikawa Masayuki; as well as announcing it will now publish the Samurai Deeper Kyo series by Kamijyo Akimine as well as launching the author's Code Breaker series. He also noted that with the addition of many pages of artwork, Shaenon Garrity's CLAMP in America, a 20th anniversary tribute book about the superstar manga collective, has grown from 160 pages to 384 pages and will be released March.

Tokyopop was also at San Diego Comic-con, but these days on a much smaller scale. Having laid off a number of their work force last summer, the publisher had a modest, two-table booth. Publisher Marco Pavia told PWCW that they have found success with their World of Warcraft adaptationswhich he said were sold-out in retailer pre-orders before their release. Pavia said that they’ve also found success with the Starcraft adaptation books. “We’ve been working with retailers like Borders and Barnes and Noble,” Pavia told PWCW, “and we’re focusing on our core list. The retailers are focusing on bestsellers. They’re less open to something questionable. ” Pavia said that TokyoPop will be making some announcements in the coming weeks regarding their film and television plans. The publisher is also continuing with their non-manga color graphic novel line. They will have another book by Chinese artist Benjamin (Orange) out in 2010. Pavia also anticipates more traditional western graphic novels in TokyoPop’s future. “We still have our licenses from (French publisher) Soleil, ” he said, “and we’re looking at higher profile stuff. And we’ve got great licenses from Japan.”

Over at Drawn and Quarterly, publisher Chris Oliveros was on hand to talk with PWCW about gekiga, the “literary” manga genre focused on capturing a gritty sense of reality . On the heels of the success of Tatsumi Yoshihiro's acclaimed manga biography, A Drifting Life, D&Q will publish two more gekiga books this fall, Red Snow by Susumu Katsumata, winner of the Japanese Cartoonists Association Award grand prize in 2006, and the edgy Box Man by contemporary creator Imiri Sakabashira.

“With each passing month we’re discovering more and more gekiga artists, ” Oliveros said. “There’s amazing work out there.” Oliveros compares gekiga to American independent comics. “The themes are similar.” He said. “But it preceded independent comics here [by 30-40 decades]. Here it was [superheroes like]Aquaman.You could see the beginnings of indie comics in the underground comics, but it doesn’t have the subtlety that gekiga has.”

[additional reporting by Calvin Reid]