Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

June 11, 2008

Jeff Smith In Response To Monday's Anonymous Report on the GN/Comics Authors Panel Breakfast at BEA

Letter Received From Jeff Smith Tuesday Afternoon:

I'm writing in response to an anonymous write up of the BEA Graphic Novel Author's Breakfast that you posted on June 9. It led you to say at its conclusion: "There has to be more going on in comics in the book world this many years in than a progression from 'Hey, they like us!' to 'Hooray, they still like us!' If anyone at the show could tell me what that is, I'd love to run it here."

Well, I attended two panels (including the one I moderated), did two signings and I didn't experience anyone with that kind of naivete. Everyone was quite busy doing the business of selling comics. Diamond now has a booth that takes up a full row (as opposed to the single 8x8 booth they had back when I first attended in 1995, and it was constantly buzzing with representatives of bookstores, publishers and cartoonists. Deals were being struck. Quite the opposite of a bunch of rubes glowing at the big dance, everyone I spoke to was focused on the future, either in terms of meeting deadlines and demands, to what rights to relinquish, and of course the internet. And I'm sure there were panels dedicated to specific industry issues -- graphic novel panels were scheduled all through the weekend.

imageBack to the anonymous write up of the Graphic Novel Authors Breakfast.

I found the highly dismissive attitude very sad.

The idea that people were bored, leaving and being replaced by new people who were also so bored that they had to leave just doesn't ring true. If someone got up to leave, (which may have happened, it was a big room and people were moving around), no one wandered in to take their place. The room was sold out. And from my view on the panel, the room was packed from start to finish. We even went over our time limit and people stayed in huge numbers afterward to have their books signed.

This wasn't a summit meeting or even a panel designed to focus on a topic. It was a BEA breakfast designed to let people visit with authors. I didn't choose the panelists, nor did I ask to moderate it, but given the artists we had, and their vastly different styles and areas of expertise, I'm pretty pleased with the result.

If your anonymous person who covers the industry thought he was going to hear Art Spiegelman and Jeph Loeb discuss the importance of manga vs. graphic novels in bookstores, I'm sure he or she was disappointed when our panelists instead explained to an audience used to prose why they chose comics as their art form.

I enjoyed Art's spirited speech about cross cutting and other visual innovations that came from comics, but because of its benefit for the audience, not for the panelists.

Please, you think Mike Mignola and I need a lesson in comics history? Who the fuck are you?

I spoke with literally hundreds of attendees during the course of the day and this account was much more like what happened and how it was received.

Make no mistake, the breakfast was a resounding success, not just because it sold out, but because it succeeded in exciting many, many new people about what comics are, where they came from, and who these people are that are driven to make them.

Jeff Smith


Bonus: Lance Fensterman of BEA and NYCC Writes In With Answer to Other Part of Same Post, Where I Asked How BEA Gets Booked Years In Advance While NYCC Gets Booked a Year or So at a Time

We are wrangling with the Javits Center on dates for NYCC and have been since the show's inception. Why we have dates for BEA booked 10 years out is the fact that by convention center standards (I am far from endorsing these standards!) BEA is a more attractive show in that it is all trade which they believe means more hotel nights and more big-ticket parties. Convention centers prefer trade events to public events as they see them as better for the local economy. Again, I don't subscribe to this logic and in fact have been fighting it hard with Javits.

Also to keep in mind is that BEA is over 100 years old, moves cities (thus giving us more options to keep our historical dates) and is 4 times the size of NYCC, all these factors make it easier to book the event out 10 years. However, we will get to that point with NYCC, that day is coming and we are working extremely hard to get a permanent home on the calendar for NYCC.

Lance Fensterman


Conclusion: I need to start phoning people before I write articles.

You probably already knew this.

posted 4:20 pm PST | Permalink

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