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July 22, 2010


Notes From The 2010 CCI Floor

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The following are notes and observations gathered on the floor of Comic-Con International 2010 in San Diego, California. For immediate reactions to what's going on from hundreds of people, I recommend an appropriate search or multiple such searches on Twitter. For mainstream comics and panel coverage in general -- this being a key event for publishing news announcements of the mainstream comics variety -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

* let's start our CCI coverage off with a formal publishing news announcement. Drawn and Quarterly through associate publisher Peggy Burns have informed CR they've acquired rights to a book from cartoonist Mimi Pond called Over Easy, which they describe as "a coming-of-age story of a young artist, set against the backdrop of the burgeoning punk-rock scene and moral disenchantment of the late 1970's in Oakland, California, an environment in which she must sort out the good and the bad in the people she comes to love." Tom Devlin found the book for the company.

imagePond is probably better known for her television work -- The Simpsons, Designing Women, Pee Wee's Playhouse -- and her humor writing generally than she is for her cartooning, but the LA-based Pond is a full-blown, fully-realized cartooning talent. In fact, hardcore comics fans may recall the work that appeared in Best American Comics 2009 before any of her work in other fields. That's where I'd seen the name. Fine print: Paul Bresnick of the Bresnick Agency represented Pond. D+Q acquired worldwide rights which means FSG in the US, Raincoast in Canada and various international rights to be negotiated by their person at TLA.

There's nothing more exciting than news of forthcoming comics of interest, even at a big cross-media show. I'll dig around and see if I can post one or two more such announcements as the show grinds on; if anyone out there at the show or not at the show has such an announcement,

* I stopped by the Abrams booth for a check-up on the Young/Lasky Carter Family book. The folks working the booth say the book has been rescheduled for Fall 2011, and indicate that the song rights situation that delayed its printing from the original ballpark figure of I believe first half of 2010 haven't been all the way resolved -- or at least that's how I took their statement that they won't be publishing the book if the rights situation isn't rectified by then. If I hear anything else about this book, I'll let you know. I'm a huge Dave Lasky fan, and I'd really like to have a bunch of pages of his work under a nice big-publisher cover.

* saw Brian Ralph for the first time since Heroes Con 2008. His toy debuts on the floor of the show today. He was over at the First Second booth and amazingly, he and Gina Gagliano both swear that Ralph is still working on his First Second book and that First Second intends to publish it when it is done. I think without knowing for sure that Ralph's book is the only one from the official publishing line launch announcement that has yet to be released.

* a couple of cartoonists near the First Second booth enthused over a work called Anya's Ghost, from Vera Brosgol at First Second in Spring 2011.

* I think I disappointed Scott McCloud when I informed him that when I said Harvey Pekar looked drawn and inked when everyone else is sketched I was really referring to how he looked to me. It is a useful metaphor for talking about Harvey in a bunch of ways, now that I think of it, but at the time I was just thinking he was a striking guy visually.

* saw Chris Butcher and got to talk a bit. He says that not only do they believe that 2000 people showed up for the Scott Pilgrim midnight book launch festivities in Toronto, but that well over 800 bought a book and went through the line to get it signed.

* I saw Roger Langridge in the Pro Help line, who despite suffering problems with his flight out seemed as cheerful and unflappable as ever.

* talked to the CBLDF's Charles Brownstein on my way away from the lines, and he seemed fired up for the show. The Fund's announcement of an expansion in their educational efforts seems to me a key part of their growth from a wholly reactionary organization to one with a wider mandate and multiple ways to see that take effect in comics. That doesn't mean that every individual initiative will be successful, but it does indicate they'll be moving in that general, expansive direction for some time to come. Their board will be meeting I think this morning, so maybe some extra news will come of that.

* not comics: Kurt Busiek has signed a movie deal for Astro City: not its first apparently, but what sounds like a solidly-structured deal. I met and spoke briefly and casually with the guy who worked on that deal from Kurt's end, Nick Harris. I asked him if Comic-Con was more a place he made deal or a place he maintained relationships and he maybe not surprisingly said both. He cited the simple fact that he has so many clients in the same room as a wonderful advantage to doing what he does.

* the ubiquitous giveaway item of the night was a Burger King-style paper Galactus hat. I can't imagine wanting to see them all weekend, but I suppose we will. They're kind of cute.

* it too me all the way until the next morning to figure out that Marvel's floor display was Odin's throne from the Thor movie. So I guess you can have your picture taken as Odin. If I weren't so tired, I'd manage some sort of joke about poking one's eye out first.

* BOOM! announced a trio of Stan Lee-related projects, building on IDW's use of the pre-CCI time period to get a jump on the PR in the same way that first big box-office movie opening the first weekend in May seems to do pretty well. I like all of the talent involved, and maybe I'm just missing something, but this doesn't seem like a big deal to me. The characters seem as generic as any of the characters that Lee's been involved with in the last decade or so, and while just about any book can be well-executed to the point that's it's worth picking up, I don't see how this is an announcement worth covering until the books in question hit a certain level of quality and are worth talking about that way. At best, it's a clever way for BOOM! to expand its superhero offerings and work with some of those kinds of creators.

* Beguiling owner Peter Birkemoe made an interesting point about his store's successful TCAF show: one of the reasons you have it every year as they plan on doing for the immediate future is because it costs less in time, energy and money to keep the momentum going year to year than restarting it every other year. Makes sense to me.

* Preview Night's buzz book in the art comics set was the astonishing looking Norman Pettingill: Backwoods Humorist, from Fantagraphics. My God, that thing is odd-looking and wonderful.

* Alex Chun -- editor, writer, art collector; he's the one who did that series of slightly risque gag cartoon books with Fantagraphics a few years back -- made an interesting suggestion when we were talking about original art. Chun, who knows a thing or two about art himself, suggests that the current comics art market relies too much on a familiarity via nostalgia that's just not going to communicate once a specific generation dies off. I think I sort of agree with him. Where I'd break with him is that while I think something like a John Romita Spider-Man page might be priced the way it's priced right now because of the nostalgic impulse, but you don't know if his art might come back into favor or if he has a style that might see a renaissance, plus there's always going to be at least some interest in good-looking pages. It's hard to deny that there will be a decline in interest in a lot of art by artist when the original fans cycle out, though -- that's been the case in a lot of collectible art.

* lot of interesting talk about the con itself. I still get the sense that a lot of the comics publishers suffer through Preview Night rather than celebrate it, despite a best face forward. A lot of folks were very easy to talk to at their booths because they had relatively little going on, and for the kind of publisher that isn't doing item exclusives or maybe isn't even set up to try some comics news or product equivalent to an exclusive thing, it's basically another night of a draining show without a huge boost in terms of a unique audience. It was argued a couple of years ago that there are people on the floor Preview Night that are in panels or lines the rest of the weekend, but it doesn't seem to translate into big crowds on the comics end. It's here to stay, of course.

* I've heard three different rumors about different stories being held until after Comic-Con so as not to get crowded out, which is sort of a fascinating notion. Plus the stories could be pretty good if they come off.

* this is what I get for reading that Iron Man Mandarin annual instead of the LA Times on the bus yesterday: their profile of DC Comics includes the notion that they may move to Los Angeles -- which is one of the stories the person I e-mailed last night (upon hearing a rumor in a bar) believes will be announced after Comic-Con and is all but a done deal. That's one of those articles where comics folks are going to rush to get the announcement out -- and as you can see, I'm as guilty as anyone in projecting the possibility of said announcement -- but what's going to be fascinating is how that move would take place. I can't imagine too many people from New York not coming out to LA a) in this economy, b) for the chance to integrate themselves into wider entertainment opportunities just as their company will be doing, but I can also imagine a scenario where certain folks simply aren't invited.

* another tried-and-true con complaint that raised its head again from three different people is that the massive sell-outs favor an audience of obsessives that is not necessarily the audience for comic books, and certainly not art- indy- or alt-comics. The idea being that the kind of person who is able to plan for a show six months out is usually a TV show fan, or a superhero comics fan, and the kind of comics and art whose patrons are a couple of guys sitting in Silverlake who two weekends ago had a conversation along the lines of "Hey, Comic-Con's in a couple of weekends. We should go" are going to be less well-served as the show matures in that direction. I'm sympathetic, although I'm not sure what can be done other than to identify CCI as a certain kind of show with a certain kind of fan and adjust your exhibiting habits accordingly. Some day I'd like to see someone try an off-site comics show that shared rather than simply absconded with the patrons of the operating show, a kind of "if you can't get into comic-con you can see some of the best comics talents here" situation that also honored CCI badges. But I also like it when people drive off cliffs in old movies.

* one thing that irritated the crap out of me personally was the notion that seemed to be floated by a number of folks I talked to and read about enjoying the solicitousness of San Diego's citizens and business people a little bit more than usual -- that we as con goers should somehow extract some measure of satisfaction from the desire San Diego has to keep the show and that we're finally getting our due as a contributor to their culture and economy. This seems slightly ugly to me. San Diego people have always been hugely nice, in my opinion, much nicer as a whole behavior-wise as hosts than the con-goers I've seen over the years have acted as guests. I don't expect anyone who lives and works here to be excited about the exact nature of my visit, although the genuine well-wishes, the ones you imagine don't come from a manager's directive, are always nice. I have no idea what yawning chasm of self-worth exists in the comics community that we're now supposed to take special delight in worried people nervously kissing our ass.

* speaking of things that make people nervous, I'm hearing a lot of rumbling about troubled Direct Market retailers in a bunch of cities. This isn't exactly a stable group of businesses to begin with, and you always hear stories, especially at Comic-Con, but I don't remember this many about this many "name" establishments.

* ran into Michael Dooley, freshly into his new gig doing comics- and illustration-related blogging at Print. He recently attended an illustration show in Pasadena he promised broke down into controversy, so I'm looking forward to catching up with that.

* I think Jordan Crane told me it was okay if I mentioned Fantagraphics is bringing the comic book showcase for his work, Uptight, after the next issue. I love Crane's comics, and one can see them on-line now, but I thought that was a particularly potent package in comic book form. It's just not something that comics structurally encourages right now.

* every day should end with me on a shuttle bus listening to two guys with thick New Jersey accents talking loudly about their extravagant original art and sketchbook purchases. Not every Comic-Con day. Every day.

* finally, something OTBP to go see: I really like Shawn Cheng's artwork and prints; they're very beautiful. He's sharing a table with Tom Neely right around the corner from Drawn and Quarterly: 1630. You should at least go stare at the prints; even if they're largely out of your price range, they're something to see. He has some of the Partyka minis available as well, which should be very affordable and are of definite visual interest as well.

*****

the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th; photo of Mimi Pond by Wayne White
 
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