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July 24, 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 -- I recommend Comic Book Resources and then Newsarama. -- Tom Spurgeon

*****

* CR was told this morning by Drawn and Quarterly Associate Publisher Peggy Burns that the publisher has acquired North American English rights to Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths and NonNonBa by the legendary Shigeru Mizuki. In the press release, Chris Oliveros called Mizuki "one of the greatest living cartoonists" and praised his range as a storyteller. A towering figure in the gekiga movement, Mizuki is nearly 90 years old. Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths is the author and veteran's autobiographically tinged account of a Japanese infantry unit during the closing days of World War 2. NonNonBa is sete in the period of the author's early 1930s childhood, when games of war dominated the Mizuki's neighborhood and dreams of creating his own worlds drove his personal creativity. Mizuki is a widely, internationally published figure -- the cartoonist's life is the subject of a television show -- and the two books fit right in line with D+Q's approach to translating manga.

* that news being said: what a strange, long day.

* I'm still sensing that odd mix of generally casual crowds, nothing ever super-packed on the comics end of the floor but definitely always people around, with sales ahead of what those crowds look like. There are huge exceptions, of course, and my sampling could not be less impressive. One thing that I heard from folks that I managed to corral into such a discussion is that some stuff sold out they didn't expect to sell out -- perennials in some cases, a random piece of merchandise among many such pieces in others.

* just for information's sake, one of the few places I received details on what was selling was the Fantagraphics table: the new Love & Rockets, piles of the new Moto Hagio book, and sell-outs on the second Prison Pit volume and two different shipments of the Blake Bell book about Bill Everett. That Prison Pit book is an awesome-looking thing, with a shiny cover the shiny part of which was I believe suggested to Johnny Ryan by Tim Hensley.

* speaking of Hensley, I spoke briefly to my old employer Gary Groth, whose news of son Conrad attending college next year -- a year early, which is awesome -- was the news of the show that made everyone in the 1990s Seattle scene at CCI feel older than Methuselah. I don't think Gary would mind if I mentioned that we talked at one point about the day to day grind of making comics when he suddenly waxed rhapsodic about a recent period in the office where a bunch of their recently well-received books came through the door, everything from Wally Gropius to the new Cathy Malkasian stand-alone work Temperance (they reprinted her fine Percy Gloom recently). It's always nice to see some recognition of the fact that no matter where you sit in relation to the work, there's an astonishing array of material coming out in a lot of comics' various forms of expression.

* one of the nice people in comics, Peter Birkemoe not only owns iconic North American retail establishment the Beguiling but runs a well-respected original art sales business from the store. At conventions, there's a road version of that business, this amazing pile of folders you can flip through featuring some of the best alternative comics artist going. Birkemoe said that sales were brisk and one solid performer at the show so far was Jeff Lemire, whose fan base he described as significant and enthusiastic.

* I asked representatives from about eight to ten comics organizations or rough equivalents (people on the floor representing themselves in two cases) about the level of interest in media in what they were doing, if they were able to set up interviews and if people were coming to them for stories. Most of them indicated opportunities to arrange supplementary media coverage like interviews, especially if they reached out to people that were going to be on hand, but that most of the media coverage of what they were doing took the form of media walking up to them during show hours. Gina Gagliano of First Second made the great point that it might not always be the goal of a publisher or related comics entity to be covered at such a show -- you might not have anything brand-new you want to talk about, and you might be focusing on the consumer/sales end of the show.

* Chris Staros is writing again. Every third installment will be related to his comics company. You may remember that the Top Shelf co-owner got his start with an annual about comics called The Staros Report.

* had a great discussion with Keith Knight about his recent trip to a school whose black students objected to one of his cartoons. While most of the media -- myself likely concluded -- were castigating the students for being satirically challenged, Knight took the generous view that something sounded suspicious and that there might be a wider context for the complaint that made the misinterpretation more understandable. And through his meetings with various groups and individuals on campus, that's exactly what he found out. The bloggy version of the store is here.

* I have to mention this: Shannon Wheeler has a magnificent beard. It's like someone put it on his face with magnets and a plastic wand. I think light bent around that beard. Wheeler was back in the small press area after taking some time away from CCI, which cost him access to devoted floor space. He said he was having a blast, though.

* watched a really strong run of panels. Moto Hagio was a delight; intelligent and funny, with fans that clearly adored her (there were about 125 total in attendance). She told a great story about wanting to kill off characters when writing for a magazine aimed at elementary school students and having that worked rejected. She finally found a publishing home for that material, about which she declared something along the lines of "And I've been killing people ever since." Carol Tyler was as amazing as you could imagine: hilarious, solicitous of audience members who asked some absolutely heavy questions, somewhat delightfully prickly at times. The thing I liked about her the most is that she seemed to think about every word Gary Groth asked her and tried to answer each one honestly. That's also the first panelist I can remember suggesting to the audience they all go outside and continue their discussion when the panel ended. Saw an inter-generational panel about putting yourself into your comics that was split reasonably evenly by gender and generation. Howard Cruse gave the fullest answers, Gabrielle Bell the most conflicted and Jillian Tamaki the big surprise only because I'd never seen her before -- she seemed smart, she was definitely funny and she gave forceful answers. Stuart and Kathryn Immonen focused on their new Top Shelf at their panels but were happy to answer superhero questions, too. Kathryn suggested more Hellcat in her future, which I don't think was news to anyone other than people like me that may read that material but not follow superhero publishing news super-closely.

* it wasn't until that group of panels were over that I realized I watched like four hours in a row of overlapping panels featuring great female cartoonists and comics makers.

* the Berke Breathed program was packed, one of the big rooms on the traditional end of the center, and it's wonderful to see Mr. Breathed wake up to the fact of just how many comics readers, specifically of a certain generation, really adore Bloom County. It seems like he was pretty defeated at one point regarding his own comics work, and the IDW books and resulting attention have helped counteract those feelings.

* I ended the my panel day with stop-in on the Sean Phillips panel -- who mentioned that if WildStorm had kept its Star Trek franchise when they had it a long time ago, he probably wouldn't have done Sleeper --

* the Eisners were a weird night for me in that CR won its category, which stunned me and for which I'm very grateful. I think I sat there with a shocked look on my face holding the award at just the point the awards program began to sag a tiny bit, so I was the only one at my table and the table next door that thought the program went quickly.

* the big news for me that I'm not sure a bunch of folks caught: that was the first Eisners Eric Reynolds could recall where Fantagraphics was shut out, and he's been going to these things for almost 20 years.

* as for what I remember of the show: Thomas Lennon, Chip Kidd and Peter Bagge were funny; Thomas Jane was odd and funny; big nights for Jill Thompson, David Mazzucchelli, JH Williams III and everything Scott Dunbier edits; the Scott Pilgrim cast looked like "Superman and His Various Tiny Children, All By Mothers Whose Names Begin With L's"; Peggy Burns gave a classy couple of speeches and displayed a touching amount of affection for winner Yoshihiro Tatsumi; there is still something of a reservoir of sadness regarding Dave Stevens' passing a couple of years ago; Tony Millionaire looks imposing as hell in a tuxedo. A significant portion of the audience and the VIPs left early, but that's been the case the last couple of years.

* the highlight of the evening may have been the Chris Claremont/Milo Manara presenting team, about which one can borrow the old joke: "One of them couldn't speak English and the other one was Milo Manara."

* finally, a whiff of publishing news: if I understood a couple of side comments at their table correctly, it seems to me as if Fantagraphics may take another shot at publishing Franquin.

*****

the show runs from July 22nd through July 25th
 
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