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

June 1, 2009

Sounds Like BEA Did Okay In 2009

Comics aren't central to the Book Expo America, but they are a significant category and a lot of publishers attend and use that time well. We're far past the stage -- only six, seven years ago -- when the success of comics was a strange and exciting thing for a lot of book industry people: a swell of sales with a core strength derived from manga, an occasional notable feature-article generating hit point title from top-end superhero comics or the better manga series or even art-comics, and a backdrop of enthused industry folk wanting to marry the two markets for various reasons. But it's still a good category in a down market and my initial e-mails out indicate that a lot of people found the show useful. Heidi MacDonald attended and the show's organizer Lance Fensterman shot a lot of informal video. has a more general wrap-up. So does Daily Cross Hatch, maybe a bit less formally done.

The best thing I've read this morning from e-mail or in articles is Eric Reynolds' interview through that Heidi MacDonald link. The Fantagraphics mainstay does the dialogue about the major publishing trade show a huge service in pointing out that his company makes use of their time there making contacts and getting feedback, and that a shift to a higher-publicity convention that takes its lesson from Comic-Con really doesn't serve what they do there at all. With so much of a show like that being about the quality of the business done there, I wish more coverage reflected that, or at least explored that notion. Instead, we hear a lot about things like attendance. Frankly, I have no idea how to read attendance figures on this thing. It seems to me a lot of what goes into attendance depends on who the show is trying to attract and why. That includes overt efforts such as one mentioned though the link about making it harder for unpublished authors to attend, wild cards like the fact that more and more people may qualify as media in these decentralized times (I'd bet without knowing any gains in media aren't coming from traditional sources sending more people in for hardcore team coverage), and more subtle changes such as the fact you're not going to get as many bibliophiles traveling to the show to scoop up freebies when many of those freebies are e-freebies. But I do think there's something to be said that while a publisher can find the show useful, the absence of so many publishers indicates that many don't think of it as vital. In comics terms, nobody doubts that Fantagraphics and Diamond had good shows, but nobody sees it as anything close to a blow or disadvantage that Drawn and Quarterly wasn't there at all.

By the way, it was nice that one of the buzz books of the show was a comics memoir, and while I'm sure people accepted this without shock or amazement I think it's worth noting that what was likely the initial instigator of that buzz, this review, kind of plays that "it's so good it's not really a graphic novel" card. I hadn't seen that one in a while.
posted 8:10 am PST | Permalink

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