Lockdown! The show’s over folks, go home.

Like a carnival tilt-a-whirl that slowly grinds to a stop, the second annual New York Comic Con has come to a close. The exhaustion amongst the exhibitors, professionals, and attendees that I talked to was palpable… maybe they were all just hung over from the Rocketship party last night, that apparently drew 250+ people to the wilds of Brooklyn.

There are more thoughts on the show coming… eventually… but since I was dropping in to check my e-mail anyway I thought it’d be worth posting. It was a pretty good show, with far fewer logistical problems than last year, and a very bright future ahead of it. I’m coming back next year.

– Christopher Butcher

LOCKDOWN! Notes on NYCC Day 2 part 1

sa400060.JPGI just came back from Artist’s Alley (or ‘Artist’s Aerie’ as I saw Heidi describe it this morning, referring to its location on the fourth floor…). Navigating that was exactly like navigating the entire show last year: hot, sweaty, crowded, and the result of exceptionally poor planning. The fourth floor has the gaming tables and the major autograph areas. To get to those areas, you need to walk through one of the three Artist Alley aisles. But, this being Artist’s Alley, some people might want to, you know, stop and talk to the artists at their tables as well. Now, having just described what is supposed to happen, can you tell me if you see any problems with that ‘system’?

It’s a fucking nightmare.

If you are trying to access the autograph or gaming areas, you essentially have to walk half a city block through something akin to the ball-pit at Chuck E. Cheese’s; that lovely mass of humanity akin to a sea of brightly coloured plastic balls—except made of flesh and covered in sweat. And if you’re not trying to get one end of the hall from the other, and maybe talk to people who paid a lot for their tables and would like to see you some books? You are either swept along with the tide, or constantly bumped on all sides by people doing their best to get by you. Hasn’t the person at Reed Expo responsible for this ever read WHY WE BUY? I can only be bumped on the ass from behind so many time before I just give up on standing where I’m standing, and guess what?  I did. I only saw two of the corridors. Sorry if you were up against the left wall, you’re not getting any of my money and it’s not my fault… Maybe Sunday.

So what did I get to see? I saw an artist alley that had almost nothing in common with the kinds of artist events I really enjoy, like SPX or MoCCA or even my own TCAF, which was really disappointing. I didn’t discover anything new either, which is always a little sad. To be fair, a number of artists had individual or group booths on the main convention floor, but I was still kind of surprised at some of the quality of the work available for sale… Not to mention the artist alley tables that were selling t-shirts and toys rather than comics related art. The show really doesn’t seem big enough to turn into an arts-bazaar, and I have to wonder if there was any kind of vetting process or criteria for securing an Artist Alley table.

For the most part, Artist Alley was all about catching up with artists whose work I already enjoyed. I bumped into Raina Telgemeier (Babysitter’s Club), Abby Denson (Tough Love), and Matt Loux (Sidescrollers) on a little break from the ruckus, holed up in a corner. Eric Canete is a personal favourite of mine, and it was good to see him getting back into comics in the artist alley (following his recent run as cover artist on the Image Comics series NYC Mech, he’ll be doing a Marvel project later this year). I picked up a new sketchbook he’s done, which is pretty nice. Brendan Buford had a new volume of his anthology series Syncopated Comics out at his table, and it looks absolutely lovely with some truly excellent production values, and a great array of talent including Jim Campbell (Krachmacher), John Martz (Drawn.ca) and Brendan himself. Expect a full review of that one soon.


Jim Campbell and Brendan Buford show off Syncopated Comics, which is not this washed-out looking in real life. 

Fellow Torontonian Rob Walton is set up at the show, selling copies of the new complete collected edition of his series Ragmop, which is about the dinosaurs and The Pope and the secret conspiracies at the heart of the Universe. You should totally pick that up. And speaking of NYC Mech, I ran into writer and artist duo Ivan Brandon and Andy MacDonald, who’ve had a truly horrifying convention experience that I am not at liberty to discuss… Poor, poor bastards, but gentlemen both.

I also bumped into Mike Huddleston and Jim Mahfood as I scrambled to get out of AA (just like Britney…! Hmm. Maybe that’s too soon…) and it looks like both artists are going to be at TCAF this year, and we’re going to work out some sort of live-art event. Last time out Mahfood rocked some awesome mural art to a live show by Kid Koala… Who knows what might be up this year? Although I would really love to see Koala come back…

Then I was all like “I am so over this shit,” and so I’ve been sitting in “The Blue Lounge” for the last hour typing this up. Transcontinental, the printers who print comics and things and who provided me an open bar on Thursday afternoon evening set up this like quiet, chill lounge area for ‘comics professionals’ to hang out, and since I’ve got three badges on them that all say that I’m a comics professional? You have no idea how nice it is to sit in a quiet blue room and drink free bottled water and listen to music on your lap top. Well, you probably do, that’s not THAT big a deal out in the real world, but it made my convention experience considerably better. Thanks, Transcontinental!

Alright, off to upload this and then I’m gonna tackle the convention floor. Wish me luck.

– Christopher

LOCKDOWN! Reflections on the New York Comic Con Day 1

Outside the convention centre…so the internet in my hotel crapped out last night, which is not very surprising considering 800 people were trying to use it at the same time. Still, I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday’s show and failing that, I decided to give up and go to sleep. I’ve headed to the convention centre to blog (thanks Press Room!) and it looks like things are just as busy this year as last… It looks like Reed is throwing a pretty successful show.

There were roughly as many people attending the panel I was on yesterday morning–“Retailer Merchandising Best Practice”–as there were actually on the panel I was on yesterday morning. Apparently Diamond was giving away a free lunch at the same time, and I think there’s an axiom somewhere about a free lunch fucking with my panel. So. It was nice though, I got a lot out of the suggestions made by my fellow panelists from Lone Star Comics, Rocketship, and Jim Hanley’s Universe, including the opinion that, as far as comics retailing goes, “Being Canadian Sucks”. We just try to make the most of it.

Then: Lunch! Gina Gagliano treated me to a surprisingly edible convention centre pizza, while we caught up on everything. I talked a lot about the upcoming Toronto Comic Arts Festival, she talked about the great books First Second is preparing. :01 Second is debuting their third season at the show, and the books look fantastic. I got a chance to read Tiny Tyrant in the hotel room last night and it’s wonderful, with classic animation-inspired art that I think will really appeal to the animation/illustration fans. Look for those in stores soon. Miriam Katin, the author of the Drawn & Quarterly graphic novel We Are On Our Own dropped by to sit with us, and it was just a nice, quiet moment before the storm. We’re hoping to see Miriam in Toronto again this summer for the festival, as her last event did really well for us and her book continues to pick up steam. It really is a thematic companion to Maus and expertly crafted, and as more librarians and retailers realise this it will hopefully do better and better for the book (which I really enjoyed).

I wandered the hall for a little bit and stopped by the Oni Press booth. I missed the ridiculously well-attending Steven Colbert signing in advance of his upcoming book, but there were still tons of people swinging by picking up free posters and stuff. The Whiteout movie, based on the Oni Graphic Novel by Greg Rucka and Steve Leiber is set to start filming in two weeks, so there’s lots of excitement there, and the buzz surrounding Scott Pilgrim and it’s possible forthcoming film is loud. I mentioned I was on a blogging panel at 2:30 and James sort of laughed and told me it was 2:29. Timeliness isn’t really one of my strong suits.

The blogging panel was fun. I don’t think we uncovered or covered any state secrets or anything, and the majority of the audience was actually made up of bloggers, but since everyone has a blog anyway, i guess that made sense. Heidi’s comment this morning at The Beat (see sidebar) was that as long as Johanna and I are on a panel there’ll never be an awkward silence… Why do you think I got a blog in the first place? I have a lot to say! I met a lot of great people after the panel too, including the afformentioned Brigid from Manga blog, one of the handsome bearded fellows behind the newly launched Comic Mix, the EiC of DramaQueen (who really seems to like me, despite several folks from the organisation who really seem not to), and… geez. I dunno, my memory’s shot and I can’t find any of the business cards. But like everone was someone I wanted to follow-up with, which is very cool. I’ll be busy busier after the show, I guess.

Then: Meetings! All of my friends in the industry know that I’m a blogger, and to be honest I’ve been wearing a Press Badge, rather than a retailer/speaker badge, to remind them of that. So pretty-much every conversation I had yesterday began with “Now, this is off the record, but…” so I can’t really talk about 90% of my day. I’m sorry. I will say that Viz’s TOTALLY AWESOME ANNOUNCEMENT that they’ll be bringing both Uzumaki and Gyo back into print in the new digest format precipitates another, even more awesome announcement down the road. But for the first bit of news, check out Brigid’s Mangablog.

Actually, there is one thing that I can mention. I’ve been reading Jog’s excellent comics reviews for quite some time, and really enjoyed them. Since I was talking to the EiC of Viz, I asked him the burning question that’s been on Jog’s mind for 7 months now: Who chose the stories in the best-of-Golgo 13 that Viz is currently publishing? Jog had thought it was a reprint of the fan’s choice or author’s choice editions that came out in Japan. It turns out, the person selecting the stories is actually Carl Horn! Apparently Horn went through and chose his favourite Golgo stories of all time. (I believe it was) the Japanese Golgo 13 editor was so impressed with Horn’s choices that he actually flew over here to meet him. So, there you go Jog, a mystery solved! 🙂

After all the meetings I made a real effort to actually walk the show floor and see everything. It really is a lot bigger than last year, more than double the space for booths with wider aisles on top of that. There was still a bit of crowding later in the day, after the public had been let in, but since I’m writing this on Saturday Afternoon I can tell you that it’s nothing at all like what’s going on right now. Honestly, if you want to go to see this show, you may as well just skip Saturday altogether as it’s just too uncomfortable to move around. Friday and Sunday are the way to go.

The show floor has a lot of interesting books on it too. I headed over to the SEQUART booth to pick up a copy of their Grant Morrison book for a customer and maybe set up wholesaling so that we could carry it at the store. I was… profoundly… disappointed to learn that their books are all Print On Demand from Lulu. Basically, we can’t sell Print On Demand books, and I know I could sell quite a few copies of a book on Grant Morrison. In talking to the SEQUART rep it basically comes down to a lack of resources on their part, to professionally publish the four books that they’ve produced so far, but it doesn’t seem like it would take that much money or time. If any publishers are reading this, you could do a hell of a lot worse than to talk to these people about getting these books in print for reals, as they’re handsome and well-produced (except for the images, which suffer the limitations of PoD in their graininess).

My only actual purchase yesterday was a Revlotech Optimus Prime figure. I’m not really very proud of this at all. But it’s so cool.

The wonderful Anne Ishi at Vertical hooked me up with a print-edition of To Terra Volume 1, and it looks sensational. She also hooked me up with the news that I’m blurbed all over the back of volume 2, which is actually really nice because now I’ll have something to show my Mom to prove to her that I’m actually doing something with my life… Full review of this one coming soon, btw.

The day ended with a nice dinner with James from Oni, Gina from First Second, the crew of the newly-annouced Comics Bakery (including the lovely and talented Dave Roman and Raina Telegemeier), and a surprise appearance by French cartoonist Bannister, who has contributed to the Flight anthology and whose second French language graphic album has just been released, the lovely les Enfants d’Ailleurs. He gave me a copy! With a sketch! Fantastic.

Heidi MacDonald is blogging here next to me and chuckling to herself every 3 minutes. It’s kind of amazing and disconcerting at the same time. She tells me that the show floor has gotten ridiculous in the 50 minutes since I’ve started writing this. Fuck that, I’m not going anywhere near that. I think I’ll take in panels or something until this all clears out. Actually, I think I’ve been invited to the Stephen King panel? Maybe I’ll go find out if that was true. Thanks to Oni Press for the exhibitor badge that lets me come and go as I please, I’ll try not to abuse it. Much.

– Christopher

LOCKDOWN! Reflections on the New York Comic Con, Day 0

I’m going to be honest here, I spent very little time at the New York Comic Con today. Thursday, Day 0, is realistically for convention set-up, though someone had the very bright idea that since they’re renting the space anyway, they may as well come up with some really good programming for a select group of folks. Actually, that “someone” was apparently ICv2’s Milton Griepp, and thus a group of Direct Market Retailers, Librarians, Press, and Publishing reps converged in a meeting room underneath the setup for the big show to talk about the mechanics of the comics industry.

While this was happening for the first 3 and a half hours, I was: Checking in to my hotel; eating breakfast/lunch; stocking up on supplies; sleeping for an hour. Because of… Buffalo, basically, I haven’t really slept since Wednesday morning and so if I wanted to do anything at my panel appearance this afternoon (other than zombie-moan into the mic) getting myself presentable was of the utmost importance—only time and photographs of the event will tell if I succeeded.

I caught the last 1/3 of the “Manga Censorship” panel, which featured every participant agreeing in the same way about manga being rated to be appropriate, but not be censored, with particular focus on Tokyopop’s new rating system. This was surprising and a little creepy, to see reps from Viz, Tokyopop, and Del Rey all just… agreeing. Luckily, things got awkward when a librarian in the audience asked why they didn’t create a rating system that they could all use, and the answer wound up being a sort of quick, contrite “Because we all think our own way is the best.”

My problem with rating books is more about sales, and how certain books with certain ratings sell better than others. The best selling demographic is T FOR TEEN of course, and anything outside of that (younger or older) has its work cut out for it in trying to find an audience. Except maybe porn, and Oh, Great’s AIR GEAR. Maybe these are the same. But ratings actually become a kind of de facto censorship when it comes to licensing, as only books that fit the target demographic are selected for licensing, and mature and challenging works end up getting a very short shrift.

Unless of course you’re one of the pedants who think it’s only censorship when the government does it, in which case why are you even at this blog? Bad google hit?

us_witch-graphic-novel.jpgFollowing the manga censorship panel was mine, “Buyers Panel—Graphic Novels, the Next Three Years.” I think it went really well. I talked about yaoi and books for children, and I was mean to independent publishers probably? Not mean, but sort of brutally honest and realistic. Essentially, “If you want your books for children to sell, you must be at least this good, and you probably aren’t.” Examples included W.I.T.C.H., KINGDOM HEARTS, and BONE. Actually, it was a lot of fun having so many librarians in the room, because I kind of get the impression from my peers in retailing and the internet as a whole that no one knows that W.I.T.C.H. sells amazingly well. Or even what it is.

The other people on the panel also talked, I believe. Kidding! It was actually a pretty amazing group of panelists, and I was totally outclassed. Seriously, it was me, the guy who runs Lone Star Comics (an eight-store comics chain in Texas), the graphic novel buyer for Baker and Taylor, the graphic novel buyer for Barnes and Noble, and the person in charge of Scholastic’s U.S. school book fairs. Oh, and the VP in charge of purchasing at Diamond… I talked more than any of them though. AND! I had better jokes. Something about Yaoi and children’s comics… It’ll all come out in the transcript, I’m sure.

(A complete list of participants can be found at the ICv2 page at the NYCC site.)

FUN FACT: The guy at Scholastic TALKED ACTUAL NUMBERS. It was so rare to see someone discuss sales numbers that I took notes. They’re… a little terrifying and wonderful. Oh, and just for background for the elderly? A book fair is where a publisher/distributor brings a bunch of books to a school, and lets the kids buy them with their own money at a significant discount.

– Scholastic holds 110,000 book fairs per year, reaching approximately 56 million children per year.

– Scholastic has been offering graphic novels in the book fairs since 2004, where they debuted with a Superman project (Superman made it to fairs before Bone!)

– By his rough estimate, Scholastic has sold more than 4 million graphic novels.

As he said, they may not stock a wide array of graphic novels, but they sure as hell go deep.

Then Transcontinental Printing bought everyone drinks, including a number of delicious blue martinis for me. Calvin Reid got a picture of me drinking that might make it onto PW, so, if you want to see what I look like after I walked 7 blocks in the rain and got tipsy, there’s that.

Aside from the drinking, the after-event social was a good place to mix and mingle with folks from every facet of the comics industry. I met book distributors, buyers, publishers, literary agents, aspiring creators, even a few direct market retailers…  My panel-appearance let me converse with my comics-betters freely, and it was amazing to pick up so many divergent viewpoints on the industry that we have, let alone the future of it. I have to say it left me really excited about the medium AND the industry, and I’ve never had a clearer, better sense that this is going to be an industry that will very soon exist as more than a 500 page monthly catalogue. I have no doubt that Diamond will continue to be a huge industry mover-and-shaker, but it looks like we’ll make it out of PREVIEWS and into the real world sooner than later…

Then John Davis of BOOKAZINE took myself, Chris Powell from Lone Star Comics, and my lovely husband out for delicious Mexican food. BOOKAZINE, btw, is an independent book distributor that specializes in graphic novels. They’re sort of like a smaller, more tightly-focused Baker & Taylor, if that means anything to you. If it doesn’t: The Guacamole was really fresh and flavorful, I totally recommend “Salsa Y Salsa” at 22nd and 7th Ave.

I only saw the sales floor of the show and the set-up from a distance. It’s much bigger than last year, and brighter too. Getting out of the basement was the best thing that coulda happened to them, and despite another huge show going on at the same time (something about design?) NYCC’s presence is felt all over the Javitz Centre.

…and with that, I’m calling it a night. Gotta get up bright and early for the Diamond Retailer Breakfast at 8:30am tomorrow… I’ll take notes as we go, it should be great.

See you tomorrow!

– Christopher

P.S. Here’s a list of songs I haven’t been able to get out of my head since I arrived in New York:

“Second Avenue,” by Spacehog

“New York, New York,” by Frank Sinatra

“Lisa Says,” by The Velvet Underground

I really am going to New York…

I’m about 4 hours away from leaving for New York, trying to pack and triple-check everything. I swear to you I wasn’t trying to leave this stuff until the last minute, but the past two weeks have been a huge time-suck. The event with Mal at the library went fantastically well last night, and the freelance is humming along but I feel I completely fucked up my blog here. Shitty. But… yeah. Anyway. Enough excuses. Let’s have a great time in New York this weekend, eh? Let’s blog up a storm and go to great parties and even see a show on Broadway. Or two.

Let’s get this done and finish the things we started and come out the other side feeling happy, refreshed, and with a few more notches on our belt. Metaphorically speaking of course–I’m a married man.

– Christopher

Real blogging later, but…

Two quick things.

We’re giving out guestlist spots to the Toronto MySpace Black Curtain Screening of 300, which I think is in IMAX, on The Beguiling’s Mailing List right now. Go subscribe in the little box at http://www.beguiling.com. Contest details are being sent out every 4-6 hours until tomorrow at Noon.

2. The Scott Pilgrim @ The Library event tomorrow? They ran the press release in a bunch of Toronto media this morning, which is pretty darned cool. Looks like it’s going to be a fun event. Make sure you show up. Details here.

– Christopher, busy like a bee.

Shipping February 21st, 2007

local-8.jpgHi there folks. These are the comics that are scheduled to ship to The Beguiling Books & Art in Toronto, Canada this week. These books may not show up at all retailers at the same time, but if you see a title here it’s probably at least worth asking your local retailer about…

Here are my top 5 picks for the week, with the rest of the list behind the cut!

SEP062101 CIVIL WAR #7 (OF 7) 2.99
I don’t know if this qualifies as a “pick” considering it’s primarily morbid curiosity that’s got me anticipating this one. My contention, that they can’t wrap this series up in this issue, is now only 5 days away from being proven correct. I mean, sure, the already-solicited ‘epilogue’ issues sort of gave that away a while back, but… heh… yeah. I mean, Infinite Crisis was a bit of a clusterfuck, but I will be absolutely shocked if this doesn’t blow that out of the water in terms of sheer “We’ve so screwed all this up” power. Luckily, there are also really good comics also coming out this week, so this week’s new comics day is not one comprised solely of schandefreude.

NOV063980 DRIFTING CLASSROOM VOL 4 TP (MR) (C: 1-0-0) 9.99
AHHHHHHHHH! NOOOOOOOOOO! I mean, sure, most comics are lettered in ALLCAPS, sort of giving the impression that it’s all screaming, all of the time. But this one really means it. The premise of Drifting Classroom is, essentially, that this is the worst thing that will ever happen to a group of schoolchildren, and they’re all REALLY UPSET ABOUT IT, ALL OF THE TIME!!! Which is a great and totally fair premise, you know? Honestly, if you haven’t read this, just pick it up. It’s completely insane in the best possible way.

MAY063337 LOCAL #8 (OF 12) (MR) 2.99
After an unfortunate extended absence, we’ve got a new issue of Local next week. Issue #6 marked a real turning point for both the lead character and the series, and issue #7 was a “fill-in” of sorts, featuring a different character and perspective. So I’m really curious to see what happens this issue, and where the series goes from here. I also hope that the series ships a bit more regularly through it’s conclusion, although I’m not holding out a lot of hope at this point. 

Monster Vol 7NOV063982 NAOKI URASAWAS MONSTER VOL 7 TP (C: 1-0-0) 9.99
Hey, Monster‘s shipping this week too! Awesome! I think I’m still a volume behind though, I gotta find me some manga reading time. Maybe after I finish reviewing Casanova. Anyway, apparently in this volume Johann does something creepy. It’s exactly what I was hoping for!

DEC060238 SPIRIT #3 2.99
And the third issue of Darwyn Cooke’s Spirit as well, bang on time. That’s awesome. I thought that second issue was absolutely incredible, and beautiful. Not much more to say than that.

Guess I’m just not that wordy this week. Still, some good comics in there and lots of stuff that just squeaked past without a mention, so check out the full list by “reading the rest of this entry…”. See ya soon with my Casanova #4 review, if everything goes according to plan.
Continue reading Shipping February 21st, 2007

Never Safe For Work