Shipping March 14th, 2007

Hi 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… 

A Late Freeze

JAN073653 A LATE FREEZE 6.50
I was lucky enough to have the creator of this book, Danica Novgorodoff, send a copy to the store for me to take a look at. I’m really glad I did too, because this “mini-comic”, a full-colour, full-length dreamlike story, is absolutely excellent. The winner of the “Isotope Award for Excellence in Mini-Comics,” A Late Freeze is all about lost love and family and is really beautifully illustrated and realised. If all of my effusive praise isn’t enough for you to track down a copy for yourself, you can check out some strips from the book online at the author’s website,

The book we were all kind of worried would never be published! This second collection of James Kochalka’s fantastic diary comics weighs in a bit less than the previous collection (Volume 2 collects 2 years of strips to the first volume’s 5-or-so) but I don’t think it’s an exageration to say that this material is his best work. While Kochalka may actively be trying to shine a light on the nature of art and comics in his more formal productions, it’s the small illuminations that dot his sketchbook diaries that really speak work for me.

…if you think retailers ‘under-ordered’ Captain America… Seriously, the only saving grace is that the press on this book has been a slow, consistant build and is unlikely to get the blitz that the ‘death’ did. But I have a feeling that this book will be just as tough to find, in its way.

You know, I actually really like Invincible and am buying this series in Hardcover, more for readability and durability than not, but I don’t actually think the material warrants this sort of collection. It’s fun, pulpy, well-done superhero material, but this kind of retrospective presentation is generally reserved for works that have… you know… stood the test of time. It’s a pretty audacious move at the very least. I probably shouldn’t say anything at all here, and I don’t begrudge the creative team the mortgage payment or two that they’re going to make with this thing, but even Kirby’s work doesn’t get this kind of treatment.

King City VOl 1 TPJAN073850 KING CITY VOL 1 GN (OF 3) (MR) 9.99
A Direct-Market exclusive! You won’t find this one in your Borders or Barnes & Noble. Honestly, it’s because they didn’t think they would sell any of it, but then they’ve got pretty specific ideas about what works and what doesn’t. Let’s try and prove them wrong, shall we?

King City is the new graphic novel series by Brandon Graham, a very talented young artist who’s been floating around the periphery of alternative comics for quite some time. The most easy-to-find collection of his work is Elevator, a bunch of short stories collected into a very handsome little book by Alternative Comics. King City is his first long-form work, and I’m really curious to see how Graham works in this format, let alone within the constraints of Tokyopop’s OEL line (which I’m not foolish enough to get into right now). Publisher’s Weekly put an eight-page preview of the book online, and I gotta say it looks pretty great. Gives me a lot of hope. Graham is a contemporary of Bryan Lee O’Malley and L0cke, as well as a member of the Meathaus group with Farel Dalrymple, Becky Cloonan, and James Jean, amongst others. I guess what I’m getting at is that I Think This Might Be A Very Good Book, cuz it reads well, has a great concept (cat-as-weapon-of-mass-destruction), and has a pedigree, if you will.

Don’t miss out.

I’ve got a bigger post on this, but I just wanted to give props to my buddies at UDON because their new trades look fantastic. They’re on way better paper, and seriously, the books are so much sharper looking than before and twice as thick. The material is not to everyone’s tastes (heh, no, really?) but if you want to see Chun-Li kicking some dudes in the face, it has never looked better.

JUN063096 TIMES OF BOTCHAN VOL 3 GN (OF 10) 19.99
Just a heads-up, really, as if you’re not already reading this story by Jiro Taniguchi about Japan opening it’s bordered to the West at the turn of the last century, you probably won’t start doing so now. You totally should, of course, because it’s surprisingly wonderful and the narrative antithesis of pretty-much anything else on the book shelf, but… yeah.

This right here? This is one of those important manga that you hear about every once in a while. Two short stories about the after-effects of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, years after the blast. I’ve already had the good fortune to read this and it’s absolutely incredible. Look for a review soon, but if you do happen to see it while you’re at the shop this week, pick it up.

And that’s it for this week!

Click on the link below to see the full list: 

Continue reading Shipping March 14th, 2007

PSA: Threadless $10 Spring Broke Sale

Books Are Good For You T-Shirt Design at

Books Are Good For You T-shirt design by Nury Lee at 

Just as we’re all clibming out from Christmas Debts, one of my fav online t-shirt designers Threadless has to go and have a $10 sale. Most of their excellent, democratically produced T-Shirts are now just 10 bucks, which is too good to pass up. I personally wanted a couple which are already sold out, and the sale only lasts until Monday the 12th, so hurry your buns up and visit They even have a handy stock chart that you can search by size, to see what’s available in your preferred fit. Ginchy!

By the way, I’m not affiliated with Threadless or anything, and this is clearly not a comics post. I just like T-Shirts with the slogan “I’m A Noun!” on them is all. And so should you.

– Christopher

Toronto Cartoonist Wins Canadian Urban Leadership Award

Toronto Cartoonist Matthew Blackett is best known around town as Matt B, who (until recently) chronicled life in the T-dot in his weekly comic strip for Eye Magazine, More recently though, he’s become known as the founder of Spacing magazine, and his contributions to city life have just recently been recognized by The Canadian Urban Institute.

Matt B has been awarded an Urban Leadership Award in the “City Soul” category, and while I’m not entirely sure what that actually means, it sounds pretty impressive (particularly when you look at the company he’s keeping). It’s not surprising though, as Matt and Spacing have really changed political discourse in the city, and alongside organisations like The Toronto Public Space Comittee (which he’s also on) they’ve made a positive impact on our day-to-day. All because in his 3-panel comic strips many years ago, he really loved the city he lived in (or at least loved it enough to want to make it better).

Spacing Magazine #8Matt B is also one of the best self-promoters I’ve ever met, and please believe me when I say that’s meant as a compliment. He used to organise these great big launch parties every time he released a new issue of his self-published comic strip collections (you might call them “mini-comics”). Bands would play, money would be raised, comics would be sold, and it would all go back into building his brand, which would then help us as a retailer sell his graphic novel collection. It’s amazing, and a course of action that I wish more… if not every… self publisher or small press would follow themselves. Hell, it’s what we as a store have started doing with our own events (see: the Scott Pilgrim/Dinosaur Comics Launch). Matt also helped us launch the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in 2003, helping to secure the best bit of press we received. (See also: above, right).

So, yeah, I’m really happy to see the work that Matt’s doing recognized, even if it isn’t in cartooning. I think there’s a similar mindset of really wanting to reach people with his message that’s carried through all of his projects, and he certainly worked hard enough for the success he’s achieved. Congrats, sir!

– Christopher

The Difference A Day Makes

Cap ShieldSo two hours after I posted yesterday about Captain America #25, we got our first call. It was, as I’d hoped, an anxious and fumbling thing, not unlike a teenage virgin navigating through coitus for the first time.

“Do you… Captain America, do you have it? Captain America #25? You have it? Do you have enough… I mean, how many do you have? That many? Can I hold… can you put two copies on hold for me? No? Oh, uh, okay, I’ll come down… 11am tomorrow? I’ll come at 11am tomorrow. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay.” *click*

Sort of cute in it’s way, you know? Nice.

What was ugly was this morning, when an older fellow actually used the line “I’m disabled, I need to buy two copies!” after we’d lowered the limit to one per person, to make sure that as many people as wanted a copy could get one. He actually begged to buy a second copy, no shame at all, begging. It was sad. And, as I said, ugly. Uglier still when after he left, one copy purchased, 5 minutes later a teenager came in and said “Do you have Captain America #25? Some old guy wants me to buy one for him.”

So, yeah. Probably 50 phone calls today after a story in the newspaper mentioned that we still had copies in stock and generally the tone has remained Civil, but everyone in the city is, apparently, out. Except us. Still. Yes, we still have copies of Captain America #25 for cover price.

I really have no interest in becoming even more unpopular with my fellow retailers, but I am happy that we ordered correctly on this. I’m happy that our rather larger backorder is, apparently, going to ‘fill’ and so there will be more first printings in the market soon, making anyone paying for a $25 copy of this on e-bay feel like a dork. I hope.

Anyway, yeah. We’ll have copies through the end of the day probably, and all of our regular customers have been taken care of and we got some press out of it. All in all, I’m very happy with how we handled this, even as the internet is set ablaze and I am chastised for my lack of being retarded because it isn’t “Captain Canada” who “passed away”.

15 copies left at cover price…

– Christopher
P.S.: Beware any comic store retailer that has copies of this next week and is selling them for a premium. While comics retailers have no obligation at all to sell a book at cover price a week after it came out AND knowing that there is an ample supply of them, you also have no obligation at all to do any business with them whatsoever.

Captain America

Cap ShieldSo… we haven’t had anyone calling about Captain America #25. No passionate phone calls imploring us to hold them a copy. No “Is it True!?”. I’m almost disappointed, actually, because apparently that’s been happening a lot today everywhere else. What with the news and all. The thing is, we actually have plenty of copies of Captain America #25, and are in no danger whatsoever of selling out. Maybe that’s why we’re not getting those anxious phone calls? We’re not the store that sells out of event books on the first day? We ordered correctly the first time around? I dunno. Sometimes I miss the excitement of that sort of thing, but I guess I just like having the books in stock too.

– Christopher.

COMICS FESTIVAL 2007 – Final Line Up!

Darwyn and Mal's Covers for Comics Festival

Comics Festival Covers. Left by Darwyn Cooke. Right by Bryan Lee O’Malley. 

cf-rich.jpgHey there folks! We just put the finishing touches on the line-up and layout for our contribution to Free Comic Book Day, Comics Festival 2007! I’m so excited that I just wanted to share it with all of you, and give you a sneak peak at some of the material in the book.

All of these creators have contributed BRAND! NEW! comic stories and comic strips to the book, that will only be available in Comics Festival! Also! This book features 16 pages of full colour material! It’s gonna be awesome!

So, here’s the line-up:

Flip Covers by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Darwyn Cooke

ch-dino.jpgJ. Bone, “Jett Vector”
Michael Cho, Brian McLachlan, and Darwyn Cooke, “True Romance”
Darwyn Cooke, “The Alex”
Rob Coughler and Ramon Perez, “Butternutsquash”
Ray Fawkes and Cameron Stewart, “The Apocalipstix”
Eric Kim, “Battle Academy”
Hope Larson, “S is for Salamander, S is for Snow”
Steve Manale, “Superslackers”
John Martz, “The Time Machine”
Jim Munroe and Salgood Sam, “Therefore Repent!”
Ryan North, “Dinosaur Comics!”
Bryan Lee O’Malley, “The Wonderful World of Kim Pine” & “Scott Pilgrim”
Steve Rolston, “Good For Nothing”
Howie Shia, “The Century of Love”
Kean Soo, “Jellaby”
R. Stevens, “Diesel Sweeties”
Zach Worton, “George Washington Carmack”
Doug Wright, “Nipper”
Chip Zdarsky, “Monster Cops”
Jim Zubkavich, “The Makeshift Miracle”

COMICS FESTIVAL 2007! will be available at great comic stores everywhere on Saturday, May 5th, 2007: Free Comic Book Day. If you want copies for you and all of your non-comics-reading friends, make sure to ask your local comic distributor to see if they’ll be carrying copies of the book. Let them know that the order code is:


For more information, visit, and look for the official Comics Festival 2007 website soon.

– Christopher

Jack Chick is spinning in his grave.

as4.jpgNone of us is, sadly, unfamiliar with the many attempts to use comic books to attract the unwitting into organised religion. While the scare-tactics of the Jack T. Chick organisation and the “Chick Tracts” sought to force unbelievers into sacred submission under threat of damnation for all eternity, apparently you really can catch more flies with honey than with threats of never-ending torture. Witness a new kind of religious tract, the really gay one.

A product of the WeHo Church in Los Angeles, Adam & Steve: The Comic Book features the longest conversation I’ve ever seen at closing time at a gay bar. Espescially the longest conversation about Jesus. Apparently the WeHo (“West Hollywood”) Church was “created to be a place for you to celebrate God’s love and make new friends in a safe and non-religious setting.” Huh. That philosophy does extend to the comic, in which one dude trades Jesus for sex. Which is kind of amazing.

Anyway, rather than a comment on religion or… you know… whatever, I just wanted to catalogue this new step on comics’ path into ‘the mainstream’. How nice of the nerd diapsora to worm their way into the irreverant churches of Hollywood. 🙂

– Christopher
(Thanks to Anthony Easton for the heads-up, and I’m sorry I left this thanks off of the initial post.)

Shipping March 7th, 2007

Ex Machina Volume 5 TPHi 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…

Jesus H Christ. I usually try and keep the ‘my picks’ section to just five books because otherwise I won’t get this list up until… well, never, actually. But this is the biggest shipping week in recent history, with a truly shocking number of big books as well. I dunno, I hope you all decide to take out second mortgages before coming into the shop this week. But honestly, there seems to be something for more-or-less everyone on the shipping list and that never happens… So without further ado, here we go.

OCT060255 AUTHORITY #2 2.99
The second issue of Gene Ha and Grant Morrison’s Authority is shipping. I don’t know if I ever told you my theory of this incarnation of The Authority. I didn’t read much on it, but I think the idea here is that they’re in “our” world, a world with no superheroes and badly in need of “fixing”. The first issue with it’s murky “realistic” colour pallette, the shocking appearance of the ‘door’, the complete absence of the title characters, it all points to a very different status quo, and really the only one that I could think of that would work. Let’s see if I’m proven right!

This issue! Something happens but we can’t tell you what! Maybe someone dies! Maybe not! We’ve been letting you down for five years, true believer! Let’s see how far your faith extends.

Continues to be strong. Someone mentioned that this volume seemed a little “off” as compared to the first volume, but Castle Waiting has always been a bit wierd in installments, really only garnering any critical acclaim in its (multiple) collected editions. I do think that Linda Medley is one of the few comics auteurs that you could accuse of “writing for the trade” (or gorgeous prestige hardcover as the case may be), but at the same time I very much feel that without the self-imposed deadline of serialization, this material might not ever materialise at all, which would be the real shame. I certainly hope that whatever format Medley and Fantagraphics decide to collect this new material in, that it’s both compatible in both design and formatting with the first hardcover. Mostly because they’re getting close to the point where we could see a collection, what with that first issue having been better than triple-sized.

Yeah. I dunno. It’s an interesting concept, but then so was Civil War, and look how that turned out. This one shot sort of… explains… the post-Civil War Marvel Universe in a way that was only hinted at at the end of CW #7. To echo Jeff’s comments over at The Savage Critic, I really can’t see Marvel following this through to its natural conclusion as a publisher, and I don’t think Mark Millar in particular is a good enough writer to pull it off either. His idea of satire being “This is the face of me fucking you in the ass.” Er, yeah.

DEC062361 CRIMINAL #5 (MR) 2.99
Meanwhile: This? Awesome! Buy.

Christ almight. Both Marvel AND DC are smart enough to capitalise on that Frank Miller movie coming out, but the company who publishes the book its based on can’t keep it in print. I suppose I could just quit fucking bitching about how stupid this is, but it is honestly shocking and even a little upsetting to me. Dark Horse, where’s the rest of Miller’s catalogue? Martha Washington, Hard Boiled, Rusty & Big Guy… This Is Not Rocket Science.

That first issue was alright, actually. Looking forward to #2, and I appreciate that it’s on time too! I did forget to bring a copy to my dad. Maybe I’ll send him the first two, see what he thinks.

Death Note Vol 10 TPDEC063983 DEATH NOTE VOL 10 TP (C: 1-0-0) 7.99
What, you thought the manga would take a week off? The manga never stops. Here’s something interesting, we do better with Death Note than we do with Naruto. Why? Because Death Note has not only more cross over potential, but actual cross over with our existing customer base. The people buying Naruto buy a lot of other manga, but generally aren’t picking up much in the way of non-Japanese comics. Death Note, on the otherhand, is manga crack, each chapter ending on a ridiculous cliffhanger, leading up to the ridiculous cliffhanger at the end of each book; that’s something that no comics reader can resist.

DEC063437 DISGAEA 2 VOL 1 GN 9.99
This manga has done surprisingly well for us, thanks to it coming out from a smaller publisher (Broccoli) with less distribution amongst comic and book stores, and the fact that the art is just adorable. Broccoli also released an art-book of the series last week that was really pretty too. I have no idea if it reads well at all. 🙂

NBM continues doing God’s own work by releasing brilliant graphic albums from Sfar, Trondheim, et al. If you’re curious, NBM has even put up a preview of the series at their website. This volume features art by Manu Larcenet, whose brilliant Ordinary Victories was also released by NBM a few years back, an unrecognised gem of a book.

I really hope that the market continues to be healthy enough to bear the cost of these reprint projects. Because honestly, I’ve never read almost any of this stuff and I really feel like I ought to.

Readers of this blog may remember about a month’s worth of advertisements for this book on the right side of the screen there, so feel free to assume I’m compromised. I’m not though, because while Tales From The Farm creator Jeff Lemire is a friend of mine and a fellow Torontonian, he’s also crafted a pretty excellent graphic novel here, and I’m glad that Top Shelf agreed and picked it up. Lemire’s really good at pacing and mood, and espescially at setting, and if you check out the preview at his site you’ll see what I mean right away. I’m personally unsure about his figure work, not that I think it’s too rough or anything, but I worry that while appropriate for his stories that it’s also a little… uncommercial I guess? I dunno. People like to look at other attractive people, generally, so I always worry that Jeff’s renderings of awkward and gnarled characters will turn people off before they get to the actual story. If that sort of thing is keeping you on the fence about his work, do me (and yourself) a favour and at least check out the preview, I think it’s the kind of thing that readers of quiet, contemplative, small-town set fiction will really enjoy.

That trade paperback cover is both ridiculous and amazing (see: top). Great reading though, I’m finally caught up on this series and enjoying it a lot. Although this does feature the single most… surprising… full page illustration in a comic from the last 12 months. Enjoy!

SEP062108 FANTASTIC FOUR #543 CW 3.99
This is, I think, an anniversary issue for the Fantastic Four, featuring buckets of guest artists. This issue Paul Pope does a new Human Torch / Spider-Man story, which is always fun, but really I’m only mentioning this at all because I want to show a gorgeous piece of Paul Pope art from the book.

Paul Pope Fantastic Four Drawing

Nice, eh?

Feeble Attempts #1 by Jeffrey BrownJAN073896 JEFFERY BROWNS FEEBLE ATTEMPTS #1 (MR) (C: 0-1-0) 5.00
“Collects some of Jeffrey Brown’s favourite anthology and mini-comics stories,” according to the Top Shelf website. I hope it includes that really good comic he did about Andrew Bird (musician), because despite not really “getting” his music when I first heard it Brown’s story was really compelling, and I want to read it again before settling in with the music. Anyhow, this should be a nice little surprise/bonus for fans of Brown’s work.

This should be a cool little book for manga fans. With fewer and fewer manga being released with translated or re-drawn sound effects, who wouldn’t want to be able to decode their books with a handy guide like this? I also imagine that now that a hand guide to Japanese sound-effects exists, we’ll start seeing a lot more of them in fan and OEL work… Here’s hoping there are no humourous errors in this. I can just see a legion of creators adding in what they think is the sound effect for “crying softly in the rain” and instead using the one for “large boobies bouncing in place”.

(The humour here is in the fact that the Japanese have a sound effect for everything. Just in case the preceeding paragraph made no sense to you.)

Hey, new Jason! Apparently this is a solid, though unspectacular, addition to Jason’s catalogue, but the time I spend reading Jason’s work is just wonderful, and I’m always looking forward to a new release.

JAN070307 MANHUNTER #29 2.99
This has actually been pretty good. Have I said that already? Anyway, this is one of those “read while exhausted” comics I mentioned a while back, primarily so you don’t really need to think about any of the ridiculous implications of the series in a larger, completely broken superhero universe. Instead, you just get to turn off that part of your brain and giggle at Wonder Woman being unable to deal with Hollywood press. I’m glad to hear that the series got picked up for another go-round, Marc Andreyko’s a good writer who really deserves a steady gig (if anybody does).

Fuck, will this week ever end? Anyway, the dude from Army Of Darkness fucks up a bunch of zombie super-heroes with a chainsaw. It Sells Itself.

Finally, it only took 10 years but we’ve got another West Coast Avengers.

DEC063972 NARUTO VOL 13 TP (C: 1-0-0) 7.95
…which isn’t to say that Naruto doesn’t sell phenomenally, amazingly well. It does. A lot.

The long-awaited conclusion! Nifty! I hope that I don’t get too much blow-back from folks who bought the first two “issues” only to see the series conclude in book format. Because… dude… it’s all comics, you know? Anyway, this is a very good thing to even see in print, let alone the quality with which Kyle Baker constructed it. I hope it gets its due, and that Kyle Baker can get nominated in something other than the “humour” category at the Eisner’s for a change.

Shazam 2 - No LogoJAN070316 SHAZAM THE MONSTER SOCIETY OF EVIL #2 (OF 4) 5.99
Quote of the week: “Both signings were crowded, and I think everyone at DC was surprised by the amount of kids that showed up.” That’s Jeff Smith, talking about his signing at the New York Comic Con for the first issue of Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil. I think Tom Spurgeon had something to say about that, but his site is down at the moment. At any rate, yeah, I’m not surprised that DC was surprised, for whatever that’s worth to you.

As to the book itself? Perfect.

Last, and probably least of the books listed, is Uncle Sam. I… I’ve really enjoyed this ridiculous farce of a comic. I think anything with Uncle Sam as a superhero character has to be at least a little over-the-top, and this is that in SPADES. So, yeah, nice art, a crazy story, objectionable characters trying to get their shit together, stupid crazy superhero fun like it should be. I have no idea what’s going to happen with these characters next though.

That’s what I thought! Rest of the list behind the cut:

Continue reading Shipping March 7th, 2007

LOCKDOWN! Reflections on the rest of the New York Comic Con

…so where was I, before we were so rudely interupted.

Saturday afternoon! I missed the Stephen King panel because I didn’t write it on my little piece of paper that tells me when I have to do things and be places. I really need to keep that piece of paper updated. Sorry to Doug who was totally gonna sneak me in, maybe next time! Also, I ended up missing Stephen Colbert, and… anyone else who was famous actually. Nathalie was so disappointed in me when I got back, wanting to “touch someone who touched him” and… yeah. But here’s the thing, lots of people don’t read this blog, they just skim it to see what I’m talking about this week. So I’m gonna fake’m out by bolding the important words and including James Lucas Jones’ Colbert photo from the Oni blog.

Stephen ColbertStephen Colbert is awesome!

Heh, but seriously. Following my little chill-out in the blue room, my day was pretty-much done… or so I thought. I went up to meet my dinner-date, Jana Morishima from Diamond Book Distributors, and she said that dinner was pushed back and we were gonna go see a panel instead. I hadn’t really attended any panels I wasn’t on (heh… that sounds really self-important actually, sorry) and I wanted to hang out with Jana a little bit, so off we went. So let’s talk a little bit about the panel.

Chris Recaps The “Who Reads Graphic Novels” Panel.

Featuring: Marc Weidenbaum, VP Magazines and Editor in Chief of Shonen Jump and Shojo Beat; John Cunningham, Vice President of Marketing, DC; Chris Staros, Publisher, Top Shelf Comics; Mark Siegel, Editorial Director, First Second Books. Moderated by Jon Davis from Bookazine.

The panel started off with the participants introducing themselves, and being familiar (if not friends) with everyone except for DC’s Cunningham, I kind of found him off-putting. I’m aware that I bring my own biases to these panels, and being friends with almost everyone on the panel puts me in a wierd position to comment on the other guy, but yeah, his whole demeanor seemed a little… entitled… I guess. But we’ll get to that, you can see if maybe I’m just a jerk. So, in roughly chronological order:

Weidenbaum commented that the readership of Shonen Jump in North America identified as 30% female, and that most of the fan-art was also from females. In answer to the question posed by the title of the panel, his response was that “Artists read graphic novels.”

Staros agreed by saying that at many conventions (and Top Shelf attends more than 20 per year), a lot of the time artists are reading graphic novels, as the other artists and publishers at the show buy from them all the time, making up for sometimes poor overall sales.

Siegel asserted that “the person who thinks that they’ll never read a graphic novel [is] a good test for the worth of one.” That’s a pretty amazing philsophy, it seems to be working out for them too. That said, I wonder if it’s a smarter move to go where the books are selling or aren’t. At any rate, Siegel sort of segued into this great, inspirational bit about graphic novels: “A critical mass of graphic novels has been reached… these are books that will go on forever.” I think I agree, I think there are just too many great, great books in print for the medium to ever disappear. Which gives us a hell of a lot of ground to revitalise the industry…

Cunningham had a positve look at the year’s Bookscan numbers; he threw out a bunch of figures that I had a bit of trouble following (my bad), but I think he said that graphic novels were the second best selling category last year behind general fiction, and it may have sold more than non fiction? Did anyone get down his numbers, because… no one else has mentioned that. Anyway, that’s kind of insane if that’s the case.

Cunnigham’s assertion was that the industry needed to follow DC’s lead in being general, try to publish material for general audiences and don’t aim for demographics. Sort of that line that “we publish books for readers, not demographics” and the thinking behind the phrase “all-ages”. Let’s say that we have a difference opinion there. I think it’s possible, even healthy and intelligent, to create books for demographics. Like “children”. The idea that something can’t be for kids, or women, or whomever, and that it has to be potentially for every audience, is the prime obsticle facing… well, graphic novels. Make something for kids and make it good enough that everyone else will come to it. Anyway, I guess we disagree.

Back to Siegel, who told the audience that before American Born Chinese‘s multiple award nominations the best-selling books in First Second’s line were actually… Sardine and Sardine 2, which I found really surprising. I like the books, but at the same time they seem very not American? I dunno. I’m glad that they’ve found such success, but I can’t help but think that the dearth of available material for that age group in graphic novel format helps a lot…

Marc Siegel then unveiled his theory of the graphic novel “Perfect Storm” which followed out of his critical mass idea. The idea that multiple ‘storms’ all sort of got together and hit at the same time, that gave graphic novels a boost greater than the sum of their parts. For Marc, those perfect storms were the Media and the increased attention it gave to graphic novels, the Creators and quality of material, and the Publishers stepping up to the plate. Totally makes sense to me.

Cunnigham piped in to say that he thinks there’s a fourth “storm”, that culture in general has become more visual. He also credited the “Nerd Diaspora,” the people who grew up on this material now coming into positions of power in determining what gets covered and how. The people who love the material are now controlling the perception of the material.

Cunningham then also let us know that in 2006, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen sold more than in the previous 4 years combined, illustrating that the market is not only still growing, but that the depths of our backlist are a great deal more valuable than perhaps we think they are.

Staros, who was pretty quiet on the panel as a whole, credited librarians as being largely responsible for his company’s growth, specifically the librarians who were working to stock more teen, and even adult sections in their libraries. He actually described them as “The Borg of Librarians” which is such a wonderfully nerdy reference. Essentially that Librarians are really connected through websites and list servs and things, and once one of them likes something or knows something, that information is rapidly disseminated. Points for Staros! The downside is that every once in a while a little CrossGen gets in the system and… it’s like uploading that virus in ID4… Wait, I crossed my nerd references. Whoops!

Weidenbaum made a really interesting note about the readership on his books, in reference to who doesn’t read graphic novels. Weidenbaum feels that the Shonen Jump audience does have some cross-over with other sorts of comics reading, but he doesn’t think that Shoujo Beat readers read any graphic novels other than manga, that a large part of the audience for that magazine wouldn’t have been participating in the medium at all in 2000.

Cunningham made a pitch for bookstore retailers in particular to devote more shelf space to graphic novels, which is interesting. I honestly don’t think there’s a wider audience for about 75% of what DC publishes (in book format) than the direct market, and I don’t know what stocking The Flash in every store would do for Mr. Cunnigham. He did say something I agreed with, about the problem with stocking graphic novels with a more mass-market appeal. For example, should the upcoming Minx line of girl-oriented young readers graphic novels be racked with the rest of the DC/Vertigo output, or in the young adult section where they might more naturally find their intended audience? The next big huirdle for graphic novels isn’t going to be whether they get stocked (or in what quanitites), but in positioning. Mark my words…

Weidenbaum also made a case for the importance of backlist, noting that for a long time most graphic novel publishers simply didn’t think it was important. They learned that lesson from the book industry, along with the other staples like “memoirs are good and sell well” and “women read more than men”. Took us long enough.

Cunningham more-or-less ended the panel by saying that the books, on average, are better now than they were 15 years ago. I’m still not sure I agree with this, but it was a really positive note to go out on.

That covers more or less everything in the panel, I think? I hope that someone was recording it, there was a lot of interesting… nuance… to the conversation that I can’t really communicate here. Still, I hope you enjoyed the recap!

So following the panel (and some last-minute running around) I went for a very nice dinner with Jana and Kurt Hassler from Yen Press, fresh from Yen’s fall line annoucement. It was a very interesting dinner, with Jana recently having moved from Scholastic to Diamond and Kurt’s considerable experience in book buying and defacto distribution. Plus my own perspective. We had a couple of very good discussions, I think, and I’m really excited to see how Yen Press is going to perform in the next couple of years… they have a lot lined up. Anyway, then after dinner? Drinks! After drinks? Precious, precious sleep.  Heidi was talking on the blogging panel about how exhausted she is after a day of conventioneering, and I felt it at the end of every day. Sure, I called over to Rocketship to see if their party was still going on (it wasn’t; they simply partied too hard and blew out like a candle… in the wind…), but in my heart I knew I wanted the warm embrace of my bed.

Shit, I’m getting old. At least I’m hitting my stride…!

Sunday… I’m gonna be honest here, I just really wanted to sleep. So… I did. I spent the day sleeping until I wasn’t tired anymore, then ambled over to the convention to chat and catch-up with friends and just chill. Afterwards my lovely husband and I joined up with Randy and James from Oni and Gina Gagliano from First Second for a truly wonderful dinner. Served family-style in just…. just stupid proportions. Seriously, head to Carmine’s for a crapload of delicious food if you’re ever in the city. We all tried to talk about something other than comic books, in deference to my husband whom I love, and we almost succeeded for a little while. Luckily Gina reads real books and so we could have excellent conversations about books, which is almost not comics. Almost.

Monday we had lunch and visited Macy’s and I freaked out about deadlines and flew back to Toronto and all’s well that ended well. I’ll be surprised if I’m not back for the 2008 show, I really did have a good time and warmer weather for the projected April 2008 date for the show would be welcome.

Thanks for reading!

– Christopher

Never Safe For Work