Robot 6

Graphic novels get their moment in the spotlight at BEA

Jim Zubkavich and Ed Huang sign Skullkickers at the Image booth

I spent Wednesday in New York City at BookExpo America, which bills itself as “the largest book industry event in North America.” It took up a good portion of the Javits Center but was weirdly unlike a comic convention: There were panels and celebrity appearances and autographs, and all the publishers had booths, but they weren’t selling books. They had big stacks of one or two that were being given away for free, and everything else was display copies. It’s a very different vibe from a comic con, because the attendees aren’t so much fans as potential customers — retailers and librarians. Also, there were no costumes, although you could get your picture taken with a life-size inflatable Captain Underpants.

Comics were there, of course. Diamond Book Distributors had a booth, and IDW Publishing, Image, and BOOM! Studios were in the same alley, while NBM/Papercutz, Disney/Marvel and Fantagraphics were on other parts of the floor. Most of the big publishers have a graphic novel line as well, so there were some display copies sitting in the booths. And I was there to take part in the Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012 panel, which was well attended and well received.

The hot graphic novel of the expo was Anomaly, a landscape-format, full-color painted graphic novel with fold-out pages and an augmented-reality feature as well — an app that displays extra features when held over certain pages. It was a book that demanded a demo, and artist Brian Haberlin was there to show off the bells and whistles as well as the beautiful art.

Ben McCool was one of a number of creators who signed their work at the Image booth.

Marvel picture books and early readers were on display at the Disney booth.

And the Fantagraphics area of the W.W. Norton booth had a tempting array of works on display.

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