How Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" Birthed the Marvel Universe, Part 1
I spent some time in May at Book Expo America, the annual trade show for the retail book business, checking out the graphic novel offerings. BEA is light duty for a comics blogger, as graphic novels are a tiny part of the retail book universe, but it’s a good way to get an advance look at the books that publishers are promoting for this summer and fall, as well as what they think will have appeal for mainstream bookstores.
Here are a half-dozen books you’re likely to hear about in the coming months:
Legal | Witnesses testified Wednesday in a preliminary hearing that driver Matthew Pocci honked his horn and drove through the crowd of spectators last year during the annual SDCC ZombieWalk: San Diego, despite attempts by spectators stop him. Pocci, who is deaf, has been charged with felony reckless driving causing serious injury. But Pocci’s fiancee, April Armstrong, said the crowd had mostly passed when he started the car, and that the people surrounding them were frightening: “People then started laughing at us. People were getting close to us. I started to freak out. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I was looking back at my son, he was scared. I told Matt, ‘please let’s go.'” Armstrong also testified, however, she had told a neighbor she felt she couldn’t tell the true story because of her relationship with Pocci. [San Diego Union-Tribune]
Retailing | A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order halting the $21.4 million purchase of retail chain Hastings Entertainment by Joel Weinshanker, president and sole shareholder of Wizkids parent National Entertainment Collectibles Association. The order was granted at the request of two Hastings shareholders who sued to stop the sale, insisting the price paid for the retailer is too low; it will remain in effect until a hearing can be held on June 12. Hastings issued a statement Monday pledging to “vigorously dispute these claims.” Hastings operates a chain of 149 stores that sells books, comics, video games and more. [Amarillo Globe-News, via ICv2]
Retailing | Amazon may be charging full price for Hachette’s graphic novels as part of its continuing contract dispute with the publisher, but Barnes & Noble has leaped into the breach with big discounts and a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on Hachette’s Yen Press manga and Little, Brown’s Tintin books. [ICv2]
Having already conquered book charts with his bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Jeff Kinney is now turning his attention to retailing.
According to The Associated Press, the author announced Friday at Book Expo America that he and his wife plan to convert an abandoned general store in Plainville, Massachusetts, where they live, into a bookstore. The town has a population of 8,264.
A blend of comics and prose, Diary of a Wimpy Kid has sold more than 115 million copies worldwide since its debut in April 2007.
Manga | Hajime Isayama’s Attack on Titan has knocked longtime bestseller One Piece from the top of Japan’s manga charts. Market research firm Oricon reports that Attack on Titan, which has 13 volumes in print, sold 8,342,268 copies in the first half of the year, making it the bestselling series in Japan. One Piece, which has long held that title, sold 4,936,855 copies of 73 volumes, but it did top the charts for single-volume sales, with 2,825,339 copies sold of the latest volume. The numbers cover the period from mid-November to mid-May. [Anime News Network]
Publishing | DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee talks about his history with Batman in advance of DC’s 75th-anniversary celebration for the character. [Asbury Park Press]
Book Expo America is the annual trade show where publishers promote their upcoming books to retailers and librarians. BEA is all about books, but comics and graphic novels are a growing presence. Diamond had a dedicated area, as it has in previous years, several comics publishers had their own booths, and several of the big publishers featured graphic novels alongside their other titles, most notably Hachette, which gave quite a bit of space to Yen Press.
I spent Friday at the show looking at which books the publishers were drawing the most attention to. Here’s a very subjective account of what I saw.
Kid stuff! Children’s and YA graphic novels have been hot for a couple of years, and the news that Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters is getting a 200,000 copy initial print run got a lot of buzz. Of course, the BEA crowd has been on board with her work for a while, and they lined up in droves for her book signing. The same was true of Jeff Kinney, who was signing copies of The Wimpy Kid School Planner at the Abrams booth; the crowd just kept on coming. And the staff at the BOOM! Studios table were hustling as attendees grabbed copies of their Adventure Time and Bravest Warrior collections as well as their third original Peanuts graphic novel, Peanuts: The Beagle Has Landed, which takes Snoopy to the moon.
Conventions | Vulture examines efforts by ReedPOP, producer of New York Comic Con and C2E2, to take a comic con-style approach to Book Expo America with BookCon, billed as “the event where storytelling and pop culture collide.” On Saturday, the final day of the country’s largest publishing trade show, the public is invited (for a $30 admission fee) to interact with authors and publishers, get autographs, attend film panels and even catch a sneak peek at an upcoming release. “You can see the Comic Con logic: Draw in rabid fans across genres and media any way you can,” Vulture’s Boris Kachka writes. “What publishers would like to know is whether they will come for the books — and eventually buy them.” [Vulture]
Awards | Editor Justin Hall won the 2013 Lambda Literary Award for best anthology for his No Straight Lines: Four Decades of Queer Comics, marking the first time a graphic novel has been honored in that category. Now in their 25th year, the Lambda Literary Awards recognize the best in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender literature. “”I’m thrilled that the Lambdas have made such a strong statement recognizing comics as a legitimate literary medium that has told powerful stories of LGBT lives, loves, and identities for the last four decades,” Hall said. “This is a validation of a tremendous amount of work, and of an artistic community that truly deserves its time in the spotlight!” [San Francisco Guardian]
Events | Calvin Reid writes the most comprehensive report yet on the comics scene at last week’s BookExpo America. [Publishers Weekly]
BookExpo America takes place the Javits Center, just like New York Comic Con, but it’s a completely different kind of show. It’s a trade show, not a consumer show, so the folks in the aisles aren’t fans looking for a fix, they are potential customers to be wooed. And what you see there is a pretty reliable guide to what everyone will be talking about in a couple of months.
So if you happened into the little graphic novel enclave at the right time, you might see Gene Luen Yang sitting there, pen in hand, ready to autograph a free Avatar graphic novel for you, or maybe Rep. John Lewis, the civil rights pioneer, sitting next to Andrew Aydin, with ashcans of their graphic novel about Lewis’ life, March, and while you might have to wait a few minutes for your turn, you wouldn’t have to stand on the sort of long lines they might draw at San Diego. The pace is more leisurely than a comic convention — the creators chat as they sign your comics — and the blasting noise of video game and movie displays is blissfully absent.
It’s true there aren’t a lot of comics publishers at BEA, although there are a fair number of book publishers who include comics in their lines. Abrams didn’t send their ComicArts people, but if you consider Diary of a Wimpy Kid to be a comic (I’m always happy to claim that one for our side), then they were well represented, and many attendees had Wimpy Kid stickers on their badges.
Editorial cartoons | The Cartoonists Rights International has given its 2013 Courage in Editorial Cartooning award to Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan, who was arrested in his newspaper office in Hama, Syria, about six months ago and has been held incommunicado since then; reliable sources report that he has been tortured while in prison. Raslan will be tried on Monday in a special court on an array of charges, including insulting the president and incitement to sedition, stemming from his cartoons. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Creators | Meanwhile, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers is donating the prize money from the Thomas Nast Award he recently received to the CRNI. Rogers’ donation will go directly to a cartoonist who’s in hiding for fear of being deported to his home country of Syria. [Cartoonist Rights Network International]
Legal | The Swedish Supreme Court has overturned the 2010 conviction of manga translator Simon Lundström on charges of possessing 39 drawings that violated the country’s child-pornography laws. The court found that while the images are pornographic and do depict minors, they are obviously drawings and cannot be mistake for real children. “The criminalization of possession of the drawings would otherwise exceed what is necessary with regard to the purpose which has led to the restriction on freedom of expression and freedom of information,” the court ruled. [The Local]
Publishing | We noted in late April that Archie Comics appeared to be embracing cultural and political commentary with its upcoming Kevin Keller miniseries, which features Riverdale’s first openly gay character and his father, a retired three-star general. But now the publisher, or at least the character, is going a step further, marching into the middle of the debate over gays and lesbians openly serving in the armed forces by revealing that Kevin aspires to be a journalist, but only after attending the U.S. Military Academy and becoming an Army officer. “Even though we don’t tackle the specific issue of Don’t Ask Don’ Tell, the goal was to show that patriotism knows no specific gender, race or sexual orientation,” cartoonist Dan Parent says. “While it sounds like heavy subject matter, I tried to show it simply that Kevin, like his dad, loves his country. Being gay doesn’t effect that in any way.” [The Associated Press]
Publishing | DC Comics’ line-wide reboot has received extensive coverage by mainstream media outlets, based largely on the original USA Today article or The Associated Press report. But my favorite piece is this one by George Gene Gustines that turns back the clock to 1985 and attempts to explain to The New York Times audience the effects, and problems, of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the publisher’s subsequent attempts to streamline continuity: “… If the goal was to make the DC universe easier to understand, the end result was the opposite: to this day, fans frequently mention ‘pre-Crisis‘ and ‘post-Crisis‘ as a way to distinguish stories. Twenty years later, in the Infinite Crisis limited series, DC tried to clean continuity up again: Superman’s career as Superboy was back; Batman knew who murdered the Waynes; and Wonder Woman was a founder of the Justice League again.” [The New York Times]
Webcomics | Cartoonist Krishna M. Sadasivam has announced he’s ending his popular webcomic The PC Weenies after 13 years. Thursday’s strip will be the last, “at least for some time.” In a post on his website, Sadasivam cites, among other reasons, a desire to focus on illustration, a plateauing audience and, “the biggie,” bills. “We’ve had a few emergency setbacks recently (two huge car repairs, a crazy water bill from hell, etc.) that are putting the squeeze on us financially. Big time,” he writes. “The time I spend on making the comic could be better spent on other income-generating areas, and right now I have to do what’s best for my family.” [PCWeenies.com]
Publishing | Ahead of the official closing of Tokyopop’s publishing division in Los Angeles on Tuesday, two of the company’s lighted metal signs have popped up for sale on Craigslist. [Anime News Network]
Comic-Con | Spurred by a recent newspaper profile that revealed the offices of Comic-Con International aren’t located in San Diego but rather nearby La Mesa, the city’s business license officer did a little research and discovered that convention organizers have been operating in the suburb for five years without a business license. Comic-Con has until June 2 to comply with La mesa city laws by submitting a business license application and the required fees. [Poway Patch]