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BEA 2012: Live, Semi-Live, and Post-Mortem Blogging (Wednesday)

Thanks for stopping by. Live-blogging can be found below, with older sessions toward the bottom of the page. Today, by the way, the theme is graphic novels.

The Hottest Graphic Novels of 2012! (Rm. 1E16, 12:30)

Moderator: John Hogan (Editorial Director) GraphicNovelReporter.com

Panelists:

Emily Pullen (Bookseller) Skylight Books

Josh Christie of iFanboy and… (Bookseller) Sherman’s Books and Stationery

Heidi MacDonald (Writer/Editor)

Brigid Alverson (Writer/Editor) Good Comics for Kids

Karen Green (Librarian) Columbia University

The nice thing about this panel is that there’s a handout for the entire PowerPoint. Here are the titles (which includes two for which yours truly developed the Teaching Guides):

Abelard: Karen Green loves this one, probably her favorite. “Made me think of a Chaplin film with its melancholy sweetness.” “The language gets a little rough…”

Are You My Mother?: Josh feels this really shows Bechdel’s “growth as a creator.”

The Beginning of the American Fall: Emily is “drawn to hybrid things” and this is an informative and compelling one, largely because it’s nuanced.

Blacksad: A Silent Hell: This is Josh’s favorite of his picks. Loves the color and the noir story.

Blue: Karen feels this is a wonderful allegory about xenophobia. Includes a “marvelous essay about comics history.”

Building Stories: Heidi says, “You’ve never seen Chris Ware like this before…” She admires the array of formats included. “An amazing work by an amazing cartoonist.”

Cardboard: very appealing to Emily because the theme of cardboard boxes resonates with anyone who works with books… I personally love TenNapel, and this looks great. Have not read it yet.

Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes: Heidi says that this pairs well with Are You My Mother? because of their common themes. Sounds like an interesting connection to lit via James Joyce. Brigid concurs with Heidi’s endorsement of this book.

Drama: Brigid states that this book kind of represents an advance on Smile in some says. “Really does Smile one better.”

Economix: Heidi says this helped her finally get economics. I happen to agree with her enthusiasm for this book. Heidi: “A very good example of how comics are being used to educate.”

Everything We Miss: from a small English press that does wonderful printing and design. Heidi also recommends the author’s previous work. A terrific “contemplative comic… very poetic.”

Geronimo Stilton Saves the Olympics: Brigid recommends even though it’s not “super literary.” She finds the comics version of the character more accessible than the chapter books, which can be confusing because of their narrative structure.

The Graphic Canon, Vol. 1: Josh and Karen both really like this first volume of a three volume series. One should know that the “canon” here is the literary one, not the comics canon (e.g., Maus). “The art is gorgeous,” says Josh. Karen adds that she was “dubious” at first but when she looked at it she saw that it was “sumptuous.”

Little White Duck: Brigid says that this is ostensibly a children’s book but will be highly interesting to adults; a “kind of look from the inside” of China.

Marbles: Heidi says that this memoir “takes you to Ground Zero” of living with bipolar disorder. “But it isn’t a grim slog… and she’s such a good cartoonist.”

My Friend Dahmer:  Karen loved this, saying that it proves that comics can uniquely tell certain stories: you wouldn’t want to watch a movie of this and yet prose couldn’t really convey the narrative.

Not the Israel My Parents Promised Me: Emily really likes this, especially how it weaves past and present. She also says the artwork is “amazing” because it fits each time period discussed.

Saga: Josh is thrilled that Brian K. Vaughan is back writing comics; only a few issues into this title, it’s already clearly something special in terms of its space opera genre.

Sailor Twain: Emily finds this stunning… but not for kids, “fyi.”

Sakuran: Blossoms Wild: Brigid champions this, including its decorative quality. Recalls Memoirs of a Geisha, but more “down and dirty.” Heidi chimes in, saying the author’s work is really special.

Saucer Country: Brigid was “so pulled in by the first two issues” that she has to recommend despite not having read the full story yet.

The Secret of the Stone Frog: Karen feels that she’s not an expert on kids’ books but appreciated how this took her out of her “comfort zone.” She invokes things like Little Nemo, Alice in Wonderland, and Miyazaki in describing it.

Tune: Vanishing Point: Karen loves the portrayal of life in a Korean family… and, well, “it’s a great YA book.”

The Underwater Welder: Josh says that so many of the panelists liked this book that they had to fight a bit over who got to discuss it.

A Wrinkle in Time: Emily says, “I’m often skeptical of prose adapted into comics” but this one is “very much in the artful realm.” Also, there’s a real “sense of integrity involved in the project.”

The Year of the Beasts: another hybrid title that Emily really likes; the fact that Nate Powell sticks to art (not writing) is a plus for her. She’s worried this might be overlooked by librarians and booksellers not sure how to shelve/classify it.

Honorable Mentions

Alice in the Country of Hearts

American Elf, Book 4

The Art of Daniel Clowes

Batman: Death by Design

Batman: Earth One

The Best of Enemies

The Coldest City

Crogan’s Loyalty

Gloriana

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln

Jiu Jiu, Vol 1

Kiki de Montparnasse

The Lovely Horrible Stuff

Maya Makes a Mess

Philosophy: A Discovery in Comics

Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score

Sumo

Today is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life

Trinity

A Trip to the Bottom of the World with Mouse

Wizzywig

In conclusion, a fast, info-packed session with insightful and knowledgeable panelists. Really gets anyone in attendance excited about the state of graphic novels these days. Oh, and the handout should be available at GraphicNovelReporter.Com

Meet 2012 Graphic Novel Authors (Uptown Stage, 11:00)

[Wi-Fi is spotty at best up here on show floor, so please pardon the inconsistency of what follows. Thanks for your patience.]

After 11:00 but things are only now starting with Ms. Brown giving the publishing history of each panelist. All have new books coming out in the coming months and the titles are listed after their names. First question: what drew you to comics (no pun intended)? Second: advantages of color vs. black-and-white? Third: what is your creative process like in terms of organizing narrative and planning the storytelling? Fourth: what is it like to work with a publisher, and where are comics/GN’s going as an industry?

Moderator: Jenny Brown, Children’s Editor at Shelf Awareness (she’s clearly new to comics, though)

Zack Giallongo, Broxo. Has always has an interest in writing and drawing, and “putting them together.” Also stresses importance of having total control. Influences: Jeff Smith, Wendy Pini, Jim Henson, Disney, and Heavy Metal magazine. Got accustomed to black-and-white because started with self-publishing, where cost of color is prohibitive. Now has moved to color because he can, and uses a colorist because it’s a time issue for him. Creative process with panel layout: “whatever feels right” — can’t really describe. Re working with a publisher, loves that his editor “draws a paycheck” — that is, is a professional who is held accountable.

Mark Siegel, Sailor Twain. Made first comic when 5 — the size of a postage stamp. Grew up in France and so influenced by that tradition: Moebius, Hugo Pratt, etc. Chose to work with charcoal because it fit the time period and visual elements such as “steam” and “steel.” With Sailor, scripted an entire draft… but it was full of doodles. Did pencils just enough to provide what was needed at that stage because he wanted to retain spontaneity and freshness even when things went to ink/charcoal stage. On publishing: “I believe in editors.” **Neat point: the anti-editor mentality in comics comes from the DC/Marvel model where often they were concerned with controlling a brand — that’s different from true editing. *Another neat observation: these days are actually more interesting in terms of graphic novels because all of the “hype” from a few years ago has died down and now everyone can focus on the really good work that’s being done.

Raina Telgemeier, Drama. First inspired by newspaper comic strips, then discovered she wasn’t “great at writing punch lines” at age 11 or 12. Had always worked in black-and-white but Scholastic suggested color for Smile because of appeal to kids… “and they were right.” Writes in thumbnails. “Really hard to describe the process.” Love that Scholastic can get her work into kids’ hands in a way she never could as a self-publisher.

Noah Van Sciver, The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln. Chose black-and-white because it created right mood and atmosphere, plus is well-suited to topic of Lincoln. Like Raina, writes in thumbnails. Says process is intuitive. The future of comics? — “I have no idea.”

Bottom line: this panel was surprisingly bland and uninformative given the talent and success of the creators on the stage; perhaps it should have been framed as an “introduction” to graphic novels.

Hosting Great Graphic Novel Events (Rm. 1E04, 9:30)

Mark Siegel, founder of First Second, is moderator. Nice mix of librarians and booksellers here. Mark says that we’re in a “Renaissance” period of comics and graphic novels, and fortunately many of the creators are well-spoken and “charismatic.”

Chris Butcher, of Toronto’s The Beguiling and Little Island, a store featuring graphic novels for kids and the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. Had 50+ events in the stores and hundreds at the fest last year. The Beguiling is set up to welcome customers who wander in from other bookstores and arts-oriented retailers in the neighborhood… so comics themselves are mostly on the second floor. Then, toward the back of the store is more esoteric fare such as “French language” graphic novels and “naughty art books.” Kids stuff is then curated for the kids-only store. But what to do with teen GN’s? — that’s the challenge they have now. He wonders if they should build a third store. With events, he points out that some publishers frown upon the authors doing signings without getting publicist/marketing participation (or at least permission). However, don’t rely solely on platforms such as Facebook because if things change there you’re in trouble — build your own network of press and other contacts that you can use beyond someone else’s structure/system. Events that worked: “an old-school Marvel party” featuring Hostess fruit pies (as on the back page of old comics!), which he had to drive to Rochester to buy since they’re apparently banned in Canada. “People were… unsettled by that.” Great, creative stuff…

Jenn Northington of Brooklyn’s WORD. “New York is full of artists, so it’s easy to do events.” A format that’s great for them, for kids’ GNs: call the events “Comics Workshop” with a slideshow, a drawing exercise (with easel), etc. Kids then get to draw a character from the book with the creator. Very cool. Now she’s explaining how the store recently moved the adult GN’s to a new location; the kids and teen GN’s are shelved with children’s books and chapter books and YA books (“right next to The Hunger Games“). She also mentions that they “try not to step on the toes” of the really great graphic novel stores that are nearby since WORD is a general bookstore. With author events it’s important to note that stores can’t always count on local friends of the author to show up. Instead, as with Thor below, it’s best to hand out info to customers (e.g., a calendar of upcoming events). She also says that befriending local bloggers is a key strategy. Local weeklies work as well. The point is to cultivate relationships. But… you don’t have to issue a press release for every event. You can combine them so that they’re short and punchy, and she lists the publisher’s publicity contact so press can follow up for interviews, etc., without having to go through her. Another strategy: have book talks that focus on graphic novels in a general way so that people see your store’s staff as a resource to understand the topic, which in many cases they’re intrigued by but don’t fully understand yet. Events that worked: Craig Thompson appearance last year… but faced a challenge because of space and demand. So the store made it a ticketed event and included middle east snacks to fit the themes of Habibi. “Don’t be afraid to go smaller for events” to make them successful… in other words, the tickets made the event smaller but more fun and intimate… and they still sold 50 copies of the book.

Marisela Santiago of Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ (my hometown). Ran a terrific event with George O’Connor and The Olympians series (which we’ve covered on this blog), and got the full support of teachers and librarians so that school visits and curriculum got integrated into the store event. Nice…! Anyway, like Jenn, she says the store integrates the graphic titles into the same shelf space as picture books, chapter books, etc. The store has found that this makes sense and works with customers. What I really like about what she’s saying is that she keeps referencing the literacy benefits of graphic novels, and how the parents and local teachers are involved in the conversation. She now works with 35 school librarians. Again, I’m impressed. She started by cold-calling schools, and now she does a monthly event calendar that librarians then link to. Note, though, that schools block mass emails, so you can’t notify teachers/librarians that way, through their school email addresses. Posting book trailers to the store’s FB page also seems to generate excitement. Most of all, though: authors need to post events on their own sites because this gets word out to their fan base.

Theme that is emerging:  you can’t really have author read-alouds as with prose books. Better to project content and have audience/kids read aloud.

Thor Parker of Midtown Comics does not gear events to kids but older teens and adults. What works: helping customers understand how comics are made–how long does each page take, what does the editor do, etc.? Funny: he says the three stores don’t curate because they pretty much “carry everything that comes out.” For publicity, they hand out flyers for events to every single customer. Plus FB and Twitter have really helped; also running ads on Facebook seems to help. And of course working with publishers really helps although he says that they’re really “spoiled” because they’re in New York. Emphasizing that press lists and press releases are an absolute must. Chris concurs. As a nice change of pace, Thor points out that you don’t need an author/creator to be present to have a successful event: fans love to talk to each other. Simply set up a weekly event at a regular time and make readers aware of what newish titles will be covered. Events that worked: Scott Pilgrim dress-up and midnight release party; a mini-Comic-Con for people who couldn’t make it to the real Comic-Con in San Diego.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this list for those of us that can’t be there.