As Brigid reported earlier, day two of NY Comic-Con was sold out, which meant big crowds and boisterous audiences at every panel I attended. This year’s crowd looked a little different than previous years’; though there were the usual assortment of thirty-something tights-and-capes fans and sci-fi aficionados, I noticed more families, more librarians, and more teens in attendance. Even if these teens aren’t spending their allowances on manga—ICv2 reported a 17% drop in manga sales in 2008—they’re still showing their love for the medium by dressing up as their favorite characters. Naruto and Bleach cosplayers were as ubiquitous as ever, while legions of Haruhi Suzumiya wannabes made a striking impression on the show floor. More interesting still was the sheer diversity of cosplayers, demonstrating that manga’s appeal extends across gender, class, and racial lines, at least among the under-twenty set.
I attended two industry panels in the morning: Del Rey Manga and Yen Press. I came away from both sessions with the distinct impression that manga publishers big and small were scaling back the number of new series they license, while looking for ways to extend the sales life of popular franchises. Del Rey, for example, announced that it would be publishing Genshinken: Return of the Otaku and Kitchen Princess: Search for Angel Cake, two novels based on best-selling manga properties, while Yen Press elicited whoops of joy at the announcement it had acquired the Spice and Wolf manga. (Yen Press has already licensed the novels on which the manga is based.)
Del Rey’s 2009 line-up also includes King of RPGs, an original manga series from Jason Thompson, author of Manga: The Complete Guide; Night Head Genesis, a sci-fi series by Gorgeous Carat artist You Higuri; Four-Eyed Prince, a romantic comedy about a seemingly shy boy who moonlights as a nightclub host; and Only One Wish, a one-volume fantasy from Mia Ikumi, creator of Tokyo Mew-Mew. Most of the panel was devoted to promoting Del Rey’s forthcoming X-Men manga, a joint venture with Marvel Comics announced in December 2007. The two series—Wolverine: Prodigal Son and X-Men: Misfits—are designed to appeal to shonen and shojo fans while respecting their characters’ rich and complex histories. (Fun fact: Tim Gunn was the inspiration for the shojo-fied version of Magneto that appears in X-Men: Misfits.) Look for the first volume of Wolverine: Prodigal Son in April and the first volume of X-Men: Misfits in May; expect fan controversy to begin shortly thereafter!
Yen Press embraced a more international approach to licensing; of the five new series announced on Saturday, two come from Korea. Yen’s 2009 line-up will include Raiders, an action-adventure series with an archaeological twist; Laon, a story about a nine-tailed fox demon who loses his powers; The Crescent Moon Story, a romantic drama; and the later volumes of all-ages title Yotsuba&!, formerly published by ADV Manga. (See Brigid’s post for further details; this is very big news!) Also coming in 2009 are the first volumes of Yen’s original manga series Maximum Ride, a graphic novelization of James Patterson’s best-selling series, and Nightschool, a supernatural adventure from Dramacon creator Svetlana Chmakova.
In between the Del Rey and Yen Press panels, I sat in on "Graphica: An Untapped Resource for Media Literacy Education." Led by educator Peter Gutierrez, the panel was designed to show teachers and librarians how to lead young children to a greater awareness about the messages encoded in advertising, TV shows, movies, magazine covers, etc. Gutierrez advocated using comics as a jumping off point for a greater discussion about how and why such messages are produced—a rather subversive subject for a comics trade show, though a welcome one. Like the previous day’s panel “Teaching Comics,” the emphasis was on teaching comics as a medium, rather than teaching comics as an alternative form of literature. I’ll post more detailed summaries of both panels shortly, as they deserve a fuller treatment than a quick news update can provide.