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July 26, 2010

Thursday Report from Comic-Con


I’m late to file this because of all the fun yesterday. Thursday, the official beginning of San Diego Comic-Con, kicked off in wild fashion, with the expected throngs of people crowding the floor. The record crowd this year has led the convention to create a shuttle bus route from Mission Valley to the convention center, and there were reports of overcrowding leading to problems on preview night. Hopefully those problems have been fixed and everyone can enjoy a great convention.
For me, Thursday kicked off with an amazing Jeff Smith panel. Smith’s Rasl series has some new product coming soon, including a new single issue, a Pocket Edition, and the second oversized collection. Everyone I know is aware that Rasl is one of my favorite current series, an amazing mesh of sci-fi, conspiracy thriller, and drama. It’s a 180-degree turn from the epic Bone, which Smith also discussed. Last year, Smith unveiled plans for two new Bone projects, Bone: Tall Tales and Bone: Quest for the Spark, a prose work that he today revealed is not quite finished yet but will be soon. It’s not a sequel, but it complements the story. Smith read from Tall Tales, which was delightful. Next year is the 20th anniversary of Bone, which was first published in July of 1991, and Smith’s website is taking suggestions from readers and fans on how to best mark the occasion.
Next up was the Irredeemable/Incorruptible panel hosted by writer and Boom! exec Mark Waid and artist Peter Krause. Again, these are two more of my favorite current series, and when Mark and Peter discussed their multiple Eisner Award nominations, I was really happy for them. The panel was a hit with fans (so was the model portraying Jailbait), and their casual banter was a lot of fun, especially when they revealed some of the behind-the-scenes discussions that went into creating the series. Waid’s comment about how he frequently plots without knowing what the outcome or resolution will be was really telling (“I like plotting myself into a corner,” he said. “If I don’t know, you can’t guess. And that way, we’ll both be surprised.”) Krause had an inspirational story about getting hired to do the series after posting a page of unrelated art on Boom!’s website forum. Let that be a lesson to you—if you’re interested in breaking into comics, you’ve got to take advantage of the ways publishers are interacting with readers.
Next up: Oni Press! They’ve got a massive lineup of exciting books, including the incredibly fun Mondo Urbana, the Rashida Jones-created Frenemy of the State (described as Legally Blonde meets Alias), Past Lies, Super Pro K.O., and The Sixth Gun. It was a great panel, hugely informative and full of excitement.
From there, it was on to Top Shelf’s Manga for Grown-Ups panel, an exploration of their new Ax anthology collection. Ax is a Japanese import of a manga series that’s been published since 1998, and the first Top Shelf volume will include several of the best stories over the past 12 years. Editor Sean Michael Wilson and manga historian Ryan Holmberg (aided and moderated by the great Leigh Walton, Top Shelf’s marketing guru) walked the audience through an interesting and entertaining manga history lesson. Since Ax is the culmination of several pivotal manga styles—including heta-uma (literally “good-bad,” meaning crass pictures and stories that are done for effect), gekiga (“dramatic pictures,” meaning more mature work), and komaga (panel art style)—the lessons were much appreciated. Top Shelf also used the panel to announce the English translation of Cigarette Girl, a gekiga-style manga by Masahiko Matsumoto. It’ll be coming out in 2011, the first time it’s ever been published in English.


Later I dropped by to see James Sturm’s spotlight. Sturm is the founder of The Center for Cartoon Studies and the creator of many comics works as well as Adventures in Cartooning. The panel kicked off with Sturm receiving a well-deserved Inkpot award for excellence in cartooning. The retrospective of Sturm’s career was a lot of fun.
One of the first library panels was presented on Thursday as well. Graphic Novels 101 was a strong collection of enthused and learned librarians presenting their knowledge on how to start, build, and defend a graphic novel collection in local libraries. I’m hosting a library panel on Saturday, and this first one was an excellent starting discussion of the importance of graphic novels and manga in libraries.
The day finished with two wonderful parties: the Del Rey/Random House party at Jolt n’ Joe’s downtown and the always bombastic Boom! party at the Hilton Bay Front, where I got a chance to talk briefly to both Mark Waid and the also-Eisner-nominated Tony Parker (the artist of the excellent Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).
I hope to have today’s news up much sooner. Check back in soon!