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March 24, 2011

Feature Story: News from C2E2 2011


While attendees loved the pleasantly uncrowded atmosphere of the first C2E2, which took place last year, that extra elbow room translated into fewer sales for exhibitors. Whether because of that or because of the economy, the publishers' section of the exhibit floor seemed less sparsely populated this year, although Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Archaia, and Diamond Comics Distributors all had large booths. By the end of the weekend, though, most people were smiling. The show drew 34,000 attendees, according to Publishers Weekly, and they were all ready to buy some comics.


"We brought too many books, and we are about sold out," said Brian Hurtt, cocreator of The Sixth Gun, on Sunday afternoon, the third and final day of the show. Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich also reported selling all 100 copies he brought of that book; colorist Misty Coats, who was local, got some more copies and they sold those as well, he said. And Gail Simone Tweeted from the floor: "C2E2 is crazy. I have never signed so many books at one con and the readers are the best, so enthusiastic and kind. Love these people!"
The bright red carpet in the entrance and exhibit areas set a cheerful tone for the show, and con-goers seemed to be in a good mood. The focus was squarely on comics, with the larger comics booths dominating the center of the exhibit floor and less of the sound-and-light distractions that come with the larger shows. There were only a handful of screenings and non-movie events; instead, attendees lined up to meet artists like Dan Parent (Archie), Art Baltazar (Tiny Titans), Cliff Chiang (Greendale), and David Petersen (Mouse Guard). Featured guests included Brian M. Bendis, who announced that this would be his last con for a while, Garth Ennis, and Matt Fraction.
Comic relief was provided by Fables writer Bill Willingham, who lost a bet to DC Entertainment copublisher Dan DiDio and had to serve as DiDio's butler for the day. Willingham played the role to the hilt, resplendent in suit, white tie, and white gloves, bearing a silver platter specially engraved to commemorate the occasion.
There were only a few new book announcements during the show, but they were significant. Oni Press announced it would be publishing One Soul, by Ray Fawkes, a complex graphic novel that follows the lives of 18 people, all living in different times and places, simultaneously from birth to death. Each double-page spread contains 18 panels, and each panel is a moment in a character's life, with each character always occupying the same position on the page. So, for instance, the reader can go through the book reading just the panels in the top left-hand corner of each page to get the full narrative of a single character. "The book is full of patterns and parallels and links between the characters' lives, these characters who never meet," Fawkes said at the Oni Press panel.
Archaia Entertainment announced A Tale of Sand, based on an unpublished feature film script by Muppets creator Jim Henson. "The script was shelved in the late '60s," said Archaia PR and marketing manager Mel Caylo. "Our editor-in-chief Steve Christie thought it would be a great graphic novel, and Jim's daughter Lisa Henson has given it her full blessing." The story is from Henson's pre-Muppets days and is not a children's title but a more philosophical story about a young man who wakes up one day in a desert town and is handed a knapsack and told "Run!" Caylo said the story, which will be illustrated in black and white by Ramon Perez, will be appropriate for teens.

Digital comics were a big part of the show. Webcomics artists handed out sample strips, sold print editions, and did sketches in the bustling Webcomics Pavilion.  At the Dark Horse booth, Director of Public Relations Jeremy Atkins demonstrated the beta version of the Dark Horse iPad app, which arranges the comics by title and story arc and allows readers to buy them through the iTunes store or on the web via Dark Horse's own digital storefront. ComiXology CEO David Steinberger announced that he has submitted a children's comics iPad app to Apple for approval. The State of the Comicsphere panel discussion revolved in large part around whether digital comics would cut into sales in comics shops (the pessimistic scenario) or replace now-shuttered bookstores as a place where casual readers can encounter comics for the first time (the optimistic scenario). Back in Artist Alley, Steve Ellis, the artist for the direct-to-digital comic Box 13 (available only through comiXology) seemed to think that the latter would be the case. "Lots of our readers are not conventional comics readers," he said. "It's a different fanbase. I have friends who haven't read comics in years who are reading Box 13."