Man, New York Comicon came and went and I am frickin beat.
You’d think I’d be used to it now, but as I realized over the weekend, Comicon is like giving birth: frantic and exciting and painful and then it’s done; and you forget the pain – until your back in it again at another con. This is not a great analogy since I’ve only given birth once, and labor lasted four hours for me, but it’s gonna have to do because I’m tired. Comicon is not four hours. Comicon is much longer. Comicon just keeps going.
The exciting news is that the recession didn’t seem to negatively impact attendance this year – and people still seemed to be buying. I stopped by the Midtown Comics booth where David Webster, book buyer, was tearing through empty book boxes with a razor blade and making orderly piles for his staff to clear out. “We’ve already had to restock” the supply, he told me, as people queued patiently for an open register.
Other vendors seemed relatively happy. Disney’s Surrogates movie which is adapted from the Top Shelf book by the same name moved a few copies at the booth. At the Oni booth Joe Nozemack was excitedly handing out shiny Scott Pilgrim The Movie bookmarks that Universal had printed up special for NYCC. Apparently Universal has gotten on board with Scott Pilgrim and is eager to help build the brand. Oh my! This sounded unfamiliar to me – I feel like I hear about movie studios eagerly promoting the movie and publishers hoping that the movie will translate into booksales but a noticeable disconnect between the two. Universals interest in promoting a Scott Pilgrim brand – studios going beyond mere acquisition of movie rights to doing what they can to make a book into a movie into a franchise – is a conscientious move in a new direction. Brave new world? You’ll have to tell me. Likely Mtv’s Splashpage has already run a stream of stories on this.
In the world of manga, Vertical has a new investor and will stay solvent. I had the honor of having dinner and drinks – and then more drinks and a second dinner – and then all we could drink, and smoke, and sing, with Yanni of Vertical who took me, Erin, Ed, and Noah on a tour through New York’s hostess clubs – where the karaoke is free, the chicken is fried to perfection and the smoking is…permitted indoors. Yanni commented on Vertical losing investors and searching for new ones by telling me “This is nothing new.” But what is new is these partnerships between Japanese and American publishers which has begun to broaden itself beyond manga and include fiction as well. Given that Vertical is primarily a publisher of Japanese books, fiction, mystery, and pulp, these agreements have made it tougher to license materials that aren’t manga. New world, new challenges.
The power of brand and affiliation made itself clear with Dark Horse and Del Rey, both of whom are celebrating the Year of CLAMP and rallying their troops behind CLAMP properties. For DH, a lot of excitement (and a noticeable bit of gray hair on certain members of their staff) for CLAMP’s mangettes, the first of which will release in October of this year. Meanwhile, Del Rey has got a whole slew of artbooks featuring art from xxxholic and Tsubasa.
And if it’s not CLAMP, then it must be Viz, because from where I was sitting, if it wasn’t the CLAMP smackdown, it was the Viz smackdown: mangettes vs. Naruto, CLAMP vs. Rumiko Takahashi, Dark Horse seinen vs. Viz josei. Given manga’s 17% drop in sales (as reported at Icv2’s whitepaper panel at the beginning of the convention) is this enough to keep the manga market going? Is now the time where Inio Asano’s What a Wonderful World will get the attention that it needs? Will readers of GANTZ also read PLUTO? (Shameless plug: Urasawa’s PLUTO is out this month, and it is AWESOME.)
In truth, I only had one working day at the con (Sunday I brought my son to meet Jeff Kinney and play mounds of Chaotic at the Chaotic booth) so if ever there was a time when I didn’t have the answers, that would be now.
One thing I do know: that Jeff Kinney book is selling like it’s goin out of style.