All Ages

Friday, June 11, 2004

Book Expo America

Better late than never eh?

In response to my friend Chris Butcher's rant
on the lack of coverage of Book Expo in Chicago two weekend's ago from the big comic news sites (Pulse, Newsarama, etc.), I've decided to step up to the plate and give you my perspective on the show. And it's a pretty important show considering the amount of attention that graphic novels have been getting in the bookstore market and in the media these days.

Graphic novels definitely had the most buzz throughout the show with big presence from VIZ, DIAMOND DISTRIBUTING and DC COMICS in the Graphic Novel pavilion, which to be honest wasn't really a "pavilion" but just a row or two at the show. I guess pavilion just sounds more important.

TOKYOPOP was clearly the leader with their display in the CDS megabooth towards the main entrance -- huge amount of visibility. On top of that they offered giant shopping bags with the TOKYOPOP logo on it for everyone to drag their freebies around in. These bags were everywhere at the show. Even more exposure for Tokyopop came from their REVOLUTION logo on the cover of ICV2's Retailers Guide to Selling Graphic Novels, which was hailed as THE book you needed as a bookstore buyer if you were getting into the graphic novel market.

FANTAGRAPHICS had a small booth in CDS mostly pushing the new Peanuts books.

SLAVE LABOR GRAPHICS had a great booth as well right across from DC giving them good exposure. I finally met editor Jennifer de Guzman after a year of reading her blog. I asked her for a copy of their newest all ages graphic novel, Emily and the Intergalactic Lemonade Stand. Watch for a review of it here soon.

The guys from REED GRAPHICA were really great as well. What drew me to the booth was a mocked-up cover for a collected edition of Jon Pham's EPOXY, which is some of the most exciting comics you'll read today. Pham is definitely going places.

Booksellers seemed very enthusiastic about graphic novels and were voraciously picking up all the swag that these publishers were giving out. It's definitely an interesting time for the medium, but of course I have some concerns. I really hope that buyers will take the time to get to know what's out there instead of letting smart sales people dictate what their stores should be selling. Without being informed, I'm afraid that buyers will just take whatever they're shown -- titles that may not be right for their store or their main buying market. The books will sit on the shelves, they won't sell and buyers won't be willing to try anything new in the future.

A quick anecdote that relates to this: I was cruising the kids section in Chapters a few months ago and was happy to see that they were shelving manga there -- mostly TOKYOPOP's Cine-manga line and a few VIZ titles. Although I was pretty surprised to find a copy of Gravitation, one of TOKYOPOP's shojo-ai (gay manga for girls) staring me on the shelf. I have no problem, obviously, with gay-related comics, but this is the kind of thing that could cause an uproar -- the book is mis-shelved, a parent buys it for their 8-year old son, happens to flip through it, complains to the bookstore, the bookstore stops selling ALL manga. These rash, grand sweeping decisions happen all the time and with this being a very sensitive time for graphic novels and manga, booksellers have to make sure to tread lightly and make informed decisions.

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