Monday, February 26, 2007

Chronicle: Book Nerd Among Comics Geeks

Time at last to talk about the big pop culture event of the weekend... New York Comic Con! (What, did you think I meant that awards show?) Your Book Nerd was there, both overwhelmed and underwhelmed by it all, but having a good time nonetheless.

My bookstore had been asked by HarperCollins Publishers to do retail sales at their booth for the Con, so I spent all day Friday and part of Saturday in bookseller mode. I was at first a bit put out to be working when I'd rather be exploring, but it was worth it when I waltzed past the four-block-long line of fans on Saturday morning, flashing my "Exhibitor" badge (the ALP had to wait in line outside for another hour, and it wasn't warm this weekend...) Being on the other side of the booth was interesting -- I can see why my publishing buddies don't look forward to BEA with as much alacrity as my bookselling buddies, since being in the same place answering many of the same questions for 10 hours or more can be a bit exhausting. But it was illuminating, and a prime viewing spot for the craziness of the Con.

We sold a lot of copies of this, Scott McCloud's newest follow-up to his classic Understanding Comics (and props to HarperCollins for having this info on their website, AND linking to multiple options for online buying). But we turned away many more eager to buy this, which doesn't go on sale until April. It's a bridge between the first and second movies, and the first release in a collaborative effort between comics publisher Fox Atomic and HarperCollins, which should bring the trade paperback a wider distribution.

This was one of many evidences that the comics and "traditional book" worlds are getting together. The Random House booth-complex seemed to cover more floor space than that of DC or Marvel, though it wasn't as flashy (literally -- I saw The Flash flexing for photographs at DC, and later jogging, fairly slowly, across the show floor...) Collaborations are bringing traditional comics characters to bookstore audiences, and many publishers large and small are reaching comics readers trained to love good pop art and design by publishing well-produced works of pop culture. I saw standout gorgeous design books at the MacAdam/Cage, Harry Abrams, and Continuum booths -- less about superheroes than graffiti artists, musicians, memoirists, and artists.

But this ain't BEA. This point was driven home sometime on Friday, when a deafening drumbeat drew attention to a raised platform where some costumes I didn't recognize were beating tom toms and then throwing swag down into the audience. A publisher quipped they oughtta try that at Book Expo. The biggest difference, though, was actually the lack of free stuff -- I'm used to the BEA model of lots of industry giveaways, but this show, open to the public, was more about sales. New books as well as vintage comics were all available for purchase, some with show discounts, for any willing fan. I bought myself the sequel to James Kochalka's adorably grungy slice-of-life AMERICAN ELF (talked into it because it also won't be in stores for months).

There were also artists, young and old, famous and forgotten, lined up in Artists' Alley, selling their art and signatures to varying audiences. The ALP got his hands on a signed cover by Luis Dominguez, an artist who drew covers for his favorite former Confederate anti-hero Jonah Hex back in the late 60s, and practically invited the old guy to dinner -- a highlight for both of them, I think. The ALP knew a lot more of the artists than I did from longer experience in the comics world, though I did get to say hi to the boys of Gigantic, who published my recent fave Hellcity and will be coming to the bookstore later in March.

There were lots of familiar faces on hand, actually -- John Mutter of Shelf Awareness, "heroically" navigating the crowded aisles (his write-up of the show today is far more coherent than mine), along with Todd from Thuglit, Carolyn from Bookstream, and Tom from Norton, and I know there were others around that I didn't manage to cross paths with.

All of us book people were walking around with our mouths hanging open and our eyes bulging, taking in the scene of a world where participation in fictional worlds was far more common than we're used to. My favorite, classic Comic Con moment was when I was tearing across the floor, trying to reunite with the ALP, when I was stopped by a cordon of Storm Troopers in full regalia. They were running security for a book signing by Spiderman creator Stan Lee.

I love these clashes of worlds, both real and fantastical. The Con seemed to me really more of a Pop Culture Con than strictly comics, which only meant there was more to love. My only regret is that I missed the signings by Brian K. Vaughan and Mike Mignola, the two heroes I was hoping to hero-worship. But there's always next year.

3 comments:

lady t said...

Glad that Comic Con worked out for you,BN. How was the crowding situation? I went to last year's with my sis and the place was packed to the gills,with no attempt at a decent floor plan.

Book Nerd said...

I should have mentioned that issue, Lady T -- the show had twice the floor space it was allotted last year, so it was much less chaotically crowded... though I heard that the response was so huge that it will be twice as big again next year!

Anonymous said...

hi. i work in inklings bookshop in yakima, susan is my mother. i was google-snooping 'inklings' and 'yakima' and i found your blog. i can't find what you wrote about inklings, though, can you tell me if you remember where it is in your archives?
also.... if you are shouting her out on your blog (yay independent booksellers!) would you mind shouting out inklings on your links to other independent booksellers?

thanks, and let me know if you can tell me more about your experience w/ susan and inklings.
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