BookExpo America: Graphic Novel Buzz

Sat, June 2nd, 2007 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Scott Meaney, Contributing Writer

The Book Expo of America is clearly not our territory. Amidst the thousands of novels, memoirs and dictionaries packed into New York City's Javits Center, actual comic books were few and far between. Fortunately, we were not totally forgotten. Friday at 2:30, the most important panel of the show went down: Graphic Novel Buzz.

Hosted by Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly, it was an interesting discussion about the upcoming products from some of the industry titans.

The guests:

Karen Berger, Executive Editor of Vertigo and MINX.

Chris Warner, Dark Horse

Chris Oliveros, Drawn and Quarterly

Beth Kawasaki, Viz Media

Kurt Hassler, Yen Press

Mike Kiley, Tokyopop

MINX/Vertigo: Huge Announcement

Karen Berger began with a discussion of her innovative MINX line of comics. MINX is targeted at an oft forgotten market, at least when it comes to comics: Girls. MINX is hoping to eliminate the stigma comic books seem to have among girls by providing stimulating entertainment that young women can relate to.

While there was a great deal of Manga discussion, Ms. Berger announced an important new project from Vertigo. Following in Marvel's footsteps with Stephen King's "Dark Tower" comic series, Vertigo is picking the brain of their own novelist. Announced for the very first time at the Book Expo, they are working with renowned thriller author Peter Straub, to create a new book called "Green Woman." Co-writing the book will be Michael Easton.

According to Berger, "Green Woman" will be an intensely psychological horror story. Taking you into the disturbed world of a serial killer, "Green Woman" follows both the murderer and the police detective bent on tracking him down. "We're totally thrilled to be able to work with Peter on this," Berger said. "We just signed the deal now, so the book won't be out till later."

Another upcoming dark Vertigo title is "Aaron and Ahmed" by acclaimed novelist Jay Cantor ("Krazy Kat"), about a man who lost his wife in 9/11. Overwhelmed with questions, he travels to Guantanamo Bay in search of anyone who may have had something to do with her death. "All I'll say about it is that it starts at a training center in Iraq and ends in Times Square. It's very powerful stuff.," said Berger.

While there were no other major announcements, Berger went down the list of some of Vertigo's upcoming releases. There's "Silverfish" by David Lapham, a modern Hitchcockian thriller about a teen girl's strange life and the killer who's after her. It should be out in two weeks.

"Sentences" is a memoir of rapper MF Grimm. Throughout his fascinating life, he's spent time in jail and was even gunned down and paralyzed. However, this isn't your usual tale of glorified violence. He was able to lift himself up and help a lot of people. "Sentences" is a story of hope that everyone will be interested in.

"Cairo" by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker takes Vertigo in a different direction. It follows the lives of five different people in the city of Cairo who are all somehow connected. "It's very Babel -esque," Berger remarked.

A collection of Rick Veitch's "Army@Love" will be out in October. Set five years in the future, it's about American soldiers fighting a war in a fictional country in the Middle East.

After rattling off all of these amazing new products, Berger described Vertigo's rocketing success in one simple line:

"It all started with 'Sandman' and 'Preacher.'"

Dark Horse

Chris Warner gave low down on Dark Horse's upcoming manga titles. One of the most popular is sure to be "Ghost in the Shell 1.5." Just what it sounds like, this new series of stories will take place between the original and its sequel. Warner explained that "1.5" is designed to be more inviting to readers new to the series.

"It's a little less convoluted than some of the 'Ghost In The Shell' stuff."

Dark Horse will soon finish their 'Old Boy' series, as well. Based on the Korean revenge film, it's sure to be rocketing towards an exciting close. If it's anything like the movie, the final twist is sure to be absolutely insane.

To coincide with the release of the second "Aliens Vs. Predator" film, Dark Horse will put most of the older material into an omnibus collection.Warner said, "It includes a lot of work that's never been collected before."

Speaking of movies, "Hellboy" also has a sequel coming soon. To celebrate, Dark Horse will publish a "Hellboy Companion" and a new book using an art style inspired by the popular animated movie.

"Buffy The Vampire Slayer" continues with new stories that would have been season 8 of the television show. They are also collecting the older "Buffy issues."

There's also the upcoming "Penny Arcade: Birds Are Weird," the fourth collection of the wildly popular online comic.

Drawn and Quarterly

Chris Oliveros from Drawn and Quarterly ran down some of their upcoming titles during the panel. Rutu Modan's "Exit Wounds" is an Israeli graphic novel about a boy who thinks his father was killed in a suicide bombing.

Next May, Lynda Barry, the famous American comic strip artist, will produce a book for Drawn and Quarterly about being a cartoonist. They'll also publish "Gentleman Jim," a comic that has never been printed in North America. One last addition to their line is "Shortcomings," a comic from Adrian Tomine, the creator of the hugely popular "Optic Nerve" series.

Viz Media

The other speakers obviously focused more on the manga side of things. Beth Kawasaki was the speaker for Viz Media. They have announced plans for further "Naruto" volumes, including a new story arc and some oversized omnibus issues. They'll also release some new horror titles like "Gyo" and "Uzumaki" (which, according to Kawasaki is Japanese for "Spiral.")

For their Shojo Beat line, Kawasaki discussed "Vampire Night." It's a high school where vampires hang out at night, but you're not supposed to know that. For romantic comedy lovers, look for "Fall In Love." Kawasaki described it as a "sort of like Mutt and Jeff." It basically revolves around the adventures of a really awkward couple.

Yen Press

Yen Press is a newcomer to the scene, but they've got a bunch of new titles on display. Kurt Hassler said upcoming releases include "Black God," "Spiral" and "Zombie-Loan."

Most interesting is a title called "With The Light." This manga is the story of a family dealing with the hardships of raising an autistic child, an interesting deviation from what we've typically come to expect from this genre. Hassler explained that this is exactly the point. Yen Press is trying to draw new readers who may have never read manga before.

"It's just about the sweetest thing you're ever going to read. We're thrilled that this is our first book," said Hassler.

Yen Press will also release heir first American style comic in November. Created by Jason Kruze, "World of Quest" is a comedic fantasy-adventure about a boy and his banished hero friend. The style is highly reminiscent of Bill Waterson's Calvin and Hobbes. The book will launch at the same time as a corresponding Kids WB series and will be appropriate for all audiences.

TOKYOPOP

Tokyopop's Mike Kiley said the company is taking some bold new steps this year. They'll experiment more with color publications and different sized books. Tokyopop will also add some omnibuses to their list. This year, their "Star Trek" manga will see television series actor Wil Wheaton involved with writing one of the stories. In a similarly nostalgic American vein, they'll also be continuing their work with Jim Henson's "Legends of the Dark Crystal."

From Japan, they'll continue their "Fruits Basket, "Kingdom Hearts" and ".hack" series. Early next year, cos-play fans will be excited to see the "Gothic Lolita Bible" translated in full English. This canonical magazine is one of the most respected tomes in the cos-play community.

 
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