New York Comic Con 2015 Roundup Day 1

October 10th, 2015

20151008_113937No news report this week. I’ll trust that you’re dialed into Anime News Network for updates from NYCC related to anime, Comics Beat for Comics News generally and Deb Aoki and Brigid Alverson for manga-focused news. Free of having to cover anything Naruto-related at New York Comic Con, I was able to spend my time talking to people on the floor about stuff I care about.

My first impression of NYCC this year is that it’s stopped trying to be San Diego Comic Con lite. There were, of course, media interests, but the floor and the panels were focused on comics, manga/anime and games, with a very strong showing from prose publishers, many of whom have begun publishing graphic novels as well.  There were tons of small comics presses, the artist alley was jammed with artists doing their own work, some of whom are also well-known for work with larger publishers. Much less fanart than in previous years, and I wouldn’t be sad to see it eradicated from the artist’s alley completely.

For the first time since NYCC started, the con was very close to what I wanted it to be. San Diego can have the movie studios – New York is about publishing. I wasn’t the only one who commented on this – several folks noted that New York was the heart of publishing in America, and they were pleased to see a renewed focus on comics at NYCC. No, it’s not dealer after dealer of older comics, it’s creator after creator of new content.

Anime and manga had very respectable representation, with Viz, Funimation, Kodansha, Vertical and Yen (as part of Hachette Press) on the floor. Viz was killing it with Sailor Moon goods and Naruto-creator Kishimoto-sensei as a Special Guest and they were pushing Yo-kai Watch to kids.

20151008_144712I spoke with Robert McGuire of One Peace Books (the folks who brought you Takeshi Ikeda’s Whispered Words.) We spoke of walruses and kings, but one of the many things we discussed was the difficulty of publishing Yuri. And I wanted to expound upon that for you all a little. Fifteen years ago, the “difficulty” in publishing Yuri was that there wasn’t much to choose from. Now, the market has broadened, and in doing so, has become infinitely more complex. (In fact, the other most repeated comment I heard this weekend was, almost verbatim every time “People just do not realize how complicated publishing is.)  Before I continue, I’ll ask you a question: What do you think is the most complicated part of publishing a Japanese manga in English? Answer in the comments.

Now, there are many more Yuri manga to choose from. But if a publisher won’t talk with you, you will have no access to those titles. Some publishers only go through an agent, some only work with one American company exclusively. For instance, in most cases, any work published by Hakusensha ends up being Viz or nothing. If Viz doesn’t want it, no one else can get it. Although, that may be changing in days to come. As Robert put it, “There’s what you want…and what you can get.” And, even a company actively looking for Yuri will want to weigh the potential salesworthiness of any given title.  A title that will appeal to otaku, say Sakura Trick, is probably not going to have much appeal to adults who are not otaku. And there are very real age of consent issues that have to be addressed if you want bookstores and libraries to be able to have it on shelves.

So, something like Sasamekikoto works to hit Yuri otaku, younger women, lesbians and you get decent sales. Something like Yuri Kuma Arashi is probably going to be of interest to otaku only. It’s not an impossible choice, but it has to be a conscious one – we’re going for *this* audience, so the sales might be low, but we want to get this book out. And this is the very first year I have had publishers say to me that they can make that decision. They have enough that sells well generally to put out things that are a little more niche. This is a tremendous sea change. Five years ago no one had any wiggle room, now they do and companies working in the fringey areas are doing well enough that they can expand.

After having this same conversation with three different manga publishers, I started saying that I started ALC 10 years too early. Which I knew would be the case. Right from the beginning I said that I would lay the foundation for the audience and someone else would make the money.

But let me end this with something hopeful: I spoke with 3 publishers who are looking to expand their Yuri holdings. I can tell you, the future looks bright for us in this regard and I will of course let you know as soon as anything breaks.

20151009_150211One of my absolutely favorite moments of the con was coming across Pierrick Collinet and Elisa Charretier, the creators of IDW’s The Infinite Loop.  (I reviewed the first 4 issues .) Two of the most pleasant people I have ever met. Absolutely lovely. It’s a pleasure and a little nerve-wracking to meet someone about whose work you’ve written a review. Pierrick commented that they had read the Okazu review. ^_^; Elisa is working on a new series, Windhaven, by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle. Pierrick is pitching several new works, and they look fantastic. I can’t wait to see more from the both of them. And thanks to both of them for their time.

In the artist’s alley I managed to get a copy of Valor, by Isabelle Melancon and Megan Leavy-Heaton. And I caught up with the most awesome and talented Sanya Anwar, whose 1001 series was the star of my last TCAF visit. We spoke of her upcoming piece in the anthology The Secret Lives of Geek Girls. (I can’t wait for this!)

And I finally had a chance to tell Amy Reeder how much I enjoy her work (hey…I get to be a fan girl too)  and how much I’m looking forward to Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, her upcoming project.

CBLDF_LA15_INT.3-page-0Alex Cox from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund says that school challenges are up all over the country. CBLDF is doing it’s best to keep up with them. I asked him why he thought challenges were increasing, was it the increase in diversity and representation in graphic novels. He said it was probably that librarians and teachers were more onboard with GNs and their inclusion in schoolwork, which means that more parents were aware of them. Also he pointed out the brand new disturbing trend of college students challenging graphic novels in class curricula. As always I will suggest that, if you have a few dollars, you consider donating to the CBLDF, they are doing important work representing people’s right to read what they want.

I spoke briefly with Anne Ishii of Gay Manga (Massive) who was selling at the Geeks Out space.  She’s a very cool and grounded person and I’ll have more to tell you about her in Part 2.

And Tara at the Prism Comics/NorthwestPress booth was very positive about the turnout they were getting.

Of course I hit up a bunch of our friendly vendors. Bill from Anime Castle and Su from Sci-Fi Continuum continue to offer cool toys, books and goods for reasonable prices. It’s always good to catch up with them. I don’t know what other press folks do, but I get a lot of hugs at cons. ^_^

AjalaMy final stop of the day was to speak with N. Steven Harris about his comics, Brotherhood of the Fringe and Ajala, both of which look absolutely gorgeous.

Ajala won the 2014 Glyph Award for Best Female Character. I’m looking forward to making time to read it.

Which brings me to my conclusion on Day 1. Comics is no longer what it used to be. And thank heavens for that! Not only was the diversity of nearly everything at NYCC ubiquitous and immersive, with the most amazing mix of fans and creators I have ever seen, but even beyond merely comics. Fandom has owed itself, and learned to love itself fully, in all its sizes and shapes and colors and sexualities, levels of ability or neurotypicality. I have never once in my entire life of congoing ever seen a more joyful acceptance of every fucking thing fandom is. Even the big companies are starting to recognize that diversity isn’t one black guy on the team, but if you look away from the big companies for a second, you’ll see everyone represented somewhere. Comics is more innovative, lively, creative and diverse than I have ever seen and you don’t have to look all that far to see it anymore. If this is the shape of things to come, comics has got a lot to look forward to.

Check back for Day 2 report, and some more opining about Yuri!

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