Every summer, thousands of librarians congregate at the American Library Association’s annual conference. All sorts of topics are discussed, presented, and taught, and, believe it or not, librarians love books with a geeky passion! There is something for everyone, and as the geek diaspora filters into libraries, libraries are becoming more than just a place to take a nap or read a book!
So, this librarian/bookseller/bibliophile made the trek to Chicago last weekend, to hang out with all the cool kids and celebrate his birthday a week early!
Last Friday, I arrived at Midway at 7 AM, via Southwest Airlines. (I avoid O’Hare as often as possible.) After walking around the parking garage, I arrived at the El station to see a sea of black-and-red. The Chicago Blackhawks had just won the Stanley Cup, and two million fans were on their way to Millennium Park to celebrate!
Not a problem for me…I live in New York. But the MTA does in a day what the CTA does in a week, so everyone was jampacked into every car, and most commuters were left standing on the platform at each stop.
With three hours to kill before check-in, I wandered around downtown and visited Graham Cracker Comics. They were hosting Brian Wood that day at Noon, and manager Matt Streets was a bit concerned that the sports geeks wandering by the store might hamper the comics geeks. The staff was personable, the store clean and orderly, with a nice overall selection for every taste. (Although one staff member was unfamiliar with Marville, but a quick search on the Internet fixed that.)
After check-in and a nap, I headed south to McCormick Place. No problems checking in, arriving about twenty minutes before the exhibits hall (dealers room) opened. The North hall (where the 2012 C2E2 show was held) contained a stage and lots of seats, which made me envision what it would be like to hold media panels in that room… But I didn’t think too much, as the crowds were huddling for the starter’s horn to sound!
ALA traditionally offers food and drink to entice attendees to the show floor on Friday evening for three hours, and it is successful! But for comics fans, the big draw (see what I did?) was Comics Quickfire! Two librarians were picked from the audience, and somehow, it turned out boys vs. girls as the ALAdies took on Three Dangerous Guys! Each team was given a title, and each drawer one minute to draw the panel! Setup, conflict, twist, ending. While the women won (geeze, that last panel by Raina Telgemeier is a little disturbing…), I like the Rat Man story more. I guess I’m a sucker for a happy ending…*sniffle*
This was just the first event of the GraphiCon programming, which ran every hour that the show floor was open! There was an Artists Alley (the third annual iteration)! While small by Comic Con standards, it was an epic list of talent!
Chris Giarrusso, Darren Gendron, Dave Roman, John Green, Faith Erin Hicks, Jacob Chabot, Jerzy and Anne Drozd, Matt Dembicki, Raina Telgemeier, Michael Mendheim, Matt Phelan, Paul Pope, Matt Kindt, Jason Horn, Christopher Herndon, Gene Yang, Sean O’Neill, Anthony Del Col, Alexis Fajardo, Chris Schweizer, and Thien Pham!
Did I mention that they had good traffic, but never long lines? Yup, I actually got to chat with them, without having to buy them a drink first! (Hmm… not a bad plan for Bar Con. Buy the guest a beer, when the guest finishes drinking, you move on to the next guest. If the guest wants to end the chat early, s/he chugs the drink.)
Then there were the graphic novel publishers! Diamond had a few booths, with Image nearby. Diamond announced there Common Core list of recommended titles for educators. (Yes! Comics in the classroom curriculum!) Boom! had a selection of titles for perusal and sale, including the remnants of the limited edition Peanuts Volume 1 hardcover from 2012. (The dust jacket is nice, but the yellow cover beneath is more striking.) Viz was promoting their young reader titles, giving away Hello Kitty comics posters, which were then signed by Jacob Chabot at his table. Top Shelf continued promoting “March” with John Lewis speaking in the auditorium as well as signing at the publisher’s booth.
Of course, mainstream publishers had numerous offerings elsewhere. Macmillan was promoting Gene Yang’s Boxers & Saints graphic novels (I scored an early copy…it’s gonna be big next Fall) and Paul Pope’s Battling Boy! Both discussed the books on stage; Gene Yang spoke about the dichotomies/parallels between the Boxers and the Christian Chinese. Paul Pope mentioned that Battling Boy had been optioned by Brad Pitt, but that the development fell apart. There might be more news about that soon, as some individuals are interested. (Oliver Stone, another auditorium speaker, was seen wandering through the graphic novel aisle on Monday. But I can’t see him making a fantasy movie about young men and giant monsters…although I would be first in line to watch it!)
What else happened? Josh Elder and John Shableski of iVerse launched the Comics Plus: Library Edition, which allows libraries unlimited access to over 7,000 titles, using a pay-as-you-go model for each checkout. The Eisner Foundation hosted a reception sponsored by Brodart, iVerse, Andrews McMeel, and Automatic Pictures. I was shown a cool “yearbook” poster of the Peanuts characters, including a cat. I was told it was “the cat next door”, but it was never seen, and it looks more like Frieda’s cat, Faron.
Don’t like comics? (Then why are you reading this?) Well, there were other geeky pursuits last weekend! There was a maker’s exhibition, hidden away. (I guess in case anything got blown up or set on fire.) The Games & Gaming Round Table (an official ALA group promoting the use of games in libraries!) sponsored “ALA Play” where a ballroom was reserved for a night of gaming (and face painting)! The Zine Pavilion returned, mixing the maker vibe with the creativity found in indie comics. In fact, there was an indie cartoonist! Delia Jean, creator of “Station in Life” was selling her comics. An alum of both Second City and the Art Institute of Chicago, she draws a biocomic about her experience as a waitperson. She is also a ladydrawer, which had just opened a new exhibition June 27th at Columbia College. (Delia will be talking there on July 18th.) There wasn’t much cosplay, but Snoopy did make an appearance at the Andrews McMeel booth, and one company promoting online tutoring via webcam was giving out boas (I wore mine like a tail) and another was giving out plastic silver fedoras.
That’s all I can recall from last weekend. There’s some stuff I can’t talk about, like John Green’s first job. The cool books I found will be featured on an upcoming post. (This Fall is going to be HUGE for graphic novels! Like “Maus/Dark Knight/Watchmen 1986” huge.) Marvel teased a new online initiative where fans from different Marvel tribes (cinematic universe, gaming, comics) will all interact. (Yes, I think that includes fans of Pixie, but we’ll have to wait and see.)
The next meeting is in Philadelphia in January, but that’s more low-key. The next summer show is in Las Vegas, so don’t be surprised to see reports of librarians gone wild in your Google news feed.
UPDATE! YouTube videos!
(I was going to do a separate post, but these were all I found. Maybe more will be posted later. Click the channel link below to find more, including authors who have dabbled in the format.)
I’ve been writing for The Beat since July of 2010.
I’ve been reading comics since 1974, collecting since 1984, and spreading the graphic novel gospel since 1994.
I’m a bookseller, a librarian, an amateur scholar, a cool uncle, and a comics evangelist.
Ask me anything!