We made it! And so did graphic novels! This morning’s “Think Future” graphic novel panel seemed to have been a success — as one of the participants, I’ll have to let others decide the final verdict but from where I sat, it was worth getting up early for, and that’s the highest praise I can give. Mucho kudos to co-moderator and man about town Calvin Reid and everyone else here at PW who got it set up.
Of course, when you have five super smart people as panelists, the odds of success are greatly enhanced. John Cunningham, Dan Frank, Joe Quesada, Bill Schanes and Rich Johnson spoke on a variety of topics, touching on the traditional comics shop environment, digital delivery systems, the continued need for strong material, the changing creative demographic, and so on. Nothing that hadn’t been spoken of before, but the panelists and the audience were engaged with each other and a good dialog got going.
A couple of interesting notes did emerge. One of the audience members is putting together a collection of graphic novels at Columbia University, and revealed that NYU has just started collecting comics, as well. Reaching the academic audience was discussed, and , revealingly, Johnson related how 10 years ago, that audience was deeply suspicious of comics — now they were begging for more information.
The reasons for comics being taken seriously suddenly? Reviews in the NY Times book review, awards, Fun Home being Time magazine’s book of the year…this stuff is really adding up.
The other thing that caught our ear was Schanes’s response to a question on the health of “indie comics shops.”
“Business is as good as its ever been,” he said, referring to the fact that Diamond accounts are paying in a timely fashion, expanding at a reasonable rate, and showing economic health all around. That may sound like an obvious point, but it gives a good snapshot of where the retail environment is at. Many retailers view everything from manga to MySpace to chain bookstores as a threat to their business. Despite all the NEW sources for graphic literature, comics shops are responding to the challenge by bettering themselves and becoming more successful. That’s a healthy sign for the entire industry.
From an attendance standpoint, it was fascinating to see a room full of people from (primarily) the book business who profiting from — or hoping to profit from — the new world of graphic novels on all levels. Familiar faces, and new ones…from Del Rey’s Betsy Mitchell to Greg Topalian of the New York Comic-Con to the editor at a major house who told me of her ideas for a line of graphic novels. It was a nice little chapter break in the ongoing saga of the “mainstreaming” of comics, a good place reached but many many more hurdles to be cleared.
But just for today, I can nap in peace.