Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly are two of the most prominent independent comic book publishers of the last 25 years, responsible for a wealth of acclaimed and literary projects. Friday at Comic-Con International in San Diego, these two indie heavyweights joined forces for a panel highlighting current and upcoming projects. The panel was composed of Fantagraphics’ editorial marketing manager Julia Pohl-Miranda, and creative director Tom Devlin director, Drawn and Quarterly’s publicity director Jacq Cohen, and associate publisher Eric Reynolds who spoke about projects published in America for the first time and original material on sale late this year and early 2013.
D&Q will publish three volumes of Astrid Lindgren’s “Pippi Longstocking” comic books beginning in September. This will be the first English language publication of a “Pippi” comic with art from Pippi’s original illustrator Ingrid Vang Nyman.
“We don’t know her in North America because [Vang Nyman], when Pippi started to become more popular, she wanted better royalties,” Devlin said. “In some of the bigger market countries like Germany or the USA publishers just hired another illustrator instead of paying her royalties,” said Devlin. “But, eventually they adapted the ‘Pippi’ books into comics and they ran in children magazines in Sweden.
“One of the things that’s great, especially in the early ones, is to see that Ingrid Van Nyman was an illustrator and she had never made comics, never thought about comics and you can totally see her making these amazing decisions,” Devlin continued. “She just comes up with these great ways of solving comic problems.”
Drawn and Quarterly will also release a collection of Shigeru Mizuki’s “Kitaro.” Mizuki was a Japanese cartoonist who, according to Devlin, is recognized as one of Japan’s greatest cartoonist alongside artists such as Osamu Tezuka. The story is about Kitaro, a half-yokai (monster), and his adventures such as challenging a team of monsters to a baseball game. “Kitaro” will be released in a 450-page volume this fall with the remainder of the series to be collected at a later date.
Not content to publish only reprints, Drawn and Quarterly has plenty of contemporary works on the docket as well. “Letting It Go” by Miriam Katin, a holocaust survior, will be published in the winter of 2013. “Letting It Go” is an autobiographical story about Miriam dealing with the trauma of the holocaust in her adult life and the ways it affects her family and herself.
“Burden” by Joe Ollman is about a dissatisfied middle-aged science teacher who believes he was abducted by aliens — but it is not a science fiction story. “It’s about trust and faith in a relationship,” Devlin said. “As he’s trying to impress upon her that he truly believe this. And, he maybe doesn’t need her to believe that he was abducted by aliens but he does need her to believe that he believes he was abducted.”
“New York Drawings” is a collection of Adrian Tomine illustrations and comics that have appeared in the New Yorker as well as rare and previously uncollected works by the artist.
Fantagraphics will publishing “The Cartoon Utopia,” by Ron Rege in the fall. Reynolds said the book draws from Rege’s interest in subjects like alchemy and metaphysics to tell a story about a visiting society that wants to show humanity how to achieve a collected conscious.
“Blacklung,” set for an October release, is written and drawn by Chris Wright. It’s is Wright’s debut graphic novel. “It’s a story about a teacher who was Shanghai’d onto a ship and he became an unlikely friend to his captor,” said Cohen. The graphic novel deals with the life of the captain who captures the teacher. “The captain is trying to do terrible things so he can meet his wife in Hell. So it’s a mixed story of redemption but also rip-roaring adventure.” The panel compared the book’s literary style to the television series “Deadwood.”
Another fall debut for the publisher is “The Hypo” by Noah Van Sciver. “The Hypo” is about a time in Abraham Lincoln’s life when he was dealing with a great deal of stress and depression in his twenties.
“It’s a very minor piece of history in most Lincoln biographies,” Reynolds said. “Noah Van Sciver is a big Lincoln buff [who] read all these biographies and was fascinated by this period so he excavated the stories he could and wrote this graphic novel about it.”
“Heads or Tails” is a collection of work from Lilli Carre. Her first book since 2008’s “Lagoon” is a collection of short fiction slated for release in November. According to Cohen, the book will include 40 pages of never-before-seen material. “All stories, although they’re each independently created short stories, they all have an incredibly thematic pull to them. She’s obsessed with the concept of faith and chance,” said Reynolds.
Fantagraphics will continue publishing its black and white collections of EC comics as well with a collection of Wally Wood’s work in the fall.
Toward the end of the panel there was a very brief Q&A session. Several questions were about how many copies of certain titles would be printed and how each publisher determines those numbers. The panelists all agreed that it’s a combination of guesswork and prediction based on past knowledge and sales trends. Perhaps the more pressing question concerned what each publisher had planned for the digital market and whether they felt it would endanger the print component.
Both Fantagraphics and D&Q have plans for digital in the works but they quickly assured their fans that they will not be leaving print behind.
“We can’t see going digital only,” said Devlin. “We all like books, there’s a visceral quality [to] books. The papers, the packaging, the colors, the printing and spot blacks. That adds to the whole of the reading experience and digital is at the point where it can never do that.”
Stay tuned to CBR News for continued coverage of Comic-Con International 2012.