I didn't make it to the Del Rey panel at C2E2 due to a time conflict, but I did encounter Del Rey's effervescent marketing manager Ali T. Kokmen in the hallways and he was kind enough to give me the quick rundown.
The first thing I asked him is a burning concern to many in the manga industry: Is Kodansha USA cutting in on their game? Del Rey always gets the lion's share of the Japanese publisher Kodansha's licenses, and tends to treat them well, so when Kodansha set up its American arm some fans were worried Del Rey's license stream would try up. Kokmen's answer was cheering: "The existence of Kodansha comics has not affected our publishing program."
Del Rey has started to publish some series, such as School Rumble, in three-in-one omnibus editions, and others seem to be coming out at a slower rate; after the cancellation of the X-Men and Wolverine manga there was a bit of speculation as to what was going on. Kokmen seemed puzzled when I brought this up. "We have been reevaluating the publication schedule for a while. Those decisions have been made, but they are just starting to shake out," he said. "Part of this was the omnibus decision for a few titles." But there's no strategy to slow things down: "Projects slip; every book is unique."
Kokmen highlighted two books that are coming out in May, the hardcover collection of Steven King's The Talisman comic books and the graphic novel adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a good thing," Kokmen pointed out, "but you need to see pictures of gory zombie decapitation, and that’s what we provide."
Kokmen was also bullish on the upcoming Airbender books. The first, written by Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus and illustrated by Eisner winner Nina Matsumoto, is a black-and-white prequel to the movie; the other, due out in September, is a straight adaptation of the movie.
The second Odd Thomas graphic novel, Odd Is on Our Side, is due out in October. "It’s really exciting because Queenie Chan is doing the art, and Dean Koontz is writing it with Fred van Lente, who just signed an exclusive with Marvel Comics. Fred has done Marvel Zombies, Hercules, Iron Man, Spider-Man." That means there are two New York Times best-selling authors working on the book, Kokmen said, as Koontz has hit the list for his novels and Van Lente made the graphic books best-seller list for several of his comics.
Due out later this year is The Exile, a graphic novel based on Diana Gabaldon's sci-fi/romance Outlanders novels. "There are two main characters and they are written from the heroine’s point of view," Kokmen explained. "Her love interest is Jamie, a gorgeus, shirtless, kilted Scottish hero, and the graphic novel is retelling the story from Jamie's point of view. Some of our fans are very excited to see what these characters finally look like, but what's even more exciting is it’s a familiar story from the other character’s point of view."