C2E2 | Saturday

As expected, I didn't spend a lot of time in the Exhibit Hall today. I decided to skip one extra-long panel in the morning rather than give up the entire day and I'm glad I did if only for the opportunity to visit with Jeremy Bastian, pick up the third issue of Cursed Pirate Girl, and meet characters from the book -- including CPG herself.

I also got to visit Lora Innes and finally pick up a copy of The Dreamer, one of the last few in existence, I'm told. I've been hearing all kinds of great things about that series, which really makes me happy as a fan of Colonial/Revolutionary War-era stories.

After that, though, it was off to the panels for the rest of the day, starting with Archaia's presentation for it's mature line (the kids' line will get talked about this morning). Archaia's President PJ Bickett opened the presentation with a brief discussion of the company's new partnership with iVerse to distribute their books digitally. He was blunt about the need for the comics industry -- publishers and the DM alike -- to evolve. Smart retailers, he said, are already figuring out how and Archaia -- though not planning to abandon print -- is too. A representative of iVerse was also at the panel to talk about digital evolution and stress that digital's ability to drive print sales is now a proven phenomenon. Archaia's iPhone and iPad comics will be coming in a few weeks.

Next, some of Archaia's creators had the opportunity to talk about their books. I was already familiar with some of them like Josh Fialkov's Tumor and Tom Pinchuk's Hybrid Bastards, but others were new to me (or needed pitching to get my attention). David Rodriguez talked about the creation of Starkweather: Immortal from its time at Arcana to the Piers Anthony anthology story that became a single issue and launched the new series. Someone described Jason Becker and Jon Rea's Killing Pickman as "Dirty Harry versus the devil," which drove me to pick up the first two issues at the Archaia booth later (they've been passing out free single-issue copies of several titles all weekend). The third and fourth issues will be published together soon in a double-sized book.

They also talked about the sci-fi series Critical Millenium and the English translation of Matz and Luc Jacamon's Cyclops before getting into Lucid, a four-issue mini-series about magician-spies that they're creating in association with Zachary Quinto's production company.

Finally, they introduced a new effort called Black Label, which they stressed is not an imprint, but a way to distinguish their collaborations with Los Angeles partners from the traditional, creator-owned projects they're known for. Roddenberry Productions' Days Missing will become a Black Label title (I caught the tail end of a Days Missing panel, by the way, and I'm definitely picking that up today) as will Syndrome. But Archaia made clear that the point of Black Label isn't to develop comics as potential movies. The point is to help people in other media cross over into comics for the sake of making great comics.

Before the panel closed, an audience member asked if Archaia planned to release softcover versions of their books. The reply was that they plan to focus solely on hardcovers as a way to stand out in the book market. The company's Marketing Manager Mel Caylo wrapped things up by promising attendees a free hardcover if they went right away to the Archaia booth, so I picked the first volume of The Secret History Omnibus. I'm going to have a lot to read when I get home.

I hit two other panels in the afternoon: Women in Comics and one on Pulp Fiction. I'll keep this short by saving Pulp Fiction for another post. The Women in Comics panel was encouraging though without being particularly surprising. The biggest thing I took away from it was the answer to the question posed by the panel's title, "Do we really need a Women in Comics panel?" Apparently the answer is "yes," but not for the same reason it was a couple of years ago. Rather than letting men know that women are a valid and valuable part of the comics community, this type of panel now serves as encouragement to women and girls that there's room for them too. Positive change is happening, but the work's not completely done. Also, the X-Men are an awesome entry point for women into comics.

I had a little break before my last panel of the day and spent some more time in the Exhibit Hall talking to people about the show. Surprisingly - to me, anyway - reactions were really mixed today. A lot of the artists are doing well, but I heard several complaints about slow business from creators and other exhibitors. It'll be interesting to hear the attendance numbers (the one Reed employee I talked to wasn't privy to that information), but it's been disappointing for some of the folks trying to make money this weekend.

One exhibitor speculated that maybe the decline of Wizard World Chicago in recent years has affected Mid-Western attitudes about conventions in general. When I expressed hope that C2E2 could change that perception, he thought it possible, but also expressed impatience about letting it build. Especially at the prices he's paying to be there.

I understand that impatience, but as an attendee I hope that exhibitors give it a chance. C2E2's enormously wide aisles prevent the show from feeling crowded, but there seemed to be a lot of people there yesterday. Whether or not they were spending money is a whole other thing, but I'm already looking forward to next year.

I finished the day with the Moonstone panel, which I think I'll save for the same post as the Pulp Fiction one because there's a lot of crossover between the two. I remember how excited the panels on crime comics got me at Chicago Comic-Con last year and this is a similar feeling to that. There are lots of exciting things happening in the world of pulp, but that would make a great topic for the next Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs column.

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