CCI XTRA: Villard Graphic Novels, Anthologies and More

Late on Thursday afternoon at Comic-Con International in San Diego, panel room #10 slowly filled up with fans and hopeful self-publishers to learn more about the new Villard line of graphic novels and the people who make them. The quick and lively panel was hosted by April Flores and a lineup of Villiard (a division of Random House) artists, writers, and creators, who began with a brief introduction into their books and their lives.

Most of the focus was given to the newly released "Postcards: True Stories That Never Happened," which is an anthology based around antique postcards. Some fans found actual postcards on their seats left for them by the editors, which added a fun and interesting touch to the atmosphere.

Editor and writer Jason Rodriguez came up with the idea after finding old postcards in an antique shop. This hobby slowly turned into a story after having more in-depth thoughts as to the origins of the cards and the words on them. The idea that these fifty year-old cards could have been the last communication between two individuals fascinated him and, according to Rodriguez, it became "a way to honor these people that have come before." Sixteen stories later, all by various talents including "American Splendor" creator Harvey Pekar, the graphic novel was picked up by the budding Random House and found a home with the Villiard line.

Joining Postcards at Random House is the cult-hit "Elk's Run" and "Flight," the exception-to-the-rule hit anthology put together by creators and based around a single theme. Editor Kazu Kibuishi was on hand to announce that the fourth volume in the series is out and volumes 5 and 6 are forthcoming. Kibuishi then announced that there would be a spin-off from the successful book called "Flight Explorers," that will take the same theme of flight and go in a different direction aiming it at a younger audience with a slightly smaller size.

Not to be outdone, Mike Knapp was also on the panel talking about his upcoming anthology, "Out Of Picture," due in spring of 2008. Inspired by the success of the "Flight" books, "Out Of Picture" refers to a term in animation to the work that is put together but for various reasons is still left on the cutting room floor. The stories themselves are very important to the creators involved because they are stories that they haven't been able to tell elsewhere and ones that you won't see anywhere but in "Out of Picture."

After briefing the audience on the products in the Villiard line, the questions shifted to the creators themselves and to general publishing as well as self-publishing, a place that some of these books started. A fan asked the panel, "How were you planning on financing your book when you started?"

Rodriguez responded that he not only didn't plan on making money but "I planned on losing money. You don't do this to make money, you do it because you love doing it. Postcards would have been fun just to make and lose money. You don't really care how it's going to get out there, just that it's going to be made."

Villiard publishers Chris Schluep and Dallas Middaugh were also on hand to give the corporate perspective of graphic novels. When asked what they were looking for, Middaugh said, "Works that are good," which prompted a chuckle from the audience. Middaugh went on to elaborate that he's looking for works that are "professional, well, done, but should have a certain spark. Something that's fresh, that's new, that you haven't seen before."

Flores asked the panel the final question, "Do you have any words for advise for future self-publishers?"

Kibiushi didn't hesitate to say, "Just be yourself, and do stuff. Keep working at what you believe in and it will be found."

Joshua Hale Fialkov, who kept the audience laughing throughout the whole panel, added, "Believe in yourself."

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