What's hot for summer and fall: Comics and graphic novels at BEA

Book Expo America is the annual trade show where publishers promote their upcoming books to retailers and librarians. BEA is all about books, but comics and graphic novels are a growing presence. Diamond had a dedicated area, as it has in previous years, several comics publishers had their own booths, and several of the big publishers featured graphic novels alongside their other titles, most notably Hachette, which gave quite a bit of space to Yen Press.

I spent Friday at the show looking at which books the publishers were drawing the most attention to. Here's a very subjective account of what I saw.

Kid stuff! Children's and YA graphic novels have been hot for a couple of years, and the news that Raina Telgemeier's Sisters is getting a 200,000 copy initial print run got a lot of buzz. Of course, the BEA crowd has been on board with her work for a while, and they lined up in droves for her book signing. The same was true of Jeff Kinney, who was signing copies of The Wimpy Kid School Planner at the Abrams booth; the crowd just kept on coming. And the staff at the BOOM! Studios table were hustling as attendees grabbed copies of their Adventure Time and Bravest Warrior collections as well as their third original Peanuts graphic novel, Peanuts: The Beagle Has Landed, which takes Snoopy to the moon.

Even aside from Sisters and another Wimpy Kid book, the slate for the second half of 2014 looks promising. Abrams has El Deafo, a memoir by Cece Bell about her experiences as a deaf child in the 1970s. The story is told with a light touch reminiscent of Smile, with the characters all drawn as rabbits. A third volume of Explorer, the YA anthology edited by Kazu Kibuishi, is also in the works. Top Shelf has another book that looks like it has legs, Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch, a magical-adventure story about a girl who has to team up with some supernatural animals to rescue her parents, who have been turned into kangaroo rats by the Thimblewitch. Their summer schedule also includes Johnny Boo Zooms to the Moon!, the sixth in James Kochalka's whimsical all-ages series.

IDW put the focus on its licensed comics, with a galley of Angry Birds and info sheets on their Skylanders and Littlest Pet Shop comics on display. Yen Press, which mostly publishes manga and graphic novel adaptations for older readers, was handing out samples of its all-ages Kingdom Hearts manga, which is adapted from the Disney/Square Enix video game. And Papercutz also had a good-sized display of licensed and original comics, including their first Lego: Legends of Chima graphic novel and samples of a new import, Toto Trouble, a comic about a mischievous kid who is constantly getting into trouble.

Imports: Ever since I went to Angouleme earlier this year I have been more aware of French graphic novels. That's in part because I saw some beautiful books there that I want to see brought over, and I'm happy to say that two that caught my eye are on their way. NBM will publish Annie Goetzinger's Jeune Fille en Dior, translated as Girl in Dior,

which is less a bio of the famous designer than a celebration of his work; check out the preview to see what I mean. It's a gorgeous book, and I hope NBM keeps the same production quality in the American edition. Meanwhile, Nobrow Press is bringing over Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City, by Pierre Christin and Olivier Balez, a biography of the man who left his indelible imprint on New York.

Last year, the film based on Julie Maroh's Blue Is the Warmest Colour won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and the small Vancouver-based publisher Arsenal Pulp Press, which had signed the book before the big win, had a hit on their hands. This year they are back with another Maroh book, Skandalon, which associate publisher Robert Ballantyne described to me as a story about a rock star brought low by a scandal; it also deals with the concept of the scapegoat, who is needed by society to purge its sins. Another promising import is Adrian and the Tree of Secrets, a graphic novel about a nerdy teenage boy who falls in love with the cool jock in his school. With its limited palette and clear-lined art, this looks like it will be a beautiful book; check out the preview at the link.

Memoir: This is a category that's picking up steam, with Rep. John Lewis's March, Mimi Pond's Over Easy and Roz Chast's Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant getting a lot of attention from the mainstream media. All of these are what I would think of as "bookstore" books, and it looks like there is more to come including a second volume of March, which is planned as a trilogy. At the Fantagraphics booth, Eric Reynolds was enthusiastic about Lucy Knisley's An Age of License; due out in August, just as most of us will be returning from our vacations; it's her story of a trip to Europe that included an intense but short-lived romance. Nobrow will be publishing Jamie Coe's Art Schooled, a semi-fictionalized tale of a small-town boy who moves to the big city to be an art student.

Nonfiction: Fulcrum publishing, which won kudos for its anthology of Native American tales, Trickster, is back with more. Two recent releases are Wild Ocean, an anthology of nature tales edited by Matt Dembicki (editor of Trickster and creator of Xoc), and their fall lineup includes Strange Fruit: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History, by Joel Christian Gill. Two more books are in the works: Tales of the Talented Tenth, another collection of black history mini-bios by Gill, and Colonial Comics: New England 1620-1750, which appears to draw heavily on the talents of the Boston Comics Roundtable.

Fantagraphics had the second volume of Ed Piskor's Hip Hop Family Tree on prominent display, and they also have Michael Jordan: Bull on Parade, by Wilfred Santiago (21: The Story of Roberto Clemente) on their fall list.

Nobrow is following up its graphic biography of Freud with Marx, which is not only a bio but also an introduction to Karl Marx's thought and its social and cultural impact.

On the science side of things, Nick Dragotta is reinventing his webcomic Howtoons as a comics series, Howtoons [Re]ignition, written by Fred Van Lente with art by Tom Fowler and Jordie Bellaire.

Nostalgia: There's something deeply ironic about the fact that Fantagraphics is publishing a deluxe, slipcased archive of all of Zap Comics, priced at a stoner-unfriendly $500, but I'm really glad they are doing it. The boxed set will include all 16 original issues plus a 17th that was never published. That's 920 pages of Crumb, Shelton, and all the greats, and it's due out in November, just in time for the holidays.

A little closer to the mainstream, some of the people I was with were taken by IDW's Artist's Edition of Jim Steranko's Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Craig Yoe was showing around a copy of his latest collection, Alice in Comicland.

Potpourri: There were a couple other things I saw that don't fit into any handy category. Image Comics had a generous selection of first issues on display, including Saga, Chew, East of West, and Sex Criminals. Jennifer De Guzman, director of trade book sales, highlighted Black Science, which she described as "classic science fiction": it's written by Rick Remender and illustrated by Matteo Scalera, and the first volume of the trade has just come out. She also mentioned Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's The Wicked + The Divine, which launches next month.

Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare were signing copies of their comic Rocket Girl; the first trade collection debuts next month. The comic has done well in the direct market, Reeder said, but bookstores will bring them a new audience.

The display at the Rebellion booth focused heavily on the Judge Dredd collections and their Abaddon and Solaris prose imprints. Copies of the Judge Dredd script book were gone by the time I got to the booth. There's something new as well: Rebellion is now publishing comics in American format for the U.S. market. Brass Sun #1 debuted this week, and Jaegir, written by Gordon Rennie, will be along later this summer. There's also a Judge Dredd series, Uprise, in the works.

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