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Comics and Graphic Novels at this year’s West Hollywood Book Fair

10th Annual West Hollywood Book Fair

The West Hollywood Book Fair is this Sunday, October 2nd, and a good number of comic book and graphic novel authors, artists, publishers and retailers are taking part. There are plenty of panels and events, which all include signings immediately after. Here’s a look at what’s happening:

Programming:

The Comics, Graphic Novels & More Pavilion will have panels throughout the entire day. Good discussions will be held to examine how comics are attempting to diversify their readership, as well as the rise of graphic novel anthologies and young adult graphic novels. There will also be a look at comic book adaptations of the worlds of Jim Henson and a broader look at comics getting adapted to film and TV. The day is then capped off with a live podcast covering Superman’s impact on American and world culture.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Diversity in Comics panel. Former TokyoPop senior editor Lillian Diaz-Przybyl moderates; panelists: author/illustrator Leland Myrick (Feynman), manga editor/writer Troy Lewter (Priest, Cabin in the Woods), and writer Kimberly Komatsu (Womanthology, In America’s Shadow).

12:15 pm – 1:15 pm: The Rise of the Graphic Novel Anthology. Comedy writer Asterios Kokkinos moderates; panelists: Kazu Kibuishi (editor of Flight, Explorer), DJ Kirkbride (editor of Popgun), Nicole Sixx (contributor to Womanthology), and Michael Woods (editor of Outlaw Territory).

1:30 pm – 2:30 pm: The World of Young Adult Grapphic Novels. Lillian Diaz-Przybyl again moderates; panelists: author Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes), writer Deborah Vankin (Poseurs), and editor Barbara Randall Kesel (Vampire Kisses: Blood Relatives, Wicked Lovely: Desert Tales).

2:45 pm – 3:45 pm: Jim Henson and Comic Books: Putting Puppets to Paper. Writer/editor (and Henson specialist) Tim Beedle moderates; panelists: The Jim Henson Company‘s Director of Product Development Jim Formanek, writer Brian Holguin (Dark Crystal), consulting editor Joe LeFavi of Quixotic Transmedia (Fraggle Rock, The Storyteller, Return to Labyrinth), and writer Heather Nuhfer (Fraggle Rock).

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Comics to Screen & Back Again. Moderated by Sax Carr and Blair Marnell of Crave Online’s The Idiot Box podcast; panelists: writer/editor Len Wein (Swamp Thing, X-Men), executive story editor/writer Deric A. Hughes (Warehouse 13), and writer Sam Sarker of Johnny Depp’s production company Infinitum Nihil (The Vault).

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Inside the Comics Industry: Superman. A live broadcast of the Fandom Planet podcast hosted by comedians Tim Powers and Sax Carr; panelists: artist Jon Bogdanove (Superman: The Man of Steel), writer Elliot S! Maggin (Action Comics, Superman), and comics historian/cartoonist Scott Shaw! (Oddball Comics, Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew)

The Current Events & Hot Topics Pavilion will also include some comics mixed into their “traditional” book discussions. Writer Joshua Dysart (Unknown Soldier) will be one of the panelists for The Way of the Gun: Fascination & Fear in Fact & Fiction, moderated by writer Gary Phillips (Cowboys). Other panelists include novelists Naomi Hirahara (Blood Hina: A Mas Arai Mystery) and Adam Winkler (Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America).

The popular Amulet series of graphic novels by special guest Kazu Kibuishi

The Teen Stage has a live author interview with Cecil Castellucci (The Plain Janes, Janes in Love), conducted by blogger and book reviewer Chelsea Swiggett. The two will discuss Castellucci’s two graphic novels, as well as her popular young adult novels like Rose Sees Red.

Events:

Young Adult author Cecil Castellucci will also be exhibiting her collaborative narrative project Literary Diaspora at the Fair. She mails (yes, old fashion mails!) out words to visual artists and images to authors who then create something inspired by what they received. They then mail it back to her to add to the growing stories. So far comics artists Becky Cloonan, Joe Infurnari, Chip Zdarsky and others have participated. Cards returned so far will be displayed at the Fair, and visitors might even find a card in a books asking them to participate. Check out LiteraryDiaspora.com for more on the project.

Live Art with Billy Martinez – Indie comics creator Martinez will produce art at the Indie Comics Creators Booths all day long. Booth: C 19-22

How to Make Comic Books & Zines Workshop – The Indie Comics Creators Booths will hold workshops and tutorials all day long. Booth: C 19-22

Special Guests:

Cecil CastellucciThe Plain Janes and Janes in Love graphic novels, as well as YA novels Boy Proof, The Queen of Cool and Beige. Official site.
Kazu Kibuishi - Amulet graphic novel series, Flight comics anthology. Official site.
Deborah VankinPoseurs graphic novel, LA Times staff writer. Twitter.

Exhibitors:

Archaia Entertainment – Publisher of graphic novels Mouse Guard, Return of the Dapper Men, Jim Henson projects like Fraggle Rock and The Dark Crystal, and much more. Booth: C 4-5
The Comic Bug – A great comic book store in Manhattan Beach. Booth: C 1-2
The Devastator – A quarterly comedy magazine with comics, funny writing and other wackiness run by editor-in-chief Geoffrey Golden (Cracked, National Lampoon). Booth: C 19-22, Table E
Eyedraugh Comics – Independent comics publisher located in Fontana. Booth: C 19-22, Table A
Neko Press Comics – Art studio, school and publisher run by La Mesa-based illustrator Billy Martinez, who will be producing live art all day long. Booth: C 19-22, Table H
OMGcow: A Comic Diary – An autobiographical web-comic by cartoonist Sheika Lugta of Long Beach. Booth: C 19-22, Table A

The WeHo Book Fair is happening this Sunday at the West Hollywood Library, which is itself having a grand opening the day before, and the neighboring West Hollywood Park, at N. San Vicente Blvd. at Melrose Blvd, this Sunday, 10 am – 6 pm.

Free Comic Book Day 2011 is this Saturday

Do you want FREE comics? You’re in luck! This Saturday, May 7, is Free Comic Book Day!

After enjoying the new Marvel Studios movie Thor opening this Friday, head out to your local participating comic book shop and get yourself some all-new comics for absolutely nothing. It’s a great way to discover comics for the first time, get back in to them if it’s been a while, or just celebrate the American art form of comics! (It’s also a great way to prepare yourself for the other big comic book movies this summer: Priest (May 13), X-Men: First Class (June 3), Green Lantern (June 17), Captain America (July 22), and Cowboys & Aliens (July 29).)

You can get exclusive comic books made just for Free Comic Book Day featuring the Amazing Spider-Man, Avatar the Last Airbender, Star Wars: Clone Wars, Green Lantern, Betty & Veronica, Darkwing Duck, Kung Fu Panda, Richie Rich, the Dark Crystal, the Simpsons, Captain America, Thor, Inspector Gadget, Sonic the Hedgehog, the Tick, Mickey Mouse, Young Justice, Batman: the Brave & the Bold, and so many more. See here for a complete list of free comics available at participating stores.

Lots of stores are also holding special sales and events including signings with comics creators.

Locally, comic stores all around Los Angeles County will be celebrating with free comic books, discounted comics and graphic novels, guest appearances by comic book artists and writers, and more! Additional announcements will probably be announced this week, so keep your eye on your favorite store’s website or Facebook page.

Some stores have really pulled out all of the stops:

Golden Apple on Melrose will be open an hour earlier than normal for the big day. Starting right at 10 AM, there will be comics creators giving free autographs and sketches all day, plus 20% off everything, free Lipton Brisk Green Lantern tea & hot dogs, free Priest movie stuff, a bounce house for kids (!) and more! Creators signing: 10 AM – Top Cow Productions president Matt Hawkins, writer Jeff Cahn (Red Spike), writer Owen Weisman (Samurai’s Blood) and cartoonist/animator Scott Shaw! (The Flintstones, Simpsons Comics); 12 noon: actor/writer Walter Koenig (Things to Come); 2 PM – writer Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Super Dinosaur) and artist Jason Howard (Super Dinosaur); 4 PM – writer Marc Andreyko (True Blood: Tainted Love, Let Met In: Crossroads), and writers Brian McCarthy & Michael Lent (Brimstone).

At Earth-2 Comics both store locations will have plenty to do, like free sketches from 10 AM to 12 noon by Todd Brocasso Harris (in Sherman Oaks) and Justin Rodrigues (Northridge). Then from 12 noon to 2 PM, writer and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns (Green Lantern, The Flash), and writer and Executive Vice President of Marvel Television Jeph Loeb (Batman: Hush, Spider-Man: Blue) will be available for autographs in Sherman Oaks. The two will be at the Northridge location from 3 to 5 PM. The store will also have an Earth-2 exclusive Green Lantern comic.

Free Comic Book Day 2011 (by Darwyn Cooke)

Meltdown Comics will be holding amazing special events all day long! From 11 AM to 3 PM, including a free screening of Jim Henson‘s classic movie The Dark Crystal and life-sized Skeksis statues used in the original 1982 movie! Writer Brian Holguin, who wrote a new Dark Crystal story in the free comic book flip book released for Free Comic Book Day, will be on hand for autographs, as will David Petersen, writer/illustrator of Mouse Guard, which makes up the second half of the flip book. Plus free posters, prizes, giveaways, and gourmet grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Truck. At the same time, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Jason JFish Fischer of Studio JFish will be present to sell his new underground comics, the adults only Junqueland #1, art anthology Fine Literature #2, and fantasy/adventure Jaephisch and the Dark Rainbow Chapters 1 & 2. At 1 PM, Shane and Chris Houghton, creators of the all-ages comic Reed Gunther, will hold a comics creating class just for kids. From 2:00 – 3:30 PM, writers Jeff Cahn (Red Spike) and Owen Weisman (Samurai’s Blood) of Benaroya Publishing will be signing. Finally, at 4 PM in the Meltdown Gallery, there will be a Graphic Noir panel with writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (Echoes, Tumor) and writer/artist Kody Chamberlain (Sweets, Punks: The Comic), as they discuss their creative processes and influences, followed by a brief signing.

Burbank’s House of Secrets will be going all day long, from 11 AM to 7 PM. From 12 noon to 2 PM, they’ll have Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants and Sherm Cohen, cover artist of the new SpongeBob Comics.

The Comic Bug in Hermosa Beach has a ton of creators lined up, scheduled for 12 noon to 3 PM giving free sketches and autographs in addition to huge sales and live super-heroes for photo ops. Their line-up will include writer/artist Mike Mignola (Hellboy, Baltimore), writer Steve Niles (30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre), TV & comics writer Christopher Yost (Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, New X-Men), writer Joshua Williamson (Fractured Fables, Yo Gabba Gabba Comic Book Time), writer/letterer Richard Starkings (Elephantmen), animator/artist Phil Ortiz (The Simpsons), Jeff Stokely (Fraggle Rock) and lots more. Artist Joe Benitez (Lady Mechanika) will be there 3 – 5 PM.

Collector’s Paradise Comics & Gallery in Winnetka has a full day of events planned, including featured guests like Whilce Portacio (Wetworks, Artifacts), Tomm Coker (Undying Love, Daredevil Noir), Joshua Fialkov (Tumor, Echoes) and a lot more giving autographs and/or sketches to raise money for the non-profit organization The Hero Initiative from 12 noon to 3 PM. Plus the store will be having its biggest sale of the year, costumed superhero characters, and the Calbi gourmet food truck.

Read more on the history of Free Comic Book Day… Read the rest of this entry

Year in Review: Archaia arrives

Continuing my Year In Review of local LA comic book movers and shakers. Yesterday, we looked at Boom! Studios successful Boom! Kids imprint and their line of Disney comics.

Today, we look at comics publisher Archaia Comics. Originally set up as a banner for the self-publishing efforts of writer/artist Mark Smylie and his high fantasy series Artesia, it expanded into a full on publisher in the middle of this past decade, launching the anthropomorphic fantasy series Mouse Guard by David Petersen to much acclaim. More comics were announced until the young publisher seemed to become overwhelmed by its own plans, almost completely grinding production to a halt. It appeared as if Archaia was going to be another in a long line of comics publishers who have abruptly vanished. Then came news of the acquisition of Archaia by Chicago-based media company Kunoichi. For a time this didn’t seem to change anything, but then Archaia came back. In the past year, they have firmly landed on solid ground and proved themselves to be a dependable publisher of quality comics and graphic novels, with an eye to innovation in the digital comics space. Read the rest of this entry

Year in Review: Disney Comics go BOOM!

You’d think that with their over $4 billion purchase of Marvel Entertainment a year ago this week, the Burbank-based Walt Disney Company would have brought things in-house for comics featuring Disney characters. Instead, Disney has licensed a small but highly acclaimed line of comics to Los Angeles comics publisher Boom! Studios over the last year plus. And with their Boom! Kids line, Boom! has helped resurrect the all-ages corner of the comic book industry, something that many feared was a lost cause. Not only is this good news for increasing variety, but it’s absolutely crucial in making sure that another generation doesn’t slip by without learning and internalizing the language of comics. Read the rest of this entry

Kids Comics: still a struggle but worth the fight

The general consensus among mainstream comic book publishers is that comics aimed at kids, or all-ages comics, don’t sell. And sadly, they’re usually right.

Take for example the apparent cancellation of the endlessly charming Thor: The Mighty Avenger by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. Even an impending big Hollywood movie of Thor couldn’t generate enough interest to sustain the series past eight issues. Why? Maybe it’s because there are also about four other comics starring Thor or some Thor-like character and who can keep them straight? Maybe it’s because too many comic book stores cater to their established audience base of young-ish to older adults who aren’t interested in an all-ages comic book no matter how much praise and acclaim it gets.

So kids comics are doomed, right?

Not quite. Fortunately a growing number of comics stores actually do have enough business savvy to diversify their customer base. In support of this, Diamond Comics, the primary distributor for comics shops, has been amping up their KidsComics.com website, now with a handy-dandy order form kids and parents can print out to make sure their local store orders what they want.

And more effectively, and unlike ten or more years ago, there are now other ways for comics to find their audience. As examples, walk into a book store and see how long it takes you to stumble over a display of Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Granted, they technically aren’t comic books (or graphic novels), but often not far from away are copies of Bone by Jeff Smith, Owly by Andy Runton, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz adaptation by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young, The Muppet Show Comic Book by Langridge himself, and lots more. And they’ve all been selling very well. Yes even the Twilight graphic novel adaptation by Young Kim. And tons of manga too, plenty of it age appropriate (see Manga4Kids for recommendations – I’ve still got a lot to learn myself). The School Library Journal has a great blog to help find Good Comics For Kids.

There are also great web-comics for kids online. Two of my favorites are the whimsical Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kerschl and the delightfully absurd Axe Cop by Ethan Nicolle and Malachai Nicolle (age 5!). LunchboxFunnies.com is a good place to start, although they sadly haven’t updated for several months now. Hopefully it’s just temporary. There have been a few sites attempting to track age appropriate web-comics but sadly most are over a year old now, basically ancient artifacts in internet time.

Plenty of the above mentioned comics have been released as digital comics on mobile devices and online through services like ComiXology. Although they have yet to parse out kids comics to make shopping easier, they do have age ratings, which helps a great deal. Much of Atomic Robo by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener is recommended for kids 9 and up, and it is regularly among the most downloaded.

So kids comics do sell. You just have to know how to get them to kids.

New to Comics? New Comics for You! 8/26/09

It’s the All-Ages Edition! Gather the kids! It’ll be fun!

Never read a graphic novel before? Haven’t read a comic book in years?

Here’s some brand new stuff that comes out this week that I think is worth a look-see for someone with little to no history with comics. That means you should be able to pick any of these up cold without having read anything else. So take a look and see if something doesn’t grab your fancy. If so, follow the publisher links or Amazon.com links to buy yourself a copy. Or, head to your local friendly comic book shop.

Disclaimer: For the most part, I have not read these yet, so I can’t vouch for their quality. But, from what I’ve heard and seen, odds are good they just might appeal to you.

The Muppet Show: Meet the Muppets – $9.99
By Roger Langridge
112 pages; published by Boom! Studios; available at Amazon.com

This hilarious trade collects the first four issues of THE MUPPET SHOW, written and drawn by the incomparable Roger Langridge! Packed full of madcap skits and gags, The Muppet Show is certain to please old and new fans alike! If you have a favorite Muppet, chances are it’s featured in this show-stopping collection!

I’ve recommend a single issue here and there of this series. Now here’s the entire first mini-series all in one place for a great price. Maybe people who didn’t grow up on this show won’t or don’t care. But I’d like to think anyone who can handle singing, dancing and joking bears, chickens and whatevers would get a kick out of this.

Toy Story: The Mysterious Stranger – $9.99
By Dan Jolley & Chris Moreno
112 pages; published by Boom! Studios; available at Amazon.com

This action-packed trade collects all four issues of TOY STORY: THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER. Woody, Buzz and the gang encounter a mysterious egg-shaped toy… They crash Andy’s science fair in a heroic attempt to repair his broken exhibit… The toys must make peace with the family’s new dog, Buster… And finally, Mr. Potato Head decides that he’s tired of just being an inanimate toy. He’s going to reveal his walking-and-talking nature to Andy! Can Woody stop him before it’s too late?

Again, I think everyone has imagined their toys coming to life when they weren’t around, so my gut tells me this is accessible enough to most even if you haven’t seen the Pixar movies. Good fun for the whole family!

Yeah, that’s it. Not all that much coming out this week.

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