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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Best American Comics 2010 Book Launch with Neil Gaiman, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Gabrielle Bell

Left to Right: Neil Gaiman, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Gabrielle Bell.

New York, October 7 – Barnes and Noble Union Square hosted a book launching event for the Best American Comics 2010. The new anthology is a collection of the year’s best comics from professional, indie, graphic novel, and the web. The event was cleverly scheduled to coincide with the start of the New York Comic Con and tapped into the comic geek audience. The large event space was packed with fans.

The panelists for the event included: Jessica Abel (editor), Matt Madden (editor), Neil Gaiman (guest editor), Gabrielle Bell (contributor), and Bryan Lee O'Malley (contributor).

Traveling Editor

The anthology is mainly edited by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden. They added the contributions of Neil Gaiman as a guest editor.

Gaiman, a prolific comic book writer, said that he eagerly accepted the offer despite his busy schedule. He recounted stories of traveling across the world and receiving large boxes of comics from Madden. Gaiman tried to read as much as possible and send the used copies back. Sometimes he would accidently misplace a comic, and others would remind him of it.

I immediate think of the scene from Hansel and Gretel. Instead of a trail of breadcrumbs, Gaiman was leaving a trail of comic books and graphic novels. I wonder if there is an adventurous comic geek who can retrace Gaiman’s globetrotting through his lost comics.

Digital Publication

Left to Right: Neil Gaiman and Bryan Lee O'Malley

During the New York Comic Con, the hot topic is the transition to digital platforms. This event was not an exception. The anthology included contribution from web comics in addition to traditionally published work. Each of the panelists provided interesting points of view on the topic.

Bell has published a lot of web comics on her blog. She talked about the speed and quickness of the internet as a medium. She states that, “I have a lot of instant feedback and encouragement. It’s gets out there a little more. I actually still prefer to read books. [Digital comics] has its problems, but it has great advantages too.” She added, “It’s a lot more intensive especially because I do journalistic and autobiographically things. So I can have an experience on Monday. Do a comic about it on Tuesday. Post it on the internet on Wednesday. Get some feedback on Thursday and start all over again.” Despite her advocacy of the digital medium, she strongly believes that there is still a place for physical media in comics.

O’Malley discussed his early experiences with publishing web comics. He also talked about Bear Creek Apartments which was a joint project with Hope Larson (his wife). He expressed the positive qualities about web publishing. However, he was cautious about being overly enthusiastic about it. He argued that, “The thing about the web is everyone is on it. So, there are tons of comics. There are an unimaginable number of comics. Some of them are extremely terrible. It’s unavoidable. You just have to find someone to curate it for you.”

Left to Right: Neil Gaiman, Bryan Lee O'Malley, Gabrielle Bell and Jessica Abel.

Gaiman was initially against the whole concept of digital publication, but he had a change of heart. He told a story about his difficulty with reading comic books. He thought it was caused by boredom. In a strange twist, he decided to buy some reading glasses from a drug store and tried reading it again. This time he was really engaged in reading them. He believes that the image enhancement abilities of digital devices could improve the entertainment value of comics. Noting the ability to zoom in and out of a frame, Gaiman was impressed in the implementation of comic books on digital device like the iPad.

Overall, the panel expressed a cautious optimism about web comics and the future of digital distribution.

After the panel discussion, there was a signing with panelists. All of the panelists were gracious enough to sign thousands of books for their fans.

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