Book Expo America, the annual book festival that promotes virtually every major publisher in America, and most smaller ones, announced some changes yesterday: basically, that the show is going to be held in New York City exclusively for the forseeable future, and midweek beginning in 2010. The move was purportedly made to keep costs down for "the major publishers." Which is great if you're a giant corporation based in NYC, but ignores one salient fact: NYC is actually a more expensive place to visit than just about anywhere if you are a publisher or bookseller who doesn't already live in NY. And contrary to what Reed seems to think, there are plenty of us who fit that description.
Paul Constant tiptoes around some of this in a Stranger blog post this morning that I mostly agree with, but I'll spell it out more clearly: Chicago or Vegas (to give two examples) are actually way better level playing fields if the goal is to keep costs down for the industry as a whole, and not just Reed Business and those "major publishers" Reed seems so concerned about.
The BEA in NYC is often insufferable when it opens on a weekday, when every "major publisher" staffer and intern and freelancer who would otherwise never in a million years get sent to BEA in any official capacity is in attendance, either as an excuse to get out of the office or to simply acquire Free Shit. This is not a means to an efficient end.
If Reed wants to attract the widest possible base of all arms of the publishing and bookselling world, it should continue to move around. There are publishers you see at a Los Angeles BEA that you would never see at a NYC BEA, and vice-versa. I presume the BEA has always moved around because this was seen as a good thing, being as inclusive as possible.
This latest announcement is part of a recent trend by Reed Business to seemingly consolidate the entirety of North American publishing into a few major New York City corporations, as seen by its recent cancellation of Book Expo Canada, the largely uninspired New York Comicon, and the latest announcement that Vegas and D.C. are off the table for BEA.
I understand cost-cutting measures, but when seemingly every cost-cutting measure Reed engages in either costs a small publisher like us more money, or simply threatens the greater good of all, and then tries to spin it as a Good Thing, I bristle. We are constantly told we live in an increasingly borderless world, and yet as a publisher, it's sometimes hard to believe.
We'll still continue to exhibit at BEA, it's an important show for us, and New York is always a great place to visit (even if the Javits Center isn't) but let's be clear: this is not about cutting costs for anyone but Reed Business, and the result will do little but enable corporate hegemony at all levels of the book world.
UPDATE: "Enable" is probably too strong a word. "Facilitate"? Anyway, this isn't that big of a deal except I was simply annoyed to read today that BEA will be in the most expensive city in the country for the forseeable future so that Random House or Doubleday can save some money. That struck me as a very Bush administration way of addressing the new economic climate.
You should all head over to Rob Clough's HIGH-LOW site right now, read his Top 50 for 2008, and then thank him for getting it done when he did, because late last week he and his wife welcomed baby daughter Penelope into the world, and I guarantee you that if he hadn't finished that Top 50 before she was born, you would never have gotten the chance to read it. Which is my way of saying congratulations to Rob and Laura, who are about as kind as anyone you'll meet and will no doubt make fantastic parents.
I read that one of the crucial plot points of Marvel's big Secret Invasion crossover involved newly-elected President Obama bouncing Tony 'Iron Man' Stark from leading the Avengers and replacing him with mass-murdering psychopath Norman 'The Green Goblin' Osborn, creating some king of supervillain Illuminati and making Marvel the new Jack Chick. Shrewd move.
And now "Obama" is making another crass Marvel appearance in some kind of Spider-Man variant collectible bullshit issue. I'm loathe to link about it, but this Wonkette quote was too rich to pass up: "Who is that mysterious black person in a business suit who looks absolutely nothing like Barack Obama, your new president? It's COMIC-BOOK Barack Obama, that's who! Jesus fucking christ, could Marvel Comics maybe hire somebody who can maybe draw something vaguely resembling the president-elect, rather than 'random negro dude in a suit who also seems to have neck tumors'?"
I actually thought there was some kind of particular law (for better or worse) against trying to profit commercially off a president's likeness in a way not protected by Fair Use (and I doubt limited-edition variant covers qualify as Fair Use), but I guess I totally made that up.
This month I've mostly been home with my six-month-old daughter, which doesn't leave a lot of time for heavy reading (or watching, for that matter). Short attention span entertainment is where it's at. To the point where I've found myself doing something I haven't done in years: re-reading a bunch of old (mostly Marvel) comics from my youth that have been gathering dust in the basement for 20 years. Comics by John Byrne, Michael Golden, Bill Sienkiewicz, etc. I think I was partially inspired by Frank Santoro's effusive love for the comics he grew up with. He and I are about exactly the same age, I think, so a lot of what he writes about 1980s comics resonates with me even when I disagree with him. One of the 'runs' I just (partially) re-read was a true favorite of my childhood: John Byrne's Fantastic Four (from somewhere around issues 220-something through 293). I was surprised to enjoy these comics again (as long as I don't read most of the dialogue and just skim things rather briskly, anyway), because I don't think of Byrne with the same reverence I do of other mainstream creators of that era, even though at the time I thought he was the greatest. Yeah, he's got a total tin ear for female characters, his inking is pretty lousy, etc., but he also came closest to the high-adventure, soap-opera spirit of the original Lee-Kirby FFs as anyone ever has. He got the gist of what made the FF tick, in a way that kids could totally dig. Anyway, a few random things I particularly enjoyed from this run:
1) The Jerry Ordway inked issues in the 280s-290s. Seriously, these were very cool looking superhero comics for the era:
Byrne seemed to have a little more free-reign than a lot of writers/artists behind the Shooter Curtain of Marvel 1980s. Not that he used it as innovatively as, say, Miller and Mazzucchelli, but lately I've been enjoying goofy stuff like the panel above, depicting a scene of a Connecticut dinner party attended by Reed and Sue as their short-lived alter egos, "Reed and Sue Benjamin" (the most believable alter-ego since Superman put on glasses), with guests named "Hi", "Lois," "Walt," etc. This all no doubt flew completely over my 13-year-old head.
Anyway, let this post be a loud rejoinder to the notion that we at Fantagraphics are a bunch of elitist jerks. I've been reading 1970s/1980s Fantastic Four, Moon Knight, Master of Kung-Fu, The 'Nam, and Defenders comics all month, fer crissakes.
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