Emerging from the Dungeon

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Since returning to the home office, I’ve been to the city three times. Twice for brief interviews and yesterday, it was for a mixed reason. Publisher’s Weekly is holding a series of breakfast discussions under the umbrella title Think Future and yesterday’s was about graphic novels.I strolled uptown, repeating a path I trod countless times over the last twenty years, and wound up at Random House’s current headquarters. In their Louis L’Amour room we gathered and it was like visiting a con, plenty of familiar faces. Over in one corner was Danny Fingeroth, who I’d been helping close the next issue of Write Now! and by the dais was co-moderator and long time pal Heidi MacDonald. Betsy Mitchell stopped by to compliment my work on the Batman Encyclopedia, which made me beam. People from various walks of my life were gathered together, munching on fruit and Danish, awaiting the event’s start.The conversation was entitled “Comics & Graphic Novels: Harnessing the Power of Visual Literature” with panelists including John Cunningham (DC Comics), Dan Frank (Pantheon Books), a svelte Joe Quesada (Marvel Comics), Bill Schanes (Diamond Comics), and Rich Johnson (Yen Press).A show of hands demonstrated that the majority in attendance were in the mainstream book publishing business and were here seeking wisdom and insight. Depending upon your background and experience in the field, much of what was said was not new or news. Some of the perspective and opinion was certainly interesting and the panelists were all well-spoken.Suffice to say that graphic novels are here to stay and will only grow as more publishers enter the field and the bookstores devote more space in recognition of their growth and potential in the future. Print is here to stay although everyone is experimenting with the New Media and trying to find a model that worked. The consensus seemed to be that as a marketing tool, it could not be beat.Afterwards, there was more mingling and networking. I renewed some acquaintances, was introduced to some people and agreed to do work with one outfit. So overall, it was a great morning.I then walked downtown for lunch with a group of pals, most of whom I had not seen since August so that was a delight. We chatted, laughed, debated, argued and ate. It went by too quickly but it was great to be among peers once more. If anything, it shows that if I remain working from home, I need to find ways to see people every now and then.The walk back to Grand Central was a good way to work off too much food. Up in Boston, my pal Michael Burstein blogs about the many samples he usually is handed en route to his office. I was thinking about that, noting I had been offered nothing despite walking right through Times Square. Then, in the final one hundred yards to the train terminal I was bombarded. First, there was the sample from a new frozen yogurt shop. Then, at one corner, I was handed a CD case advertising ABC’s forthcoming broadcast of the American Music Awards and in lieu of music was a chocolate disc. Across the street, CVS was handing out cans of soda with coupons to use at one specific location, clearly trying to break people of their Duane Reade habit.As days go, yesterday was pretty darn entertaining. When I got home, after stops at the gym and the local comic shop, it took three hours to dig through e-mail and immediate work but that too wasn’t so bad.Definitely need more days like that.

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