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What Happens in Nerd Vegas

Anime Expo just wrapped up, unleashing a host of licensing announcements on manga fandom. Otakon is set for Aug. 4-6 in Baltimore. The folks behind AnimeNEXT have announced their inaugural manga-specific con,MangaNEXT, is coming soon.

With an apparent wealth of otaku-friendly events in a relatively short span of months, it might be fair to ask, “Okay, San Diego Comic-Con International… what’s in it for me?” The answer is, “More than you might expect.”

The days when SDC-CI was simply a celebration of spandex are long gone. Movies infiltrated a while ago, and manga and anime have been steadily gaining ground as the categories become more integrated into the bigger comics picture. So it shouldn’t be that surprising that manga publishers are marshaling their forces to catch some attention at the world’s largest comic convention.

Some are doing it with special guests. Drawn & Quarterly will be hosting Yoshihiro Tatsumi, creator of last year’s critically acclaimed The Push Man and Other Stories, and unveiling his next collection, Abandon the Old in Tokyo. Tatsumi will take part in a panel, Graphic Novels: The Universal Language, at 2:30 p.m. Friday, and will be featured in a spotlight panel at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, accompanied by Adrian (Optic Nerve) Tomine. Tatsumi and Tomine will also be doing signings at the Drawn & Quarterly booth from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m. Friday, 4:15 to 6:15 p.m. Saturday, and 12 noon to 2 p.m. Sunday.

It could be argued that the U.S. manga industry wouldn’t be where it is today without the work of Kazuo Koike, author of Lone Wolf and Cub, Samurai Executioner, Crying Freeman, Path of the Assassin, and Lady SnowbloodDark Horse Comics will host a spotlight on Koike at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Koike will be doing a ticketed signing from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. (Tickets are required for some of Dark Horse’s signings, and interested parties should check with staff at the booth.)

Stan (Usagi Yojimbo) Sakai will be signing for Dark Horsefrom 11 a.m. to 12 noon on Sunday. Yoshitaka (Fairies, Vampire Hunter D) Amano will be doing ticketed signings for Dark Horse from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday and 12 noon to 1 p.m. Sunday. BOOM! Studios will host a spotlight on Amano at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Fred (Megatokyo) Gallagher will be having a busy weekend, participating in CMX’s panel at 6 p.m. on Thursday and dividing his time between his own booth and CMX’s spot.

Jim Chadwick, manga editor for CMX, said the imprint will be giving away copies of its 2006 sampler, initially released at Book Expo America in May, and will have some new licenses to announce. The sampler includes teasers of upcoming titles like Kaoru Mori’s Emma and Meca Tanaka’s Omukae Desu, among others.

Digital Manga Publishing will hold a panel at 11:30 a.m. Sunday focusing on announcements of new acquisitions. They’ll be raffling off autographed copies of Izumi Kawachi’s Enchanter and Gorgeous Carat Galaxy posters at their booth, and public relations director Rachel Livingston promises “another announcement ‘for the guys’ like we did at Anime Expo. It isn’t as large asVampire Hunter D, but we hope the fans will be just as pleased.”

Seven Seas will roll out Ravenskull at SDC-CI. Their panel, set for 4 p.m. Friday, will feature creators like Adam (Aoi House) Arnold, Christina (Amazing Agent Luna) Weir, and Jason (Captain Nemo) DeAngelis, among others. According to Arnold, Seven Seas “will have a number of our creators on hand throughout the weekend,” and “a set of 12 different collectable trading cards will be available at the Seven Seas booth throughout the convention, with different cards given out each day.”

Antarctic Press will celebrate its 20th anniversary at the con, according to Rod Espinosa. A number of artists will be in attendance, with Fred (Gold Digger) Perry presenting a panel at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. “We are also celebrating the fact that three of our creator-owned books have passed way beyond the 100 mark,” Espinosa added. “These books are: Gold Digger (130 issues and counting) by Fred Perry, Ninja High School (140 issues and counting) by Ben Dunn, and Families of Altered Wars (120 issues and counting) by Ted Nomura.”

Tokyopop is holding on to full details of its SDC-CI schedule until the release of its latest Newsblast e-mail Tuesday, July 18, but it has plenty of events on the schedule. Tokyopop editors, marketers, and creator Kim Jae-Hwan (King of Hell, Warcraft) will present a manga industry panel at 10:30 a.m. Friday. Global manga-ka Amy (Sorcerers and Secretaries) Hadley and M. Alice (Bizenghast) LeGrow will join Tokyopop editors for a panel on the OGM phenomenon at 2 p.m. Friday.Tokyopop and the Jim Henson Company will join forces for a panel on the Labyrinth and Dark Crystal manga at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Tokyopop staffers will also take part in a number of other sessions. Editorial director Jeremy Ross will participate in a panel on mobile comics at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. Luis Reyes will stop by the Star Trek panel at 11 a.m. Friday. Bryce Coleman will participate in the “What is Mainstream?” panel at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, joining such noteables as Andy (Owly) Runton and Linda (Castle Waiting) Medley.

Not to be outdone is Viz, which will feature a mix of manga, movies, and anime programming. Viz will host Matsuri (Vampire Knight) Hino, who will participate in the publisher’s Shojo Beat panel at 3 p.m. Friday, and Nobuhiro (Ruroni Kenshin) Watsuki, who will be a featured speaker during Viz’s Shonen Jump panel at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

But Viz is taking a multi-media approach to its SDC-CI programming. Other panels include an anime-manga session at 12:30 p.m. Friday and a session on Toonami Jetstream with Cartoon Network at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.Viz’s booth will feature plenty of convention exclusives. People looking to escape the con floor madness can enjoy the North American premiere of Inuyasha The Movie 4: The Fire On The Mystic Island at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Pacific Gaslamp Theater – All Stadium 15, and a special preview showing of Train Man: Densha Otoko, immediately following at 9:30 pm.

When it comes to panels, the one I’d most like to attend is Lost in Translation: Translating Manga at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Panelists will offer insights and answer questions about translating comics, manga, anime, and games. The group includes William Flanagan (xxxHolic), Charles McCarter (Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex), Jonathan Tarbox (Angel Sanctuary), Nobby Matsuo (Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked), and Jake Forbes (Fullmetal Alchemist).

Other publisher panels include:

Del Rey, 11:30 a.m. Thursday
Bandai, 1:30 p.m. Thursday
Broccoli Books, 4 p.m. Thursday

It’s looking like you could schedule your entire attendance at the con around manga programming and never hit a lull.

Of course, not every manga publisher is headed to San Diego this year. Go! Comi decided to concentrate its efforts on Anime Expo. As CEO David Wise put it, “We went so all-out at AX that we really can’t devote our resources so soon afterward to another Southern California con. Plus, we have some doubt that the audience of our largely-shojo lineup is the same audience who is breathlessly waiting for news about ‘Snakes on a Plane.’ But we’ll be exhibiting there next year.”

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