Saturday, October 23, 2004

A look at the year ahead: I picked a bad time to take a break from blogging, if for no other reason than Publishers Weekly's (subscription required) graphic novel supplement appeared this week. There's a nice mix of articles, focusing largely on manga and the growth of graphic novels in the mainstream book market.

The special section is anchored by a 2005 forecast, in which executives from seven publishers discuss what next year will hold for them and the industry. Among the biggest trends, the experts agree, will be publishers targeting younger readers. Marvel publisher Dan Buckley says his company will experiment with several new formats to try to appeal to the 10- to 12-year-old boy market. "It's a tremendous opportunity for whoever figures out that group," Buckley told PW.

Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics, admits that kids' comics have faced a tough time in comics shops: "We haven't been able to find a place to sell kids' comics and we haven't had a generation of Carl Barkses or John Stanleys creating them. I think there's a little more hope now that we can find a place to sell them."

The executives also address fears of an approaching "manga glut." Tokyopop CEO Stuart Levy said his company, which released between 400 and 500 manga titles this year, will scrutinize its publishing plans: "We put out a lot of books, but it's not an intelligent move to put out more than this."

Other topics of interest are shelf-space crunch and the hunt for other marketing avenues:
.. mass market retailers like Wal-Mart and Target remain elusive. Although several publishers have made tentative moves here, no one has found the sweet spot. Marvel has had its YA Marvel Age collections in Target for about six months with positive but modest results.

Levitz also acknowledges the difficulty: "I don't know that there's a natural enormous opportunity for graphic novels. When you're approaching retailers like Wal-Mart, Target or K-Mart, it has to be what they believe in."

Tokyopop has also experienced slow going with mass market retailers. "I don't think we've figured it out yet," Levy says. "I don't think a mass market product has truly been developed yet. Maybe it will come from a new guy who gets a new format right for them."
In a sidebar, Publishers Weekly also lists this year's Top 25 graphic novels, based on combined sales from bookstores, comics shops and online retailers:
  1. In the Shadow of No Towers by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)
  2. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 1 by Nobohiro Watsuki (Viz)
  3. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 3 by Nobohiro Watsuki (Viz)
  4. Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
  5. Fruits Basket Vol. 1 by Natsuki Takaya (Tokyopop)
  6. Trigun Vol. 2 by Yasuhiro Nightow (Dark Horse)
  7. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 2 by Nobohiro Watsuki (Viz)
  8. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
  9. Fruits Basket Vol. 2 by Natsuki Takaya (Tokyopop)
  10. Naruto Vol. 3 by Masashi Kishimoto (Viz)
  11. Naruto Vol. 2 by Masashi Kishimoto (Viz)
  12. Tsubasa Vol. 2 by Clamp (Del Rey)
  13. The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley (Plume Books)
  14. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 5 by Nobohiro Watsuki (Viz)
  15. Tsubasa Vol. 1 by Clamp (Del Rey)
  16. hack/Legend of the Twilight Vol. 2 by T. Hamazaki & R. Izumi (Tokyopop)
  17. Fruits Basket Vol. 3 by Natsuki Takaya (Tokyopop)
  18. Rurouni Kenshin Vol. 6 by Nobohiro Watsuki (Viz)
  19. Hellboy: Wake the Devil by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
  20. Naruto Vol. 1 by Masashi Kishimoto (Viz)
  21. hack/Legend of the Twilight Vol. 1 by T. Hamazaki & R. Izumi (Tokyopop)
  22. Trigun Vol. 1 by Yasuhiro Nightow (Dark Horse)
  23. Inuyasha Vol. 1 by Rumiko Takahashi (Viz)
  24. Yu-gi-oh Vol. 1 by Kazuki Takahashi (Viz)
  25. 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove (Marvel)

Other notable articles include a Q&A with Jeff Smith about Bone and his deal with Scholastic Books, and a look at the symbiotic sales relationship shared by anime and manga.