The whirlwind of New York Comic-Con kicked off yesterday with the ICv2 graphic novel conference. Attendance was up from last year, according to organizer Milton Griepp, with a mix of cartoonists, publishers, librarians, retailers, agents, buyers, and other folks from Graphic Novel World. While there were a few people from what Griepp referred to in his remarks as “American genre comics” drifting in and out, perhaps from the booth set-up going on upstairs, the day was mostly given over to the world of bookstores.
According to Griepp’s white paper, graphic novel sales have now surpassed comics periodical sales, a momentous event that took place in 2005, based on newly projected numbers. In 2006, graphic novel sales were at $330 million for the year, a quadruple increase from 2001.
He put up some charts which we jotted down. Past years sales are as follows:
2001 $75 million
2002 130 million
2003 195 million
2004 245 million
2005 295 million
2006 330 million
The rate of growth slowed a tad in ’06 — perhaps partly due to the Suncoast bankruptcy early in the year — but was still more than healthy. He also provided a breakdown by channel:
Comics shops Bookstores
2001 43 32
2002 50 60
2003 60 105
2004 67 140
2005 78 167
2006 110 220
It might be well to stand back and ponder these numbers for a minute. Think back to the dark days of 2001, when the industry was thought a goner for sure. Since then, graphic novel sales have increased in comics shops three fold, and in bookstores SEVENFOLD. Much of it is due to manga, but that was old news at today’s conference. A session about graphic non-fiction with folks from Larry Gonick to Thomas LeBien showed–and comments from the buyer’s panel which followed backed up–sales in the non fiction and “literary graphic novel” categories were a significant source of growth in 2006. (Yaoi was the other hot genre–go figure.) Part of the increase was due to the appearance of material that appealed to adult women. The usual suspects were named over and over again in talking about the growth — Persepolis, The 9/11 Commission Report, Fun Home, American Born Chinese — but they are good diverse usual suspects, and welcome additions to the backlist pantheon. (Well, the 9/11 Report has its problems — we hear that at least one sequential art teacher at SVA uses it as an example of HOW NOT TO DO COMICS. Oops.)
The manga panel covered the censorship/ratings concerns. Basically the message from all was that because publishers have been proactive in being sensitive to the dangers of the material — and in some cases even drawn attention to the potential trouble spots — they have largely avoided the kind of witchhunt that many have feared. As the uproar over the mention of a “scrotum” in a kids book rages, it’s clear there is endless potential for problems ahead — especially with yaoi — but that bullet is still being dodged adroitly.
We didn’t have a huge takeaway from today. There was no “Ah ha!” moment of triumph, but rather the kind of security and quiet confidence that comes from knowing that graphic novels are here to stay. It was fun to chat about best selling authors doing comics with big time agents, and cool to see generations and genres cross as Steady Beat‘s Rivkah chatted with Cancer Vixen‘s Marisa Acocella Marcheto.
Marchetto and Larry Gonick appeared on the non fiction panel as veterans of the long struggle for bookstore legitimacy. Gonick recalled an ABA in 1984 when he tried to get Rip Off Press and his mainstream publisher for CARTOON HISTORY interested in talking to each other, fruitlessly it seemed, as neither would visit the others part of the hall. Marchetto recalled her 1994 graphic novel WHO THE HELL IS SHE, ANYWAY? which came and went with all the sound of one hand clapping.
In our coverage on this conference last year we noted that “For years, the mood in comics was ‘we can’t’. The mood at NYCC is ‘How can we?’”
The mood in 2007 left “we can’t” so far behind, your head was spinning. It was all about growing — with comics for kids and women, with fiction, with non fiction, with American Genre Comics backlist, and on and on. The secret word is “Yay!”
Chris Butcher has his thoughts on Day 0 along with a report on the next big thing: All Ages Comics:
Following the manga censorship panel was mine, “Buyers Panel—Graphic Novels, the Next Three Years.” I think it went really well. I talked about yaoi and books for children, and I was mean to independent publishers probably? Not mean, but sort of brutally honest and realistic. Essentially, “If you want your books for children to sell, you must be at least this good, and you probably aren’t.” Examples included W.I.T.C.H., KINGDOM HEARTS, and BONE. Actually, it was a lot of fun having so many librarians in the room, because I kind of get the impression from my peers in retailing and the internet as a whole that no one knows that W.I.T.C.H. sells amazingly well. Or even what it is.
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