When you’ve been doing this as long as I have you are often Googling for information on some topic and end up finding something you wrote and have no memory of. Such is the case with this piece from late 2002 which ran in Publishers Weekly with the title The Year of the Graphic Novel . How have things changed in 6 years?
This has been a year of fundamental change for comics publishers. The industry managed to weather a potentially disastrous distributor bankruptcy, while the stunning sales growth of Japanese comics (manga) and a powerful sales boost from several hit movies has led to new ways of doing business with general trade bookstores.
Comics publishers across the country are crowing about a sales explosion in their graphic novel divisions. “For Marvel, bookstore sales have increased over 400% in the past three years,” said company COO Bill Jemas. “Bookstores now represent a significant portion of sales. Sales to comics specialty shops are going up—it’s just that bookstore sales are growing at an even faster rate.”
DC Comics Publisher Paul Levitz confirmed the sales explosion: “We’re going to be up maybe 25% for the year. And I don’t think we gained market share, so the overall growth was even greater than that.”
We’d be interested to compare the numbers cited at the end with today’s output:
One thing that everyone is planning for 2003 is more product. DC’s graphic novel output is increasing from 91 to 131 releases; Dark Horse published about 103 book titles (37 were manga) up from 80 last year; CrossGen is doubling its output, from around 20 to more than 40; and Marvel is planning over 200 trade book titles. Image plans to release a trade paperback a week. Valentino echoes a familiar fear in the comics industry: a glut of product. “We face [the danger] of flooding this new market with product. We prefer a long-term, continued growth strategy over a short-term ‘beat out the competition’ one. The latter has proven disastrous in our own industry time, and carrying it over to a new market seems the height of short-sightedness,” he said.