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Wizard Leads the Pack
Excerpt from ¡Journalista! for February 26, 2007
(Note: Red text indicates a dead link.)

 

"We expect the gap between graphic-novel sales and periodical comics to continue to widen."
- Milton Griepp,
speaking at the ICv2 Graphic Novel Conference
at last weekend's New York Comic Con

 

"Quesada went on to say that publishing the Dark Tower comic book has been the coming out party for the comic book industry, noting that this project will be able to reach far out into the mainstream, and show that comics are a serious art form, and an art form to be reckoned with. 'The Dark Tower coming to comics,' Quesada said, 'not just Marvel, but comics, is a great honor, and a very special occasion for the industry.'"
- Newsarama,
reporting on what sounds like possible drug use at the New York Comic Con's Steven King panel by Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada

 

The comics-news websites and blogs have been abuzz with last weekend's New York Comic Con; most of it has taken the form of product announcements, which I'll spare you, and there's been some talk of the convention's continuing logistics problems, which seem to have only mildly been corrected after last year's reported fiasco. (Tom Spurgeon has full-court links coverage, if you're interested.) Here's how American-convention newcomer Alison Bechdel described the scene at the convention:

I was confused for a while. It wasn't just comics. Every other person was dressed like an Imperial Storm Trooper, or Princess Leia. There were video games, World Wrestling Federation champions, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. It was a hellish melange of popular culture at its most nerve-shattering.

While one additional piece of interesting news surfaced at the convention — see "Comics Industry," below — what's most curious about the weekend coverage is how little coverage was given to the one truly momentous announcement made during the show: industry analyst Milton Griepp's assertion that the graphic-novel market was now larger than the comics-pamphlet market, an announcement that met with silence from news websites far more obsessed with writer Steven King's tenuous connection to a licensed comic book than an epoch-changing event almost certain to determine what the comics industry would look like ten years from now. Bloggers from Heidi MacDonald to Tom Spurgeon to Brigid Alverson reported the news with the importance that it deserved, and the online manga press was all over it — MangaCast even has audio of the presentation in question available for download (42.6MB MP3 file, relevant coverage starts 13 minutes in) — as was Publishers Weekly, where the report is currently at the top of the magazine's homepage, but Comic Book Resources? The Pulse? The Buyers Guide? Silver Bullet Comics? Missing in action. Broken Frontier — well, they've gone without updates for several weeks now. (So much for that big cash infusion from Platinum Studios, I suppose.) Newsarama blogger Graeme McMillan caught the news, but the main site missed it altogether. Bizarrely, the only major comics-news source to actually report on Griepp's announcement was Wizard Magazine, which would seem to confirm Len Wein's suspicion that David Lynch is currently directing reality.

Sure, most of the other sites in question will make some mention of it this morning, but that's not the point: The fact is, given the choice between information with far-reaching implication for American comics and the opportunity to masturbate over Joe Quesada, Dan Didio and Kevin Smith, the 21st century comics press overwhelmingly chose the latter. This says much about their values and priorities, and none of it good.

Anyway, I pulled a few further interesting tidbits from the above-linked MP3 recording of the ICv2 presentation:

  • By and of itself, the Naruto line of books probably accounts for a high single-digit percentage of all graphic novels sold last year.
  • Scholastic's book fairs are indeed a lucrative source of sales, and Scholastic (which currently claims over $4 million in GN sales from schools) is treating it seriously, to the point of producing study guides for teachers to use with Jeff Smith's Bone series. And it's not just Scholastic that's profiting. According to Griepp, Tokyopop sold "hundreds of thousands" of books based on such properties as Avatar and Spongebob Squarepants through a deal with the company to allow it access to the market.
  • Mass-market sales through outlets such as Walmart are beginning to bloom, but have yet to become a significant factor in overall sales.

Finally, three further questions related to the news from Mr. Griepp occurred to me over the weekend:

  • Do superheroes currently account for even half of the comics-sales earnings in the United States?
  • If so, what are the odds that this will still be true a year from now?
  • How long before Viz Media overtakes DC Comics as the #2 comics publisher in the country?

I wouldn't begin to know how to accurately answer any of them, of course, but they're interesting questions, no?

 

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