The word among graphic novel buyers at this year's BEA was manga.
Sales of English-language editions of Japanese comics are up enormously over last year, with the readership divided almost equally between young men and young women. Manga's multi-volume series bring customers into the stores every 30—60 days as new volumes are delivered—exactly what the book trade can use right now. This was the second year for the graphic novel pavilion (dominated by the DC Comics and Viz booths) and there and elsewhere on the floor, booksellers and librarians couldn't get enough manga. At the panel on graphic novel trends, Milton Griepp, director of ICV2.com, the pop culture trade news Web site, challenged comics publishers' fears that manga's popularity was taking shelf space from other kinds of comics, explaining that manga's popularity was helping to add bookstore space for all graphic novels.
The booths of top manga publishers like Viz and Tokyopop were buzzing, as were smaller publishers like Dark Horse, CPM Manga, ADV Manga, Antarctic Press and the new kid on the block, Del Rey Manga. Japanese publisher Broccoli Books showcased its U.S. line of graphic novels and a lot of very cute merchandise; Viz announced a partnership with Reading Is Fundamental and a new manga series/DVD release from anime master Hayao Miyazaki. Tokyopop announced the new manga title Princess Ai, created by rocker Courtney Love and her mysterious cocreator, DJ Milky; and a 48-page cinemanga about the current hot band Linkin Park that will be exclusively packaged (for July release) with the band's new DVD and will feature manga-style illustrations and images from the video. The manga panel (which included Waldenbooks buyer and confessed manga otaku Kurt Hassler) was packed and lively. Bookstore buyers and librarians reported needing and getting help from publishers with the sometimes-confusing world of manga and the growing numbers of new titles—ICV2.com's free publication, Retailer's Guide to Graphic Novels, was singled out for special praise.
It was a good show for literary graphic novel imprints, too. A year ago, Fantagraphics was in deep financial trouble; this year the house was riding high on the success of the first volume of its complete Peanuts series, a New York Times bestseller, and previewing the much-anticipated collection of Jaime Hernandez's complete Locas collection. The single most anticipated graphic novel title of the Expo was Maus creator Art Spiegelman's 9/11 fantasia, In the Shadow of No Towers, due in September from Pantheon (and promoted by Spiegelman at the show).
DC Comics introduced the initial titles from CMX, its forthcoming manga line—it includes Gals, Musashi #9 and Madoro—and also touted Watchmen cocreator Dave Gibbons's new graphic novel The Originals, as well as titles from its new deals with French and British publishers Humanoids and Rebellion. Nearby, Dark Horse showed off the Michael Chabon—inspired series The Amazing Adventures of the Escapist, along with its manga titles (Trigun) and Tony Millionaire's (who seemed to be everywhere that weekend) eccentric Sock Monkey series.