Pantheon has been publishing a string of major literary graphic novels recently, including Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis 2, David B.'s Epileptic and Posy Simmonds's Gemma Bovery. Some houses have set up graphic novel imprints. Others, like Riverhead, Harper and Pantheon publish comics but don't really have imprints.
"Art Spiegelman said to me, 'You guys should really consider doing this,' " Pantheon editor-in-chief Dan Frank explained. "And Chip Kidd leapt at the idea." But Frank didn't want the pressure of a regular list and decided to "just publish each book on its own terms. Basically, we do the stuff we fall in love with. We're doing eight or nine this year, the most we've ever done."
Pantheon's graphic novels have sold particularly well at independent stores, Frank said. "We have a much more difficult time with the chains, because they have such success with manga."
He noted, though, that online sales have been consistently strong. "This is where Amazon is so smart—go to the page for Persepolisand look at the price they're selling the two books for together, it's a steal."
A collection of single-page strips from Chris Ware's The Acme Novelty Library is due from Pantheon in April, and later this year, the house will publish Dan Clowes's Ice Haven, an new Marjane Satrapi title, Embroideries. And Frank is especially excited about Charles Burns's Black Hole, due this fall: "It's a masterpiece."