More than 50,000 people were estimated to have attended the Comic-Con International over the weekend, the biggest number the show has drawn in its nearly-35 year existence.

The San Diego show, attracting not only comics industry professionals but film interests, gaming vendors and, unlike BEA, hordes of rabid fans, is in a sense a barometer of pop-culture. Indeed, the film success of comics properties like Spiderman and Road to Perdition was clearly evident--the mood was decidedly buoyant and the general book trade maintained a high profile. Comics publishers and distributors reported impressive growth of the sales of book-format comics in both comics specialty stores and in the general trade bookstores. Sales from graphic novels were reported to have grown to around $20 million to $30 million, about 10% of the total comics print product.

The vigorous teen demand for Manga graphic novels (Japanese style comics) and anime, its animated film version, continues unabated. Despite the growing number of titles aimed at the Manga market, distributors say that there continues to be "a lot of unfulfilled demand out there."

Among the Manga-related announcements at the show:

  • Viz Communications (distributed to the book trade by PGW) announced plans to launch Shonen Jump, a monthly 256-perfect bound magazine that will serialize 7 storylines that will be released as 200 page graphic novels beginning in 2003. Viz will publish more than 100 manga titles in 2003.

  • Tokyopop has ambitious plans to double the number of manga releases to 400 in 2003. The house added hundreds of retail outlets for its titles and DVD tie-ins, announcing deals with national video/DVD retail chains Warehouse and Suncoast.

  • Gutsoon Entertainment, the U.S. division of a Japanese publisher, is launching Raijin, a new line of manga with considerable marketing investment.. Like Viz, Raijin will begin with a periodical anthology (weekly) offering about 12 stories that will also be released as graphic novels, and the house is launching a $400,000 international contest to find and publish original manga titles.

  • On the distribution front, Diamond, the dominant distributor to comics specialty stories, continues its efforts to build credibility for its new book trade distribution unit, announcing deals with former LPC clients TopShelf., ComicsOne, Alternative Comics and others.

  • And in a major deal, former LPC partner Client Distribution Services has lured Marvel Comics away from Diamond and will be distributing Marvel's lucrative graphic novel list (everything from Spiderman to X-men) to the book trade. CDS also announced pacts with former LPC clients CrossGen, Humanoids Tokyopop.

This article originally appeared in the August 5, 2002 issue of PW NewsLine. For more information about PW NewsLine, including a sample and subscription information, click here.