ibooks, a new-media and print book publisher, announced plans to launch a graphic novel publishing program early next year. The house, which publishes in a variety of categories in print and digital formats, plans to publish a graphic novel each month beginning in April 2003.

Byron Preiss, publisher of ibooks, has been involved in publishing book format comics since the 1970s. "It sounds wacky," said Preiss, "but we launched America's first graphic novel series, Fiction Illustrated, with Pyramid Books in 1976."

Preiss has collaborated with publishers like Bantam to publish graphic novels in the past with mixed results. But, he said, there's a new climate for book format comics. "When you look at the shelves of graphic novels in Virgin Mega stores and see Doubleday and Norton publishing graphic novels, you know the market has changed."

Ibooks Graphic Novels will publish a mix of genres by new artists and veteran comics creators. Books will be in both color and black and white. Preiss said the titles will offer original material as well as "new agglomerations" of published and unpublished content. Dean Motter, former designer at DC Comics, will design the line.

Each graphic novel, said Preiss, will be aimed at the general bookstore trade and comics specialty shops. "S&S, our distributor, will be proposing co-op to our bookstore partners. And we will target schools and libraries with these editions." Preiss said that the books will contain no explicit sexual content.

Initial titles will include Don Lomax's Vietnam Journal; Vic and Blood by Harlan Ellison and artist Richard Corben; and Raymond Chandler's Marlowe, an anthology of authorized comics adaptations of Chandler's classic detective stories.