Taking note of the fast-growing sales of manga graphic novels—English-language reprints of licensed Japanese comics—Random House is planning to launch its own line of manga graphic novels through its science fiction and fantasy imprint Del Rey Books in the spring of next year. The still-unnamed line of books is one of the earliest by-products of Random House's co-venture with Japanese publishing giant Kodansha, the largest publisher of manga in Japan, announced earlier this year.

Betsy Mitchell, editor-in-chief of Del Rey, confirmed that the house will begin publishing manga graphic novels. And while Mitchell told PW the line will be launched officially next month in San Diego at Comic-Con International, the big comics industry trade and consumer show, she declined to go into details and emphasized that the venture was still in the planning stages.

Sources familiar with the venture told PW that Mitchell is beginning to assemble a staff. Most manga titles published in the U.S. are licensed English translations of series published in Japan. The Kodansha venture, sources told PW, will allow Del Rey a first look at popular Kodansha series. Graphic novels released by publishers like Tokyopop, Viz, Dark Horse and Raijin have shown phenomenal sales growth, and total U.S. manga sales are said to be doubling from year to year.

RH's presence in the manga market should have immediate effect. Other large U.S. publishers will likely pay closer attention to manga publishing and establishing relationships with Japanese publishing houses. This past BEA offered some evidence that general trade booksellers are beginning to pay close attention to the sales potential of graphic novels.