During a year in which graphic novels were celebrated with a day of events and panels at BookExpo America, sales of book-format comics continued to show striking growth in the book trade and in the comics specialty market. Blockbuster movies such as Daredevil, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and The Hulk, as well as the indie hit American Splendor, also helped stoke sales and brought comics buyers into general trade bookstores and comics shops looking for the eponymous graphic novels and various tie-ins and related titles.
Despite the impact of films, manga is unquestionably king (or perhaps queen) of comics sales in the book trade, in particular in the national chains. Led by the books of Tokyopop, manga is driving the sale of graphic novels. Although the numbers are still small compared to the total book market, teenage girls and women (as well as boys) are going to general trade bookstores to buy comics in unprecedented numbers. Random House's Del Rey imprint launched its own series of manga titles, while Byron Preiss's ibooks and anime distributor ADV Films also started manga lines. At the same time longtime manga publishers like Viz, Dark Horse and Antarctic Press increased their publishing, causing some concern over the skyrocketing number of titles aimed at this developing market.
Mainstream media attention on comics seemed to be at an all-time high. Certainly the biggest and most historic comics event of the year was the debut of Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Endless Nights (DC/Vertigo) at number 20 on the New York Times extended bestseller list in early October. This is the first time a hardcover graphic novel by a comics publisher has ever landed on the New York Times bestseller list.
The Sandman: Endless NightsNeil Gaiman (DC/Vertigo)
In Gaiman's fictional Sandman's cosmology, "The Endless" are seven immortal siblings who personify abstract concepts: Dream, Death, Destiny and so on. This work devotes a story to each of them, drawn by an all-star lineup of international illustrators.
PalomarGilbert Hernandez (Fantagraphics)
This title collects 13 years of acclaimed short stories about the interconnected lives of the residents of a fictional Latin American village called Palomar. Hernandez's rich fictional characterizations have been compared to the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez.
Same Difference and Other StoriesDerek Kirk Kim (Alternative Comics)
The best of these stories work in understated, Raymond Carver territory. Kim's realistic and sympathetic tales show the awkwardness of young people without a secure place in society.
Nightmare AlleySpain Rodriguez (Fantagraphics)
Like the original 1946 novel by Gresham and the subsequent Tyrone Powers film, Spain's graphic novel adaptation of this classic novel is a portrait of greed seen through the rise and fall of Stanton Carlisle, a carnival con man.
The FixerJoe Sacco (Drawn & Quarterly)
Sacco returns to Sarajevo to profile the life of a former Bosnian military mercenary and quasi-thug who has become a "Fixer": a man who assists Western journalists, ostensibly guiding them through Sarajevo's confusing present, but who actually serves as metaphor for its brutal recent past.
PersepolisMarjane Satrapi (Pantheon)
A powerfully understated and timeless autobiographical story of a young Iranian girl's life under the Islamic Revolution. Iron Maiden, Nikes and Michael Jackson become precious symbols of freedom, and eventually Satrapi's rebellious streak puts her in danger in a poignant recollection of her family's life in Tehran under religious totalitarianism.
BlanketsCraig Thompson (Top Shelf)
This work recreates the confusion, emotional pain and isolation of the author's rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing, along with the trepidation of growing into maturity. with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste.
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