Best known for its line of role-playing games, such as Warhammer, Battlefleet Gothic and the Lord of the Rings miniature game, England's Games Workshop is now getting into graphic novels with the Black Library imprint. This imprint of its BL Publishing division spun out of the seven-year-old Warhammer Monthly, a black-and-white comics magazine targeted at the gaming audience of 12—20—year-old males. Recently, the line has expanded into original graphic novels, all based on the dual universe of the Warhammer games. The original Warhammer is set in a dark, Tolkienesque fantasy universe, while Warhammer 40,000 is science fiction oriented.

The Black Library published 10 graphic novels in 2003 and plans to produce about the same number in 2004. "We did our first hardcover graphic novel early in 2003, Daemonifuge, at a $19.95 cover price and sold out about 2,000 copies through our trade and retail sales chains," reported global sales and marketing manager Vince Rospond. The book won Borders's Graphic Novel of the Year 2003 in the U.K. November saw the publication of Lone Wolves by comics vets Dan Abnett and Karl Richardson, the story of space marines in a desperate battle on an icy planet, and the imprint's first color graphic novel, The Redeemer. "Overall, we've experienced a 30% growth in our sales across all channels for 2003," Rospond continued. While the core audience remains gamers, Black Library is beginning to see an increase in the non-gaming audience, especially as its publishing line gets a larger presence in bookstores and comics specialty shops.

Most of the Black Library's books are black and white, reflecting its English origins. "Black-and-white, large-format, trade book graphic novels aren't generally the norm [in the U.S. comics market], but they have a following," said Rospond. BL's graphic novels sell 1,500 to 3,000 copies across all channels in the U.S., said Rospond. "We've had some interest from libraries because of that, and the fact that we appeal to boys 12—18, which is a neglected area of the market." The books are also very popular with the military; Rospond noted, "Our books and graphic novels have even ended up in Afghanistan."

For 2004, the Black Library will be publishing follow-ups to some of its most successful books: Daemonifuge III, Lone Wolves II and three fantasy anthologies that tie into the new Storm of Chaos game campaign are on tap. The publisher is also considering "pocket editions" of its graphic novels and products to tie into the launch of Games Workshop's online first-person game at the end of the year.

The imprint will also have an increased presence at trade shows, with booths at Book Expo, Comicon and Wizard World.