Roundtable: New York Times Graphic Novel Lists
The New York Times launched its Graphic Books Bestsellers List, including three separate lists of hardcovers, softcovers, and Japanese manga. Reactions online have generally been positive, especially in the sense that the existence of such a list from the New York Times marks a definite step in the broader acceptance of the format. However, there is also some puzzlement about the appearance of particular titles, the choice of graphic books over graphic novels, and questions about how the list is built.
Given all of this, I asked our contributors to react to the news and the list.
What looks weird on the manga list to me, beyond the fact that it is the list-of-Naruto, is what the other two titles are. Are that many people really reading MPD-Psycho and Eden? What about Bleach , One Piece, Maximum Ride, Rosario + Vampire, the manga titles that show up on all of the other (admittedly imperfect) bestseller lists? I wonder specifically what booksellers they got the numbers from and just how many of them were comic shops.
Well, obviously, here’s the explanation of how they got their stats:
Rankings reflect sales of graphic novels, for the week ending February 28, at many thousands of venues where a wide range of books are sold nationwide. These include hundreds of independent book retailers (statistically weighted to represent all such outlets); national, regional and local chains; online and multimedia entertainment retailers; university, gift, supermarket, discount department stores and newsstands. In addition, these rankings also include unit sales reported by retailers nationwide that specialize in graphic novels and comic books.
So in a way, it looks like they’ve got a bit of everyone, which IMHO is probably more reflective than say, just looking at the direct market, which is I fear how a lot of comics lists are slanted.
And, of course, as with all of the NYT lists, it also shifts every week, so a lot of what’s popular this week might well shift as new titles are released. So, did all those series have new volumes out this week? And do they have mass appeal?
I know my teens asked for the Maximum Ride manga, for example, but it was only a few of them that even knew it existed, and it only came out in January. So I don’t know that it would appear on this list right away.
What are the other bestseller lists that you were looking at?
Publishers Weekly has a bestseller list too , but I haven’t seen it recently. It’s usually more balanced than that. [Robin notes that this link leads to the February 2009 Bestsellers in Comics from PW]
Pretty sad that all the Naruto volumes except the first have the same tagline. Were they being intentionally funny or just lame?
I’m not sure what to make of this list. The manga list is hilarious. It makes you think that nothing else is being sold/read. But it is a best seller’s list, and it wouldn’t surprise me that all the Narutos are being sold. (But yay, I had a kid today who said he hated Naruto.)
What rubs me the wrong way is that they didn’t think to do an children/YA list. The children’s market is growing by leaps and bounds… though I imagine it would be difficult, because a title like Naruto has a lot of crossover appeal.
would be up that high. It seems a bit odd.
As for the whole idea of the lists, I think it’s great. It represents more recognition for comics as a respectable, accepted medium, and that’s always good. 🙂
I’m a lot less skeptical of the Eden and MPD-Psycho. I’d believe the NYT more the Michael Gambos. What better way to keep generating sales than to tell the hardcore masses that their favorite title will be canceled?
I’m kind of insulted at the NTY’s treatment of the Naruto manga. Whether you like it or not, the one line description makes Naruto seem more like Dennis the Menace, and that is NOT what’s going on the manga. This seems less like legitimizing it and more like something to point at and laugh.
I’m now curious to see how this affects what I see in the library. Are my patrons going to be coming in and requesting MPD-Psycho in droves, as they do with the other bestsellers lists? If that doesn’t happen right away, how long will it take to start happening?
What about the division between hardcover and softcover — what do you all think of that as applies to graphic novels? I certainly see a fair number of hardcovers from the usual publishers (especially, of course, the book publishers) but there’s a bit of a difference between the collector’s hardcovers put out by Marvel and DC (which only stay in print for a few months), the special edition hardcover omnibuses, as the Starman title is, and the many titles that only ever appear in softcover first, as with most manga.
And I’m wondering if it will bring in more non-gn readers. Will the devout bestseller list followers suddenly decide that they should also be reading graphic novels?
As far as the hardcover vs. softcover issue, frankly that always seemed kinda random to me in the fiction and nonfiction lists anyway, though I can understand why the division would be of use to booksellers. I’m wondering though how titles that aren’t really just Western-style or just Eastern-style will be categorized. Where, for example, would a title like Yokaiden go? It’s published by a manga publisher, is about Japanese folklore creatures, and is written in English by a Japanese-American. Is it manga?
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About Robin Brenner
Robin Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. When not tackling programs and reading advice at work, she writes features and reviews for publications including VOYA, Early Word, Library Journal, and Knowledge Quest. She has served on various awards committees, from the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards to the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards. She is the editor-in-chief of the graphic novel review website No Flying No Tights.
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