ICv2 took in the 2002 Book Expo America show (BEA) at the Javits Center in New York City on Friday, May 3, and talked to comic publishers selling to the assembled booksellers.   Although distribution issues clouded the picture for some, the publisher mood was upbeat, with booming sales to the book trade a common refrain.  Robert Boyd of LPC, the largest distributor of graphic novels to the book trade, said that despite the company's chapter 11, its sales were good.  One reason was the volume on what Boyd says will be the #1 comic product for bookstores in 2002, the Dark Horse Star Wars:  Attack of the Clones adaptation (he speculated that The Hobbit was the #1 comic product in bookstores in 2001).


Marvel execs, of course, were upbeat, and why not, on the opening day of Spider-Man (see 'Spider-Man Blows Away Harry Potter').   But they were also upbeat about the book business, noting substantial improvements in the months since Diamond became its distributor to the book trade.  Marvel also has more books in print, and is producing more titles, two key elements in its improving book sales.


The folks at Tokyopop were talking up the results of their recent massive manga launch.  According to VP Sales and Marketing Steve Kleckner, sales at Mediaplay outlets have been so good that parent Musicland now plans to put the floor displays in over 300 Suncoast stores.  This will be the first time that Suncoast has carried manga, which will complement its anime and toy lines. 


Fantagraphics' Gary Groth and Eric Reynolds were very happy with the results of their past year, a success which they attributed to four factors:  Ghost World, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, and Fantagraphics' improved distribution through W.W. Norton.  According to Groth, Norton is selling triple the numbers on new releases that Fantagraphics had previously been selling into the book trade, and sales to bookstores are up to 25% of Fantagraphics sales from 8%. 


Groth said that the increase in the importance of the bookstore channel is subtly beginning to influence publishing decisions, citing the increase in the number of  coffee table art books that Fantagraphics is publishing.  For example, it will be publishing a follow-up volume to the just-released hardcover Krigstein book. 


We asked Groth whether that meant that Fantagraphics was headed toward a day when all of its output would be released in book format.  'No,' he said, 'Comics still have their place.'