The ICv2 Awards are an on-line continuation of a tradition that began in Internal Correspondence, the print predecessor of ICv2, over a decade ago. These awards are given as a way of reflecting on the events of the year and to draw some conclusions from them. The ICv2 Awards are based entirely on the business impact of events on retailers, as determined by the editorial staff of ICv2.
Comic Phenomenon of the Year -- Proliferation of Manga Titles and Publishers
In our capitalist system nothing breeds excess like success, and the sales growth and market penetration of manga have led to major increases in the number of releases by manga publishers and also provided the impetus for other publishers to get a piece of the action by licensing and publishing their own manga lines.
Tokyopop published an amazing 350 trade paperback manga volumes in 2003, while Viz launched a new line of popular Shonen Jump manga trades and republished many of its classic manga titles in new smaller, more economical editions.
Dark Horse, which has always favored quality over quantity in its manga releases, nevertheless added a small, but very successful line of manga titles co-published with Digital Manga in 2003.
Central Park Media and ComicsOne also increased their output in 2003, but a raft of new publishers including Gutsoon, Broccoli, Plex International, and anime giant ADV all added their weight to the growing manga tsunami in 2003, and new publishers like Del Rey are waiting in the wings ready to join the fray in 2004.
Three factors may mitigate the proliferation of titles and keep the demand for manga titles elastic -- the introduction of new genres aimed at different audience segments, an increase in the number of venues where manga can be purchased, and the increased exposure of Japanese pop culture on television and in videogames.
Comic Controversy of the Year -- The Future of the Comic Book Format
With sales of graphic novels and manga trade paperbacks on the increase for the past few years, some industry observers have called on American publishers to eschew the (now) traditional 32-page comic book format in favor of trade paperback collections or graphic novels. Some, noting the apparent success of Viz's Shonen Jump, even argue that comics should be published in anthologies first and then collected in trade paperback form. Proponents of trades and anthologies say that these formats provide the consumer with more pages for the dollar and, in the case of a collection of a single storyline, a more complete reading experience, while at the same time providing retailers with the potential to make more profit per sale because of the longer format's higher cover price.
Proponents of the current comic book format cite the long history of failed anthology comics here in the US. They point out that trades generally lack the 'collectibility' aspect of regular comics -- and hasten to add that current formats continue to sell well to an audience that may well be resistant to a pervasive format change. The question is, are the traditionalists defending the 8-track tape or the 'French fry,' and how exactly will illustrated entertainment evolve over the next few decades? This is one controversy that won't be settled anytime soon.
Comic Flop of the Year -- Trouble
During the Jemas years, Marvel published a number of titles which attempted with varying degrees of success to break out of the rather narrow confines of the superhero genre. Marvel tried to combine manga style and superheroes in its Tsunami line and bravely attempted to swim against a pro-war tide with 411, but perhaps its most daring gamble was to serve two vastly different audiences, superhero fans and teenage girls, with Trouble, a 'romance' comic, which was at its inception the story of Peter Parker's conception.
Writer Mark Millar, who had a number of successes in 2003, and artist Terry Dodson certainly represented a strong creative team, but the five-issue mini-series sank like a stone in the direct market with circulation dropping from over 53,000 for issue one to 23,000 for issue five. Granted that many comic publishers would like to have a 'flop' like Trouble on their list, but given Marvel's PR blitz for the project and the talent involved, the results have to be considered disappointing. Perhaps a trade paperback edition will find favor with female readers in the bookstore market and reverse the fortunes of this title, but more likely Trouble won't satisfy that audience any more than it did the hardcore Marvel fans.
Comic Marketing Campaign of the Year -- Sandman: Endless Nights
DC Comic's campaign for Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Endless Nights was more of a PR blitz than a traditional marketing campaign, but it was extremely effective and did involve other key marketing elements, such as DC's purchase of premium display positions in major chain bookstores. The campaign was configured for the bookstore market, so it wisely stressed Gaiman's authorship, and fortunately for DC, there's not a harder working author in the business. Gaiman, whose novel American Gods sold over 600,000 copies, was indefatigable in his support of the project. DC managed to get interviews and features concerning the project in a wide variety of media outlets ranging from USA Today to Entertainment Weekly to National Public Radio. In a year in which graphic novels received unprecedented attention in mainstream bookstores, no title was more visible than Sandman: Endless Nights.
For Part 1 of the ICv2 2003 Comic Awards, including Phenomenon, Controversy, Flop of the Year, see 'ICv2 2003 Comic Awards, Part 1.'