Two new Dark Horse manga trade paperback series are showing surprising strength in formats closer to their Japanese counterparts than to their first American editions. Venerable properties Lone Wolf and Cub and Akira were both originally published as comics in the U.S. but have now been retranslated and collected by Dark Horse into fast-selling trade paperbacks of over 300 pages. Four $9.95 Lone Wolf and Cub trades have been released to date, and all are moving well. The first has sold over 27,000 copies, a big number for a graphic novel. This material was originally released in the U.S. by First Comics in the 80s. Those editions were 48-page perfect-bound comics, but the Dark Horse packaging, retranslation, and value (each book is over 300 b/w pages, with a Miller/Varley cover) are helping this classic manga material find a new and expanded audience. Because these books are being published monthly, they will quickly acquire a significant weight as backlist items as well. And eventually, the series will begin releasing material not previously available in English (because the First series didn't get that far).
One Akira collection--a phone book at $24.95 -- has been released to date and has quickly sold out its 22,000 copy print run. Another run of 10,000 is at press and being released February 2nd. This material was originally published by Marvel in color 48-page comic format. A partial re-translation was done, and similar to Lone Wolf, the value proposition has improved and the more familiar book packaging may be making the material more accessible to a mainstream audience. The expanded popularity of manga since the series first appeared undoubtedly also has something to do with the numbers the book is getting.
The comic formats were alien to these books in the first place; they left the stories too fragmented, and did not give the customer enough value for the price. The Dark Horse formats are closer to the formats in which manga are sold in Japan, with long stories collected in fat trade paperbacks with big circulations. It's nice to see this great material get the treatment, and sales, it deserves.