With sales of graphic novels in mainstream bookstores on the rise, and book distributors vying to sign comic publishers, one of the first questions to arise is -- which graphic novel publisher is number one in bookstores?  With more advanced point of sale systems available for tracking sales in the mainstream market, we can get a better idea of what's selling through in the book market thanks to the BookScan reporting service.  According to BookScan numbers for 2001, the top graphic novel publisher is not DC Comics with its huge backlog of titles led by perennial sellers like Alan Moore's Watchmen and Neil Gaiman's Sandman books, nor is it Dark Horse with its plethora of Star Wars titles and manga releases -- the winner for 2001, with a 23.6% share, is Tokyopop (BookScan numbers released by Tokyopop).  Certainly Naoko Takeuchi's Sailor Moon trade paperback collections deserve a good portion of the credit for Tokyopop's strong sales in 2001 (see 'Sailor Moon Graphic Novels Top Bookstore Sales' an ICv2 article from August 14, 2001 for a closer look at the Sailor Moon sales phenomenon).


Who will be tops in bookstores this year?  Well Sailor Moon sales may not be quite what they were in 2001, but Tokyopop has unleashed a tsunami of titles in its right-to-left 'Authentic Manga' line including bestsellers like Chobits, Cowboy Bebop, and Love Hina.  Tokyopop has also managed to get its manga adaptation of Monsters, Inc. (see 'Tokyopop To Do Monsters Inc Manga') into Wal-Mart (and anime titles like Real Bout High School into Sam's Club), which should help sales.  But Tokyopop will face increased competition in 2002 from Marvel, which is fielding a much bigger lineup than last year and should benefit from the Spider-Man movie, as well as from DC (with its original graphic novels and huge backlist), Dark Horse, and all the rest.


For independent pop culture retailers the message should be clear -- manga has become mainstream.  If Wal-Mart can sell manga, the most hidebound superhero-only shop should also be able to sell manga titles based on increasingly popular and ubiquitous animated properties that currently lead both over-the-air and cable ratings for young male viewers during key viewing periods.