You’d think with the WATCHMEN graphic novel selling 10K+ copies a week on and off since July that it would have cracked a major print bestseller list (NYT, PW) by now, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong. For various reasons, WATCHMEN has been shut out, and in fact, graphic novels are not even counted on the New York Times Book Review’s prestigious bestseller list.
This fact was brought up this week in a post by Del Rey’s Betsy Mitchell on the Suvudu blog:
As a result of my ranting around the office Thursday morning, the head of publicity contacted the Times to find out why Welcome to the Jungle had been dissed. “Well, there’s actually an answer,” she reported. “Even though they have included graphic memoirs and nonfiction like Persepolis and Art Spiegelman books on the list, they have not been tallying graphic novels. HOWEVER: they are planning to start a separate list of graphic novels, if not by the end of this year then very early next year.”
The Times’ ban on graphic novels has been in place for a while, and has caused consternation at both Marvel and DC, according to numerous gripes we’ve heard.
Marvel, in particular, has been hoping for a slot in the NYT bestseller list for a while, going so far as to take an ad out in the NYT Book Review for the Stephen King DARK TOWER hardcover, which came out a year ago last November. Apparently, both DARK TOWER and DC’s HEROES GN both sold enough to crack the list, but both were denied. Since then, WATCHMEN has been a legitimate publishing industry phenomenon, but hasn’t made the paperback list.
It isn’t that graphic novels NEVER made the list. In fact, ENDLESS NIGHTS, the deluxe Sandman hardcover anthology, made #20 on the extended list in 2003. However, according to several observers, this was viewed by the folks who make the list at the Times as “a mistake,” for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.
The Beat contacted Times spokeswoman Diane McNulty about the GN situation a few weeks ago, and was given this response:
We’ve never attempted to capture this market comprehensively, which would involve different retailers than the ones we currently poll, in order to do the field justice. On very rare occasions over the years one or two of the comic- or graphic format titles hit the list for a short time, due to whatever phenomena and general interest surrounded their appearance in the general market place.
Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons much acclaimed superhero epic, has always sold well as a backlist title. But since the July release of an online trailer to promote director Zack Snyder’s forthcoming film adaptation of the book, DC Comics has gone back to press for nearly 1 million copies of the graphic novel. “A pretty amazing record for a 21 year old book,” said DC president Paul Levitz. In fact, the popularity of the Watchmen trailer and the hit Dark Knight film, is giving several classic superhero collections a backlist sales push, among them, Moore’s V for Vendetta, Grant Morrison and Dave Mckean’s Arkham Asylum. David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One, The Long Halloween and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.
As for the Times’ proposed new graphic novel bestseller list, as the reply to Mitchell shows, it’s still in the works.
Although newspapers (and the Times) are having serious problems in the new media world, getting on the Times’ list is still seen as a real coup in the book publishing world…and even in this era of booming sales and legitimacy, there are still a few glass ceilings.