As we’ve mentioned here several times, there have been no more important graphic novels published in this century than PERSEPOLIS by Marjane Satrapi and FUN HOME by Alison Bechdel. Both found large audiences well beyond the traditional ones for comics, and both have become oft-imitated — but never duplicated — by book publishers trying to cash in on the “graphic novel” trend. (The number of graphic autobiographies exploring ethnic roots alone is staggering.)

2012 will see the debut of Bechdel’s followup — ARE YOU MY MOTHER? As FUN HOME dealt with Bechdel’s difficult relationship with her closeted father, ARE YOU MY MOTHER? is about, well, her mom. Here’s the blurb:

Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home was a pop culture and literary phenomenon. Now, a second thrilling tale of filial sleuthery, this time about her mother: voracious reader, music lover, passionate amateur actor. Also a woman, unhappily married to a closeted gay man, whose artistic aspirations simmered under the surface of Bechdel’s childhood . . . and who stopped touching or kissing her daughter goodnight, forever, when she was seven. Poignantly, hilariously, Bechdel embarks on a quest for answers concerning the mother-daughter gulf. It’s a richly layered search that leads readers from the fascinating life and work of iconic twentieth-century psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott, to one explosively illuminating Dr. Seuss illustration, to Bechdel’s own (serially monogamous) adult love life. And, finally, back to Mother—to a truce, fragile and real-time, that will move and astonish all adult children of gifted mothers

While this book has received scant attention in the online comics world, while we were working on another project we noticed that it has a 100,000 print run planned by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. That’s a pretty daring number for a sophomore literary writer, and one of the biggest ever for a GN. Dark Horse famously had a 100,000 print run for their Janet Evanovich project — a number that didn’t turn out so well and resulted in tons of returns. Dav Pilkey’s OOK ‘N’ GLUK had a print run of 1 million, however, and that did just fine. We’re sure that Torsten will be along in the comments presently to supply any examples we have forgotten.

Whatever happens, it’s an impressive number for a graphic novel and shows a lot of faith in Bechdel’s ability and readership. Of course, given her evocative writing style and clean, keenly-observed cartoons, it’s a faith that should be merited.


  1. You mean a large print run for a SECOND graphic novel? Original or adaptation? You mention Evanovich (I believe that was the third volume in the series, and original). How many copies were printed for the second part of that GN?

    Because “Twilight” had a huge first printing, about 350,000. (Did it reach a million in print?) Yen Press PR states the same number was published for the second volume.

    “The Exile” Outlander GN had a first printing of 75,000. She’s a bestselling author, so that gives you some idea of what the market suggests. “The Kite Runner” GN reportedly had a printing of 150,000. (Expect lots of returns… the GN wasn’t that good, and makes the prose novel look cliched.) “The Alchemist” had an initial printing of 50K.

    “Percy Jackson & the Olympians, Book One: The Lightning Thief” had 75K in hardcover and 100K in paper simultaneously. “The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand” had 50K in HC, 100K in TP. “The Little Prince” had 50K in HC. (According to PW.)

    Some manga volumes, like Naruto or YuGiOh, had initial printings of 100,000 in the U.S. Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour had a similar print run.

    Then there’s the asterisk of Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. That’s why Dav Pilky had a huge first printing of Ook… Oh, and Super Diaper Baby, an Underpants spin-off, had a 1,000,000 first printing. That’s a graphic novel. “Bink and Gollie” had 125K. “Wonderstruck” has 500K on shelves (Hugo Cabret, 150K!).

    Also, what were the initial print runs on Scholastic’s Bone volumes? Yen’s Maximum Ride (a mature series which is a GN bestseller)? Odd Thomas? Lunch Lady? Squish? Babymouse? Coraline? The Tintin revamp of this year? Stone Rabbit? Geronimo Stilton (and other Papercutz titles)? Crumb’s “Genesis”?

    The one to watch? “A Wrinkle In Time” which celebrates its 50th anniversary in Fall 2012. Hope Larson is adapting, and Disney has it in development for 2013. (FSG owns the publishing rights, most likely this title will be godfathered by FirstSecond.)

    Raina Tegelmeier, who has sold some 200+K copies of “Smile” has another title in the works from Scholastic, titled “Drama” and also debuting in Fall 2012!

  2. Hmmmmmm this can go knife’s edge either way…for one it could be a nice companion piece to Fun Home or the GN equivalent of Hangover 2, where it will have this feeling of being “Fun Home with the Mom”. I’d prefer the former of the two(despite not liking Fun Home). I never know how to feel when it comes to spin-offs in general.

  3. This is amazing news for comics in general. We really have made it! Who would have believed that this could happen in decades past?

  4. The first Evanovich graphic novel was so horrible that I never sought out the next ones. I can’t imagine anyone else doing so either other than the most die hard fans of that author’s prose novels. And I never hear people talking about those graphic novels being good or selling well.