On January 26, The New York Times announced plans to discontinue its weekly graphic novel bestseller list as of February 5. There are three subcategories on the list, including manga, softcover graphic novels, and hardcover graphic novels. While it is possible for graphic novels to make the general bestseller list, they will no longer be specifically featured as a genre.
The graphic novel bestseller list has been active since March 2009, when it emerged in response to excitement generated by the Watchmen movie that had debuted that year. The rankings are compiled based on the sales of books in both chain and independent bookstores, online retailers, and newsstands. The list acts as a perfect way for readers to see what is popular instead of relying on official reviewers.
Whether the change was made for financial reasons is up to debate, but the loss is a symbolic one. Interest in comics has increased significantly in the last decade. With movies and television series being modeled after well known comics, as well as the rise in popularity of webcomics, comics have transitioned away from being an obscure niche to being an integral part of pop culture. The debate on whether comics are considered a ‘legitimate’ medium is ongoing. There are still many naysayers who view comics as products that are marketed only to children. Having a dedicated best seller list in a prestigious newspaper like The New York Times is validating for both authors and fans, and legitimizes the medium to non-graphic novel readers. In that sense, the loss is a step backwards.
According to Pamela Paula, editor of The New York Times Book Review, the newspaper will not be removing coverage of graphic novels but, instead, will be expanding its coverage. Concrete details on how The New York Times plans to make up for the loss of the list -- whether it will be through additional focused articles or more in-depth reviews -- have not yet been announced.