Cancelling the graphic novel bestseller list hurt the comics industry.
The New York Times killed its graphic novel bestseller list last year, and comics creators want it back. Over the past few days, hundreds have signed an open letter asking for the list to be reinstated, claiming the Times is causing damage to their industry.
When the Times canceled the bestseller list in January 2017, the decision was met with immediate criticism. Comics and graphic novels are more culturally relevant than ever, but the industry still relies on mainstream media outlets like the Times to find new readers. And as Polygon pointed out, the paper continued to publish much more specific lists like “Children’s Young Adult Hardcover Chapter Books” and “Advice Miscellaneous.”
In the words of the open letter, creators and publishers have “watched their readership decline” since the list was removed.
“The bestseller list is not the be-all-end-all of comics publishing, nor is it an indicator of literary quality, but it does help with the visibility of our medium, and thus helps advance comics as serious literature. The list plays an indispensable role in helping new readers discover books and making the storytelling that we love more visible in the cultural conversation about literature. Without the list, it’s harder for us to sell books, which makes it more challenging for publishers to take chances on new voices.”
Last year, the Times released a statement saying it planned to expand its coverage of comics “in ways that we think will better serve readers and attract new audiences to the genres.” According to the open letter, that didn’t happen. Plus, news stories and interview features serve a different purpose from a regularly published bestseller list, which provides an easy tool for retailers to see what’s popular.
At the moment, Marvel and DC superhero comics receive disproportionate media attention due to their movie and TV adaptations. However, that doesn’t really reflect the comics industry as a whole. This petition highlights March as an ideal example of a recent bestseller—a Civil Rights memoir by Rep. John Lewis writer Andrew Aydin, and artist Nate Powell. It was at the top of the charts when the Times canceled its bestseller list last year. At the same time, cartoonist Raina Telgemeier is making a name for herself as the Judy Blume of the 2010s, attracting a massive audience of young readers. By discontinuing the list, the Times prevents people from seeing these creators as mainstream hits.
The letter has been signed by well-known creators including Telgemeier, Greg Pak, Jeff Lemire, and Chip Kidd, and continues to spread across social media.