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New York Times brings graphic novels back to the Book Review

After a more-than-two-year absence

Artwork of Ms. Marvel (aka Kamala Khan) punching through glass with a giant fist Marvel

The New York Times today announced that it will resume publishing a Graphic Books bestseller list for the first time in over two years, restoring a key point of prestige for the oft-undervalued medium of comics.

The Times unceremoniously dropped its graphic novel and manga lists from the paper’s Book Review section in January of 2017, after eight years of consistent publication. At the time, Book Review editor Pamela Paul promised that the Times would instead focus on more reviews and features of graphic storytelling, to “recognize growing readership.”

In response, plenty of comics retailers and creators pointed out that a review or a feature for the occasional book does not offer the same widespread value and authority as the simple phrase “New York Times bestseller.” And you can’t have a bestseller if there’s no bestseller list.

The Times — and American journalism as a whole — has had a complicated relationship with comics since the dawn of the medium. The etymology of the term “yellow journalism” comes from the immensely popular early comic strip The Yellow Kid, competitively published by the most infamously sensationalist American newspapers of the 1890s.

The Times previously siloed comics into three bestseller lists: Hardcover Graphic Novel, Paperback Graphic Novel, and Manga. Starting Oct. 2 (online) and Oct. 20 (in the print insert) the Times Book Review will run a new Graphic Books list, which will follow sales figures in fiction and nonfiction, children’s and adults’ books, and manga.

“We are thrilled to bring back to our readers graphic books and mass market best sellers as two monthly best-seller lists,” said Paul in a press release. “Our new monthly graphic books list combines the format as it exists across all platforms — hardcover, paperback and digital — in order to represent the range of ways in which publishers create and people of all ages read these books.”

In 2017, the Times’ graphic novel bestseller lists were regularly topped by YA fiction and memoir, like Raina Telgemeier’s Guts, one of Polygon’s most anticipated graphic novels of 2019. Teen-girl-focused superheroes often made an appearance as well, like Kamala Khan (seen above). If I had to bet, I’d say that probably hasn’t changed much, but we can all find out for sure next week.

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