Fabrice Giger on the Humanoids-DDP Deal
Announced at the Devil’s Due Publishing panel at the recently-concluded Comic-Con International in San Diego, DDP has formed a co-publishing alliance with LA-based Humanoids Publishing and its European sister company Les Humanoïdes Associés.Les Humanoïdes Associés was founded in Europe in 1974 by Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet, Bernard Farkas and Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, or more famously known as Moebius. In 1988, Swiss publisher/producer Fabrice Giger purchased Les Humanoïdes Associés. He was only 23 at that time. Pierre Spengler, who co-produced the Superman trilogy with Ilya Salkind and also served as a consultant on the 1984 Supergirl movie, came on board as co-owner in 2004 and reportedly has a 12-picture option drawn from titles in the catalog of Les Humanoïdes Associés, starting with I Am Legion by Fabien Nury and superstar artist John Cassaday. The deal with DDP, which marks the second co-pub venture between Humanoids and a US publishing house, will see the publication of I Am Legion in November, followed by Jerry Frissen and Guy Davis’ The Zombies That Ate The World in December. Future titles include Olympus by Geoff Johns, Kris Grimminger and Butch Guice; Redhand by Kurt Busiek and Mario Alberti; Sebastian X by Michelangelo La Neve and Stuart Immonen; Infinity by Chuck Austen and Matt Cossin; Songes by Denis-Pierre Filippi and Terry Dodson; and more. Newsarama.com spoke with Fabrice Giger, co-owner and CEO of Humanoids, about the company’s re-entry into the English-speaking world. Newsarama: Hi, Fabrice. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Fabrice Giger: Hi Benjamin. Thank you for showing interest in our work. NRAMA: Okay, to start with -- Humanoids has set up its base of operations in the US since 1998 and had previously published several titles such as Exterminator 17 by Les Humanoïdes Associés founder, writer, and French television personality Jean-Pierre Dionnet and The Nikopol Trilogy creator Enki Bilal, The White Lama by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Georges Bess, The Metabarons by Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez, and other works. How would you describe a Humanoids book? FG: A Humanoids book is either a translation from the vast catalog of Les Humanoïdes Associés or a title developed from the United States with the involvement of American and European authors (for example I Am Legion by John Cassaday and Fabien Nury, or The Zombies that Ate the World by Guy Davis and Jerry Frissen). Our books are not genre-specific. They cover all genres (as opposed to the superhero-focused American comic book industry). NRAMA: How has the European market grown over the years? As I understand it, manga has taken the European continent by tsunami-level storm as well… FG: The European market is still strong but is definitely overcrowded with too many titles (almost 5,000 this year...). The manga output represents an important portion of this figure, but this has been the case for a number of years now. It is interesting to note that LHA is the first and sole European publisher to produce on a large scale its own manga line with European authors and also some Japanese ones. We do not buy rights from Japanese publishers, which allow us to retain control of all the rights to our catalog. NRAMA: There was a brief co-publishing venture between the company and DC Comics which lasted for just over a year from 2004 to 2005. Before we get to talking about the latest deal, what can you tell us about the failed Humanoids/DC venture, this time from your perspective? FG: We have no complaints whatsoever with regards to DC ; they have been professional and fair. I have heard that the reason the deal ended was as a result of low sales. However, if you look at the combined sales we made before DC with the sales made during the DC partnership, we were way over 10,000 copies for some trade paperbacks selling at $15 to $20. This was far from being a bad result. One can question the choice of republishing existing titles instead of starting by publishing new titles only, or even the choice of choosing certain titles that did not necessarily fit well in the marketplace; these were not decisions made by Humanoids. With this said, it is always easy to make suggestions or points fingers when the battle is over. Globally, for the market itself I don't see the venture with DC as a failure, but rather as a first step in a slow transformation within the US market. NRAMA: So, why re-enter the North American market now? FG: We do not feel like we ever left the market. Even though no new books were published during the past few years, we have continued to develop titles with American authors; precisely some of the titles that will be co-published with Devil's Due. At a moment, we have a slate of titles that is being developed for movie adaptations; it is time for us now to put these titles on the American bookstores’ shelves. Another goal is to boost our work with A-list American/British writers and artists. It is even feasible that we start offering exclusive deals as early as next year. NRAMA: What do you foresee as some of the challenges of expanding into the super-hero heavy US comics market this time around? Furthermore, unlike last time, the success that comic-to-film adaptations such as 300 and Sin City have proven that it's not all about the super-heroes anymore… FG: The comic book market itself and the movie industry have proved that there are now tremendous opportunities for a catalog like Humanoids. In the late 90s, we were perhaps a bit early, but still we were able to acquire the expertise on how to develop properties across the US and Europe. Now, it's time to put that expertise to good use and come back with a bang! NRAMA: Why partner with Devil's Due Publishing? FG: We want to concentrate on the creative aspects, and to develop our catalog titles in such a way that will us to turn them into major franchises. We have been particularly impressed by the energy of the DDP team. Why would we rebuild a marketing/publishing infrastructure when we can simply partner with a company of DDP’s caliber and still achieve the same goals? NRAMA: Does this mean that DDP has exclusive publishing rights to Humanoids' vast library of titles and last year's Lucha Libre, which was translated and published by Image, was a one-off arrangement? FG: This is not an exclusive deal; DDP will publish 15 titles/series. NRAMA: In terms of the format, the new partnership will see titles by prominent American creators alongside titles by top-notch European creators in the standard American comic book format. Why not offer them in the bande dessinée, large European graphic album format or the smaller US format? After all, a couple of the main complaints about previous North American/European partnerships have been about the format and the readership that the titles are targeted at, i.e. the non-super-hero readers… FG: We did publish our first books in the late 90s in hardcover, large European graphic album format... and got complaints from the bookstores; they were too large to fit on the shelves. Personally, I love the Humanoids/DC format we came up with (same height as a comic book but a little bit wider). DDP is considering going for the regular comic book size. But at the end of the day, the content is really all that matters, right? NRAMA: The co-pub initiative kicks off in November with the 2005 Eisner Award winner, I Am Legion by Fabien Nury and John Cassaday, and the rollout will continue in December with The Zombies Who Ate the World by writer Jerry Frissen and illustrated by Guy Davis. Upcoming titles include Kurt Busiek's Redhand, and Metal, illustrated by Butch Guice (is this Olympus by Geoff Johns and Kris Grimminger with Butch Guice?) as well as the completion of classic titles such as The Metabarons and The Technopriests. What other titles can we look forward to from the Humanoids/DDP deal? FG: Metal is a new sci-fi series (it’s not at all the same genre as Olympus; think of it as a “Gladiator meets Robocop” in an epic sci-fi environment); to me, it is Butch Guice’s best work ever (he does penciling and ink). Four issues out of six are already completed. In our deal with DDP, they have the possibility of altering the list of titles by the end of the year after the first titles will have been published; and there is a wide potential selection in a catalog containing hundreds of top quality titles! NRAMA: Is Humanoids open to new submissions at this point in time? Or are you concentrating on re-printing two to three existing titles per month for now? FG: We are 100% open to new submissions, but it is important to note that we remain highly selective in terms of the titles we will produce. NRAMA: Can you and/or someone in charge of publishing provide me with an update on the following titles, whether or not they've been published in France, release dates, and any other relevant info? Let’s start with Chuck Austen’s Flywires/The Last Call. FG: Completed. Threee French albums (i.e. six comic book issues) under the title L'Infini. NRAMA: Jamal Igle’s Army of Angels. FG: Completed. Three French albums (six comic book issues) under the title L'Armée des Anges. Jamal illustrated the first two books and Steven Cummings did the last one. Script by Thomas Fenton. NRAMA: James Hudnall’s Aftermath. FG: Completed. Three French albums (six comic book issues) under the title Trigs, illustrated by MISS artist Mark Vigouroux. NRAMA: Terry Dodson’s Coraline. FG: One book completed (two comic book issues), second volume under production. NRAMA: Alex de Campi’s Messiah Complex and Adam in Chromaland FG: Messiah Complex, two books published, unfinished series. Adam in Chromaland, one book published, unfinished series. NRAMA: ChrisCross’s Neferites L'Embaumeur. FG: One book published, unfinished series. NRAMA: Ladronn's The Last Incal with Jodorowsky. FG: One book published, ongoing series. NRAMA: Travis Charest’s Dreamshifters. FG: A one-shot book to be published in September in France under the title Les Armes du Meta-Baron (Weapons of the Metabaron), pages by Travis Charest and Zoran Janjetov, script by Jodorowky. NRAMA: Stuart Immonen’s Sebastian X. FG: I am really sad about the fact that Stuart chose to go exclusive with Marvel after having completed only the first book of this series, killing it before it even launched. This is one of the best scripts I have raed in a long time. The lesson learned here is that we will never again sign with an author in the US market if he doesn't commit to finish the series he started. NRAMA: Jason Henderson and Tony Salvaggio’s Clockwerx. FG: First book to be published in French in August, illustrated by French genius Hostache. NRAMA: Chris Claremont & Denis Medri’s Rascals. FG: No news on this title for the moment. NRAMA: By the way, there was to have been a promotional Stripperella comic, which was to be written by Stan Lee and illustrated by Harry Cane with a cover by Cameron Stewart, published to promote the Lee-created animated series but creative differences between TNN/Spike TV and Pamela Anderson saw it cancelled before publication. Was the matter ever resolved? Will the comic see the light of day at all? FG: We were not really involved in this. Our team in LA rendered some services, that's about it. NRAMA: One of the main goals is also to turn some of our properties into film, TV series and video games. Are you looking at remakes such as the Enki Bilal-directed Immortel (ad vitam) or Immortal, based on Bilal's La Foire aux immortels (The Carnival of Immortals) or totally new adaptations? Or are they part of the 12-picture deal with Pierre Spengler who was reportedly producing live-action films based on I Am Legion, The Metabarons, The Horde, Lucha Libre, Fragile, and an animation adaptation of The Zombie That Ate the World? FG: I do not believe it is time for a remake of Immortel and we have no new projects with Bilal. We have several projects in development at various stages, some of them having been optioned by the studios. Fragile, I Am Legion, Lucha Libre, The Zombies that Ate the World and a few others are already beyond script stage.
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