Humanoids, formerly the smaller U.S. arm of French comics publisher Les Humanoïdes, has moved to front and center after the more than 30-year-old publishing house relocated its home office to Hollywood from Paris. Now, after also opening a brand new office in London, Humanoids’ English language imprints have grown into the largest parts of the company.
Humanoids was first launched in the U.S. by publisher Fabrice Giger in 1998, but the L.A. office wasn’t established until 2010. The decision to move the corporate headquarters from Paris to L.A. was made last year, and the American company now owns all publication, movie and intellectual property rights for their lines. Editor Alex Donoghue, senior art director Jerry Frissen and Giger all work from the Humanoids headquarters in Hollywood, publishing 20-30 books a year. Humanoids titles are distributed to the direct market by Diamond Comics Distribution and the publisher expects to revive its trade book distribution later this year.
Industry veteran Tim Pilcher is heading the new London office, opened just last month, and will begin publishing books officially in March. Some Humanoids titles were previously available in the U.K. market through the noted UK indie publisher SelfMadeHero, but with the new office they plan to distribute to the market directly. For the first few months of publication U.K. releases will be slightly behind the U.S. publication schedule, but Pilcher expects publishing schedules to synch up by July for simultaneous publication in the U.S. and U.K.
Among its huge catalog, Humanoids notably continues to posthumously publish the work of the late, acclaimed and vastly influential French cartoonist Moebius, one of the founders of the original Les Humanoïdes. The epic science-fiction hit series, Incal, by Moebius and Alexandro Jordowsky is still selling strong with three reprints of the volume one hardcover in the past two years. This January Humanoids announced that they will publish the final chapter of Incal, Final Incal/After the Incal. The book is slated for a May release.
“Unfortunately, obviously Moebius is no longer with us, and he had not finished the book when it was still called ‘After The Incal,’” said Jo Witherington, head of Marketing at Humanoids. “So what we did is we kept the original chapters he did as ‘After the Incal’ and we’re including it with Final Incal as one book so you can see two different versions of the same story. José Ladrönn has taken over the art duties and that will be coming out later this year.”
Coming in March, Humanoids will also be publishing a new volume of Incal “spinoff” series, The Metabarons, Metabarons Genesis: Castaka. The new volume will still be written by Jordowsky but art duties were taken over from Juan Gimenez by Das Pastoras who’s work was most recently seen in Marvel’s Thor: God of Thunder.
Also upcoming for the house is a reincarnation of Barbarella. Though sourced from the same material, these comics are not to be confused with the Jane Fonda movie of the same name. Humanoids’ new printing of Barbarella is being adapted from the original French comics by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, who’s recent work includes Captain Marvel and Avengers Assemble at Marvel as well as Pretty Deadly with Image Comics.
“We’re really excited about it,” said Witherington. “We’re doing it with the original art and the story will be closer [than the movie] to the original French story with her updating things and making changes that only Kelly Sue could do because she’s such a talented writer.”
Titles, both new and backlist, are still being published first in France before they decide whether or not to translate them into English and release them to the U.S. and U.K. markets. However they are starting to experiment with co-imprints on their newer publications. One such title, the critically acclaimed District 14: Season One, was released simultaneously last year and the recent spinoff title, The Fantastic Voyage of Lady Rozenbilt, was released simultaneously by both imprints in November 2013.
“For the most part we are always open to doing new titles, and we’re constantly working on new stuff,” said Witherington. “We are talking to some U.S. writers who are big names in the industry about doing things. Same thing with artists.” And while the publisher is excited about continually releasing new titles to the English-speaking market, they are not abandoning their French roots when it comes to production of older material.
“The French catalog is just so vast,” said Witherington. “We’ve been around in one form or another since Moebius and Philippe Druillet founded [the company] way back when. So we will always probably focus on releasing titles like that.”
In addition to their traditionally sized graphic novels, Humanoids stands out for its continued publication of “oversized editions,” a larger trim size typical of European book format comics, where they can replicate art at its original size.
On the other end of the size spectrum, they have also begun to experiment with digital comics. A free digital copy comes with every book purchased through their website. Right now most of these digital editions can only be accessed through their site, but Humanoids is expanding its digital offerings and some books are already being listed in the iBookstore and Google Play.
While there is no Kindle, Nook or Comixology distribution as yet for Humanoids titles, Witherington said, the house hopes to soon have all their titles available for “day and date” digital release (comics industry jargon for simultaneous print and digital release) on iBooks and Google Play.