Ian Sattler, Marketing Manager for Humanoids Publishing, sat down with CBR this week to talk about some new projects coming from the publisher.
"We're going to be publishing 'Metal Hurlant' in the States," said Sattler. Metal Hurlant, the European archetype for America's "Heavy Metal" Magazine, will see an all-new launch in the States under Humanoids Publishing that will have nothing to do with "Heavy Metal." "It's going to be mostly all-new material, published bi-monthly. I confess I'm unclear about the actual history behind 'Heavy Metal' and 'Metal Hurlant,'" said Sattler. "I know there's some intertwined history, but 'Metal Hurlant' is going to be really different from 'Heavy Metal.' For all intents and purposes it's an anthology in a comic size format. The lead story is called 'Megalex' by Jodorowsky and artist Fred Beltran that will run through the first several issues," Sattler said.
Sattler's most revealing comments revolved around the announcement that Humanoids Publishing would be publishing material from a few well-known American creators as well. "In addition, 'Metal Hurlant' will have all new stories every month combining American and European creators. For instance, Jose Ladronn will have a story with Jodorowsky that's awesome. I can't say enough about Ladronn's artwork on this. It's exceptional.
"The story that I'm really excited about is by Kurt Busiek called 'Hunter's Moon' and the artist is a guy called Gerald Parel and guy's stuff is spectacular. I was looking through 'The Metabarons' role-playing book and saw these incredible head shots and found out who this guy was. I was one of two people that saw his work and wanted to use it. Our old editor, Alex Cruz, was the one that offered him the job. It's a werewolf story so we'll see more than just sci-fi stories in 'Metal Hurlant.'"
"The first issue of 'Metal Hurlant' is done," said Satler, "it will be an oversized issue. I can easily say that it will be way bigger than a normal comic, but not trade paperback size either. Somewhere in between."
Sattler also gave an update on the company's most anticipated project to date, Travis Charest's work on 'Dreamshifters,' although he provided a surprising comment when asked when the book would ship. "You can quote me as laughing hysterically," said Sattler. "It's coming. It's being worked on. It has not disappeared. Remember this is a Jodorowsky book. It's not a Looney Tunes script, this is like very serious, dense material that Travis has to interpret onto the page. It will be three complete books when it's done, the one Travis is working on right now is only one album. Maybe this year? I hope this year. I've seen the pages and every page is better than the next. This will be published in the album format and you'll really be able to see how spectacular this is in the album format. I'm glad this isn't a cliff-hanger story, so my conscience is a little clearer."
Although considered a small publisher in the States, Humanoids is considered one of the comic publishing giants in Europe and beyond. "It depends on where you're standing. To some extent that helps us, but we don't want to be perceived as one of the big guys, there's no preconceived notion of who we are, and we're going to bring out some great books in the meantime, and I'm proud to be part of it," said Sattler.
Humanoids Publishing is banking a lot on Charest to open doors for them in the States. "He's a great weapon to have on this book," said Sattler. "Although we're not a continuity driven company, there are several touch points of continuity among books like 'The Incal' and 'The Metabarons' and 'Dreamshifters.' When you see the finished pages, like I have, it's great art even for Travis. This will turn heads when people see it."
To whet the appetites of Charest's numerous fans, Humanoids will release a set of four prints from the 'Dreamshifters' book. "The print sets will be released around about a month from now," said Sattler. "These are 11x17 prints. We tried to make the sets as universal as possible, some are images of the Metabaron, others are just cool images from the book. We've asked ourselves, 'Is this teasing people or giving them something to anticipate it, something tangible?' We feel that this will give fans something they can hold on to and to show them that this really is coming out. They will be actual panels from the book so fans can see exactly what the art will look like."
In addition to these announcements, Sattler also talked about a new promotion coming this summer called "Ten For Ninety." "We're launching a new promotion this summer where we'll send retailers, via Diamond, two copies each of five of our best albums, returnable with ninety day terms. Just to take the risk out of it and give retailers a chance to see what our books are like and get our books in front of comics fans. Even if you have been selling our albums, this is a great opportunity for retailers to take advantage of a great promotion."
The titles featured in the "Ten For Ninety" Promotion are 'From Cloud 99 Vol. #1,' 'White Lama Vol. #1,' 'The Black Order Brigade,' 'TechnoPriests Vol. #1,' and 'The Book Of Jack.'
Sattler was also eager to address recent problems with late shipping books. "I'm glad I've got this forum to address this," he said. "Our erratic shipping has been a problem for many fans and I'm sorry. Every time I thought we'd fixed our problems something new would come up," Sattler explained. "We changed printers in Spain and that process started and stopped and then we had a problem with our binder in Europe. For the specifics of the quality the work we get done in Europe is the best. They understand the album format we use and it works out better that way. But, now we're back on schedule. We're in fine shape, we're here for the long haul and we now have the printer we need now. I want to apologize to our fans for being so late. On the other hand, 'Son Of The Gun,' 'Negative Exposure,' 'Cloud 99, Volume 2' and the rest of our recent releases are some of the best stuff we've released to date.
"The Incal is rolling along. Moebius artwork starts with issue 13 and we're re-coloring that and presenting it in chronological order per the story, not the original release order."
The American offices of Humanoids Publishing have taken some flak from fans and critics alike for their decision to cover up some of their European parent's more sexual and violent content in the American reprints. "Whereas Vertigo and Marvel Max can publish whatever they want, we made a decision, with the artists blessing, to cover up some of the nudity and the violence and the language to maximize our potential audience. We're not imposing this rule on the creators. It never affects the story to the point that any plot points are changed. We just felt that our flagship books needed to be more inclusive of an American audience. In the albums, we don't pull any punches. You can look at 'Son Of The Gun' and see that we're not touching a thing. Sure, we get letters about it. But, if it's a matter of cutting five seconds out of a film to get down to an R rating so you can get into more theaters where 95% of the people aren't going to notice which five seconds is missing, that's the equivalent of what we've done," said Sattler.
Being a small publisher in America has its share of challenges and Humanoids is no exception. "It's challenging for everyone to get their comics in front of their audience. You have to have real expectations and push for a few small victories. This may sound a little simplistic," said Sattler, "but I believe you just have to put out the best quality work you can and let the fans meet you there. I don't see us as competing with spandex or mainstream comics. Like any other small publisher, Oni or Top Shelf, we put out stuff that's good and doesn't involve super-heroes and it's accepted. As graphic novels catch on and we seep into the mainstream where we can, that's our place. That doesn't mean super-hero stuff goes away. I love 'X-Men' and 'Superman' and that stuff is fine, but we don't need to segment the market any more than we have to. As a retailer I used to sell 'Preacher' along with 'Justice League' to the same people. You know what they had in common? They were both really, really well written and great starting points to jump on to. When you explain that 'Metabarons' is this speed-metal style, cracked-out version of 'Star Wars' written by this amazing cult film director who is supremely intellectual you can hook them that way. I try not to think in terms of spandex versus the other guys," he said.
Sattler also provided details on some of the publisher's new titles shipping later this year. "'Exterminator 17' features art by Enki Bilal and it's written by Les Humanoides Associes founder, writer, and French television personality, Jean-Pierre Dionnet. He was also one of the founders of the original 'Metal Hurlant.' We will publish this in the album format. The story won't end at the end of the album," said Sattler. "After that album is complete we'll follow that up with a regular monthly series. That will be the first time we've connected an album and a series in that way. Enki does good numbers for us, but he's not quite as popular in America as I'd like. That's one of my New Year's resolutions, to get him in front of a larger American audience, that's one of my personal missions. His art is very distinctive and he doesn't even have a regular monthly series right now.
"We'll also be publishing a complete Bilal art book with a collection of his early short story work called 'Memories of Outer Space" in an album format shipping in February at 52 pages.
"Also this year we'll have two albums that are the beginnings of multiple album series. One is currently without a name, so keep your eyes peeled for that (laughs), and the other is called 'Sanctum' which is a great story about a U.S. Submarine called the U.S.S. Nebraska. It's written by Xavier Dorison with art by Christopher Bec and it's releasing in May. In 2025 the crew of the U.S.S. Nebraska discover an ancient civilization under the ocean and they're on a race to discover a cure for a strange plague and the price they pay for the answer is pretty intense.
"'Metabarons 17' ships in May and will be the final issue. I want to stress that this is not the last Metabarons project, but the final issue of the series because we've caught up to the European issues. In about a year we'll have a new book that will cover the new Metabaron's birth and early life.
"'Miss' is the next book that I want to talk about. It's a four album series put into a single American size black and white trade paper back, like 'Torso' and it's by far one of the things I'm most excited about. 'Miss' is by Philippe Thirault, Marc Riou and Mark Vigouroux.
"Our Web site will soon be updated and I encourage (after the first week of February) for fans to come join our discussion boards, get up to date news, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our new Web site at www.humanoids-publishing.com for those changes. We'll finally have the Web site that fans have been asking for."