Humanoids is a publisher with long roots in the U.S., beginning as licensor of the very influential Heavy Metal back in the 70s.  These days, it’s the only BD publisher operating directly in the U.S., and the publisher with the longest track record here.  ICv2 recently spoke with Humanoids Publisher Fabrice Giger as part of our BD Week event.  In Part 2 of this three-part interview, we talk about Humanoids’ strongest backlist and upcoming release titles, and programs to help retailers with ordering Humanoids titles.  In Part 1, we talked about the company’s history, Giger’s evaluation of American and French markets, and the audience for BD.  And in Part 3, we talked about the movie pipeline based on Humanoids titles, and the BD creative process.

What are the bestsellers for Humanoids?  What's doing best here for you?
Definitely books like The Incal, by Moebius and Jodorowsky.  It's not only company's bestseller, but it's also the best‑selling science fiction comic book in the world ever.  It's also the best‑selling non‑Japanese comic book in Japan.

The Metabarons (see "'The Book of Chaos,' 'Savage Highway,' 'The Metabarons Vol. 1'") and The Incal are two very solid titles in the catalog, but every month we release new titles. Some of them are reprints since we have more than a few titles selling regularly, such as Legend of the Scarlet Blades.

With books like Sword of Glass, we release the oversized edition first, then a few months later, we release the regular‑sized edition.  That way we please a specific segments of our audience.  Some really want them in the bigger format and some others want to be closer to their rnormal experience with U.S. comic books.

It means that we have different versions of the same content that has been released over the years. That makes some of these titles important successes because you add up the different versions of the same content.  Recently we published a sixth reprint in another format of The Legend of the Scarlet Blades (see "Humanoids' Fall Releases").  That's definitely something that sells a lot, with constant reprints.

We have also all the Jodorowsky titles, what we call the "Jodoverse."  It's definitely something that we continuously reprint. Metabarons Genesis: Castaka The IncalFinal Incal (see "'Final Incal' in English"), Before Incal (see "'Before The Incal'"), Madwoman of the Sacred Heart (see "Humanoids Plans Manara, Moebius Releases") and so on.

Or the titles that we've developed with U.S. artists or writers like I Am Legion.  Almost every year we reprint the book.

We now have an active backlist, which I wasn't sure that we would achive when we started 18 years ago when reordering a title was not yet something normal for a retailer. That's, I think, the key issue.  This is something very strong in Europe.  It wasn't the case in the U.S.

One of the reasons why we say that we are now successful in the U.S. is because we see the retailers reordering our backlist continuously.  That's probably the main thing, because it's one thing to make a success of a new book.  It's another thing to have a backlist catalog which is really active.

If I can say something about how happy we are about the business now, it's that.  It's that we have constant reorders on our backlist catalog.

You mentioned the two sizes.  Is the larger‑sized product to appeal to people who are more familiar with the European format and the smaller ones to appeal to people that are more comfortable with American‑sized comics?
Yes, definitely, but what I can say on top of that is when we started in 1998 we only had oversized books.  Back then, we used to sell some, a few hundreds of each but the feedback was mostly negative.  It said that, "We don't have space for that; the shelves are too small for that," and they were right.

Now we have customers that are familiar with the European style of publishing comics, but also new readers who just prefer the experience of having the art in a bigger size because, as you know, one of our trademarks at Humanoids is to work hard on the content, not only the text but also the art.

Usually, one of our artists spends four or five times the amount of time on a book compared to an artist in the U.S. industry.  They're not better, it's just that they spend more time.  It costs more money to develop but the result may appear more sophisticated.  So the new readers who like our oversized books, I think tt’s because they want to really enjoy the art.  We can see that sometimes when we release a book only in the regular size, which is the small size for us, we get complaints.  We do that when we consider that the oversized format doesn't add anything more to the product.  Still we get complaints from people just wanting to have it bigger and what they call "nicer."

What are you most excited about coming up in terms of new releases over the next few months and into 2017?
I'm just back from two months in Europe at the Paris office.  I will have an email sent to you.

[We received an email with the following info on Humanoids upcoming releases:]

Snow Day is on-sale Feb 15.  It's a B&W Fargo-esque paperback written by critically acclaimed Pierre Wazem (Koma).  See "'Snow Day' and 'Whispers in the Walls'."

The Metabaron Book 2: The Techno-Cardinal and The Transhuman is on-sale March 15. It’s the second in the new story arc of The Metabaron and illustrated by Niko Henrichon (Pride of Baghdad, Noah).  See "A New Tome for the 'Metabaron' and an Undersea Thriller."

The Book of Chaos is on-sale April 26. Released as Prophet in France, this Oversized Deluxe Edition of the cult hit collects the complete story from Xavier Dorison (Red One, The Third Testament, Sanctum) and Mattieu Lauffray (The Chronicles of Legion, Star Wars cover artist).  See "'The Book of Chaos,' 'Savage Highway,' 'The Metabarons Vol. 1'."

One of the biggest challenges for comic stores is figuring out what to buy and what's going to sell better than what other titles.  I know all publishers love all their children, but if you could identify the ones that you think have the greatest potential that would be very helpful to our readers.
We released the book about the “Jodoverse,” which was a $4.99 book (see "Jodorowsky Sampler Introduces Key Works").  It showcased four or five of the most interesting titles by Jodorowsky.  I'm sure it's attracted people to these books that they didn't know.  For a small amount of money they were able to test the water and see if they enjoyed it.  

We also have a kind of starter pack that is promoted through Diamond about where to start when you're new to Humanoids titles.  Of course, the answer is The Incal, The Metabarons, The Legion of the Scarlet Blades, Barbarella, Olympus, and titles like that.

I know it's not that easy for a retailer to know where to start.  They're not all willing to take the risk of ordering things that they will not be able to return if they don't sell it.  I get it. That's why the starter pack was created.

Those starter packs, are those something that's cycled through Previews or are they constantly available as a backlist item?
It's a list so it's constantly available, but the thing is we try to have it advertised through Previews two or three times a year just to enlarge the stores that are carrying our books. It's availible in the Retailer section of our website, as well as a Vendor Tool on the Diamond Retailer site.

Click here for Part 3.