Alien Books started out as a small publisher but got big in a hurry: It recently got the license for Valiant comics (see “Valiant and Alien Books Form New Partnership”) and announced a new manga line at AnimeNYC. Alien also publishes Howard Chaykin’s Sunshine Patriots, and more creator-owned titles are in the works. And it plans to publish its non-manga titles in “prestige format,” with 48- and 64-page perfect-bound softcover comics with no ads.

The manga line is launching with five titles: Fake Rebellion by Yuuchang Sasaki (2 volumes, launching March 2024); Endroll Back by Kantetsu and Haruna Nakazato (3 volumes, March 2024); Momo: Legendary Warrior by Yuji Kobayashi, Z-ONE, and Naoto Tsushima (3 volumes, April 2024); Kerberos in the Silver Rain by Lira Aikawa (naked ape), Berry Star, and Nao Itsuki (3 volumes, April 2024); and Kinryo Rock by Bingo Morihashi and Manabu Akishige (3 volumes and a prequel, July 2024).

While Director Matias Timarchi is a relative newcomer to the American comics scene, he has over 25 years’ experience publishing comics in Spanish as the owner of two comics publishers, Ovni in his native Argentina and Moztros in Spain. Those publishers hold the licenses for The Walking Dead, Sin City, and Hellboy, Marvel and DC comics, and, yes, Valiant.

Alien was originally distributed by Red 5 as Stonebot Comics and then made a sub-distribution deal with FairSquare (see “Fairsquare Adds Alien Books to Its Catalog”). Now it is completely independent and its books are distributed by Diamond to both the comics and the book channels.

ICv2 spoke to Timarchi and Danielle Ward, Sales & Operations, at AnimeNYC.

ICv2: How did you get the license for Valiant comics?
Matias Timarchi: We were publishing Valiant in Spain, and in Latin America in digital, for 12 years. So the people from Valiant came to me and “Do you want to take over? We know your work, we know what you're doing. We can do this together and you can take over the publishing line, bring your ideas.” We started talking, they liked all the things I proposed, and that's how it happened.

So you have a Valiant license?

Yes. They have to approve everything.

And they own the IP?
Yes, exactly. They own the IP, so they have to approve all the books, all the storylines, whatever we want to do, but we are in charge of the publishing, so we have to cover all the expenses, pay the artists, printing, everything.

What are your plans for Valiant?
Right now our immediate plan is to close all the open storylines. X-O Manowar #4 was announced at the beginning of the year, so we are releasing that in December and then it's going to be nonstop. Our idea is to publish four books a month, but our format for our issues is 48 to 64 pages, prestige format.

Perfect bound?
Yeah, exactly. It’s like releasing eight issues a month.

Why are you going with that format?
First of all, because of the market and the industry right now, it is super expensive to print, so if we print the book and we sell it at $4.99 or $3.99, it is not good for anyone, unless you sell 100,000 copies. The retailers only get cents out of a $3.99 book. Doing these, the retailer gets more money for every sale, and the reader is paying almost the same as getting two separate issues, but this has no advertising in it, so you're getting 48 or 64 pages of actual content. We like this format in South America and in Spain. You lose money if you do floppies.  

Is that how you did Valiant and The Walking Dead in Argentina?
Yes, it was 48 pages, perfect bound.

So this is a format that's already working there.
Yeah, exactly.

And at the same time, you can bag and board it.
You can bag and board it; it’s a standard size. So that's the idea, to change the format a little bit and encourage readers to get a more quality book in the paper, in the cardboard cover, and of course, the content, which I believe is good quality.

When you say you're going to do four books a month, is that just Valiant?
For now, just Valiant. On top of that, we want to release two of our own brand per month and manga, four per month, something like that. Between two and four per month.

What manga have you licensed so far?
Right now we're working with Square Enix. We have a bunch of their books. And we are working with a company called Heros. They publish a lot of science fiction, and they have some superheroes. We are working with Futabasha, and we're talking with Kodansha. We work a lot with Kodansha in Latin America. We publish Attack on Titan, Akira, Ghost in the Shell. I know that they're not going to give us those kinds of titles. We’re going to do something with Kadokawa.

What is your focus going to be in terms of manga? Will it be more seinen, shonen, shojo?
Right now it is more seinen, and we have some shonen coming up, and our editors are looking to expand to comedy and romance.

So in terms of genres, will it be mostly action and horror?
Yes, but we're going to do some other stuff because we know that for example action books don’t appeal to the female market, so that's why we're going to do some slice of life or comedy or drama. We're looking to expand a little bit in that direction. But for now it is mostly seinen and some shonen.

Do any of them have anime tie-ins?
Some of them do. Some of them are in the works.

Are you going to put age ratings on your books? Do you do that now?
Danielle Ward:
Right now all that we have slated are mature titles. All the manga are mature titles.

It sounds like you've got a pretty ambitious manga program.
If you compare it with the big publishers here, I feel like an ant.

If you're doing four volumes a month, I assume these are series that have multiple volumes.
For now, we are looking for self-contained stories that are between one and five books, that are complete. We don't want to engage into long series. There is one that we like a lot that is a very well known brand, but it's like 27 volumes. We are waiting to get more consolidated in the market.

What kind of marketing plans do you have?
Mostly were doing social media, which is the main focus right now, and coming to conventions talking with fans directly.

[In Argentina] we gave away bookmarks and postcards to the retailers, and the retailers were giving them to the readers with the purchase of the books. We're planning to do something similar here, engage the retailers so they know that what we are choosing are very interesting manga that are not maybe very well known. We know that when we are starting, we are not going to have the best-selling titles. The companies reserve that for themselves. But we will try to pick up manga that is super appealing, interesting, amusing.

It sounds like you're doing what Dark Horse did when they first brought manga over here, which is you’re doing manga for comic shop readers.
That’s an interesting point of view. I hadn't thought of it like that, but now that you say that, I'm a comic book guy. Mostly. I grew up reading comic books, and manga came later in my life, but our editors were kids that grew up reading manga, so they have a better panorama of all things manga-related.

And you're going to be doing shows regularly?
That's the idea, to do at least the ones in New York. We are based in New York, so it's easy for us to move the books around. Probably some shows nearby, Boston, Philadelphia, some of those that we can drive there and it's not so expensive. I'm thinking how do we move a lot of books to California? That’s for our second year, maybe, our second or third year, to start doing national shows. We plan to go to San Diego maybe just like a promotional stop, not to sell the book, maybe to have only the new releases.

Who is your distributor?

And are you with Diamond Book Distributors too?
Yes. We are exclusive.

Why did you choose them?
I had been working with Diamond with Red 5 Comics, and I always liked the way they sell their books. I know that now there are other companies that offer distribution, but Diamond offered me a good deal, we negotiated that, and it seems to work for us. We're just starting, so we'll see, but they are super motivated. They are treating us well, they care about our books, they ask the right questions. They are driving Dani crazy when she has to bring a lot of information for them, but it's a good thing. We can see that they are interested in the books we are doing.

Is Alien Books completely independent?
Yes. 100% my company.

So what non-Valiant, non-manga titles are you looking at?
Mostly what we are going to do is work with authors. We have some from France coming up that we like a lot, some really best-selling books in France, some stuff from Italy, from Latin America, too. We published one Howard Chaykin book. We have a great relationship with Howard, and we’re working on a new project with him. We are having meetings with other authors that have approached us on their own.

Are your books creator owned? Obviously not your licensed titles like Valiant and the manga, but for individual creators like Howard Chaykin?
They have the IP. It’s creator owned.

Are you looking to do any development into other media like movies and such?
Hopefully. It's not an active part of our plan. I always look at any multimedia deal like something that comes out of the blue, like okay, this is something good that could come, but it is not my main objective. I've always have been a reader of comic books. I want to publish books. It’s what I do. It’s what I like.

So you already know the manga because you are licensing them in other places?
Most of them. We look to see if they are available to license for both languages, Spanish and English. Fake Rebellionwas available, so we are doing that in English and in Spanish. We're going to do it in the same format in English as in Spanish, with a dust jacket.

Hardcover or softcover?
Softcover. Exactly like they publish in Japan. in Spain and in Argentina we do this format, so we’re trying it here.

So, for the other books, if you’re doing 48-page issues, how many will you collect into a trade?
It depends on the storyline.

For the Valiant comics, would you do a trade that was two of them?
Two or more. For instance, for Ninjak Superkillers, it's a two-part in prestige format, and we’re also going to put in the beginning of the storyline, by Jeff Parker, so you feel like there's a lot of story in there.

Timarchi: We're going straight to hardcover. We’re skipping the softcover. Our two formats, mainly, are the prestige first, then hardcover. So we're not doing the floppy and the softcover.

With X-O Manowar, you're actually releasing the first three issues as a collected edition, because it's been so long ago, right?
Ward: The first three issues came out, and then it kind of paused during the transition, so what we're going to do is we're going to collect X-O Manowar #1, #2, #3 in a prestige edition as well as still release #4, #5 and #6 as single issues, so the fans that started with single issues aren't forced into the prestige format.

Are you going to do #4, #5, and #6 in prestige format?
Ward: Yes, there will be two prestige editions.

Timarchi: And then later we go to the hardcover.

This is very interesting, because you're like you're taking familiar things and mixing them up and doing them in an unfamiliar way—to us.
Timarchi: Well, we need to do something different to stand out. We are an independent company, we're a very small company, and if we do exactly the same that everybody does, we’re just one more out there. So we want to take a risk and dare to do something different. That's our bet. I don't know, it could go well, it could go wrong.

What are you going to do about variant covers?
We are only doing two covers. No more than that. Maybe if for some reason we feel it would be interesting to do more than two, we’ll do more, but right now we're doing only the main cover plus one variant.

You did a Kickstarter for the Ariel Olivetti book. What about more Kickstarters?
That's our very first book. We plan to do more but again, we are a small team and now our main focus is to relaunch Valiant.

We don't have enough time to do to do the Kickstarters, but we are going to do them, especially for art books. We have a deal to publish the whole library of a very well-known artist from Argentina now living in Spain. His name is Ciruelo. He does dragons—he's called The Lord of the Dragons in fantasy illustration. He published his own books, so we're going to publish the books here. We’re going to do a Kickstarter for that and then go into the market. Juan Giménez, who passed away from COVID (see “Humanoids Execs, Talent Eulogize Juan Gimenez”), he did The Metabarons. We got the some of his unpublished work for America, so we’re going to do, like six books. His work used to be published in Heavy Metal in the 80s; it’s very fantasy, sci-fi, machine-like. Juan was a very good friend of mine. And we've got some other surprises that we can’t discuss yet. We always will go to the market.

So everything will ultimately go to trade?

Are you open to other licenses?
Yes, of course.

Tell me about Machine Girl.
We did it with Red 5, and the first issue sold like 6,000 copies in 2019. So we are super happy with that. And then we released the second arc and a special for the holidays, Christmas and Halloween [2022] together, and now we are releasing the third arc in December.

As floppies?
No, always now we're moving to this format. We have a Mirka Andolfo cover for that one. We're publishing her books in Spain and in Argentina, so we have a great relationship with her. This is our own IP. I developed this with some writers. We started in 2012, doing it in our spare time, like side projects with a few friends, but then we said okay, let's put more attention to this and try to release at least one book a year.

Do you still have a deal with FairSquare?
Yeah, we are very good friends, and when we started, he was he was doing all of the logistics for us, all the operations, so he was mostly our sub distributor. He was working with us with the catalog, the solicitations and all of that, but it was too much work for them. They said “I'm working more on your books than on my books.” Now we started doing everything; in December is our first solo publications.

In every country, I have a great relationship with all of my competitors.  I don't feel like we are competing. More like colleagues. So whenever, we can do something to help each other, I do it.

How many people are in your company?
Four working full time, but we have freelancers in translation, proofreading. One of the advantages that we have is I share resources between the companies, so all of my design team is in Argentina. We share resources. That's why when we purchase a manga that is in Spanish and in English, we get both rights we only process the files once and we just change the language, so we don’t have to do all the work over again. So all the design and the lettering all of that, we do in-house in Argentina, where we have 15 people working steadily.