In an effort to enhance its ability to create films based on its backlist of graphic novels, Humanoids CEO Fabrice Giger moved the headquarters of the celebrated French comics publisher from Paris to Los Angeles in 2014. So far his plan seems to be working. The house has 12 film projects in the works with various partners, and financing is in place for seven of the productions.
While Humanoids has sold millions of copies of the works of such acclaimed French comics artists as Moebius and Alejandro Jodorowsky, its graphic novels have been available in the U.S. only though the comics-shop market. That will change in November. Humanoids has signed with Ingram Publisher Services to distribute its list of graphic novels to the U.S. book trade for the first time.
Founded in Paris in 1974 by French cartoonists that included Moebius and Philipe Druillet, Humanoids has been transformed by Giger, who purchased the company in 1988, into an international platform that can finance and produce books, films, and other media for a global market.
“I believe that a mix of influences from Europe, the U.S., and Japan is creating something new for comics, pushing the medium further,” Giger said. Explaining his move to L.A., he went on, “Film is the most collaborative medium. Hollywood is full of energy and talent from around the world, with artists, designers, and directors with a vision beyond the page of comics. We want to bring this potential to the next level in the movie and TV industry.”
As an example of how Humanoids develops book and film projects, Giger outlined the development of Savage Highway, a graphic novel adapted from a 1976 Julia Verlanger sci-fi novel, currently being turned into a feature film. The French writer Matheiu Masmondet adapted the novel into a comics script (it was drawn by Chinese artist Zhang Xiaoyu) in addition to working on the screenplay with British screenwriter Richard Stanley. The first of three volumes of the graphic novel was released in France in June, and the book will be published in the U.S. in late 2016. The film, Giger said, is being produced by Terence Chang, Hong Kong director John Woo’s legendary producer; casting is underway and the film is slated to begin shooting next summer. The project (both the graphic novel and screenplay) is being edited in Paris and L.A., he said.
During this spring’s Cannes Film Festival, Humanoids announced a three-picture deal to create English-language feature films from three of its graphic novel projects. The initial film is Legion, based on the graphic novel I Am Legion by American comics artist John Cassaday and French writer Fabien Nury, with a screenplay by Richard Stanley. The film will be directed by Nacho Cerda (The Abandoned). Bouncer, a western based on a graphic novel series by Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq, is next and will be directed by Floria Sigismondi (Runaways). And finally, there is The Zombies That Ate the World, a comics series that will be adapted into a film and directed by RKSS, a collective of Canadian filmmakers, whose film Turbo Kid premiered at the Sundance festival in January 2015.
All three films will be produced by Giger and Pierre Spengler, his business partner and film producer (who produced the Superman film trilogy), in collaboration with the production house Full House.
“We’re more than a French company,” Giger said, noting that Humanoids now has offices in Japan, L.A., London, and Paris. “We work on an international level with creators.
Humanoids is stepping up its distribution in the U.S. at a time when other European comics publishers—seeing the growing popularity of genres beyond superhero comics—are also looking to the American book market. Next year Humanoids will release about 40 titles in France, with plans to release about 24 titles in the U.S. IPS will distribute two books a month, one in hardcover and one in trade paperback, in addition to releasing oversized collectors editions of some titles designed for the comics-shop market but also available to the general trade.
The first two titles to be released by IPS in November will be a $45 hardcover of The Incal by Moebius and Jodorowsky and a $20 trade paperback edition of Redhand: Twilight of the Gods by Kurt Busiek and Mario Alberti. The house will start 2016 with a $60 hardcover edition of The Metabarons, an epic sci-fi saga by Jodorowsky and artist Juan Gimenez, along with a $20 softcover edition of The Swords of Glass, Sylviane Corgiat and Laura Zuccheri’s fantasy saga.
“We want to prove that our books are mainstream,” Giger said, explaining why the house added distribution to the general trade. “We’ve proved we can sell our books in the direct market. We’ve had success in digital. We believe we have the momentum to go wider and reach new readers.”