Marvel and French comics publisher Soleil have announced a partnership that will bring four of the French publisher's book series to the U.S. in new editions produced by Marvel.

Marvel consulting editor C.B. Cebulski and Soleil managing editor Olivier Jalabert and editor-in-chief Jean Wacquet negotiated the deal. The move continues Marvel's attempts to expand outside its core business of superhero comics with such efforts as the comics adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Tower and its line of comics adaptations of classic prose works. Cebulski compared the deal to the agreement between Del Rey Manga and Japanese publisher Kodansha, and noted that Marvel will be the exclusive publisher and translator for the Soleil materiel.

ABOVE: SkyDoll

According to Wacquet, it's also part of a more “global” strategy: “Soleil and our artists have always looked at our medium in an international way. Most of our authors are influenced by the three major styles: American comics, Japanese manga and European comics. They are not strictly French-speaking, they are international.”

The first book, which will hit in April, is Sky Doll by Barbara Canepa and Alessandro Barbucci, the team behind Disney's worldwide bestselling comics/prose series W.I.T.C.H. Sky Doll skews older, however, with a Blade Runner—ish tale of a female android. Later works are Universal War One by Denis Bajram; a bestseller in Europe, it's the story of a vast interplanetary war. The next two are Samurai by Jean-François Di Giorgio and Frédéric Genet, a historical fantasy set in Japan, and Le Fléau des Dieux by Valérie Mangin and Aleksa Gajic, a sci-fi retelling of a war between the Huns and the Romans.

In France, mature themes and sophisticated artwork have long been the norm. Nineteen-year-old Soleil is known for publishing cutting-edge material. “We are still considered as the challenger, impetuous and outside normal parameters,” said Wacquet.

Above: Le Fleau Des Dieux

The Soleil books Marvel is publishing are all in the SF/fantasy vein. “Marvel has had a great deal of success with [comics adaptations of] bestselling authors in these genres like Laurell K. Hamilton and Orson Scott Card,” said Cebulski. “We're publishing this material for the same audience.”

While some previous attempts to bring European comics to the U.S. offered titles in deluxe packages, Marvel is making sure these books are affordable: each series will be published as 64-page albums for $5.99. Eventually three of these albums will be collected into a thicker graphic novel.

“This is quite a challenge for us and obviously a fantastic home to partner with,” said Jalabert.