Les Humanoïdes Associés is a French publishing house specialising in comics and graphic novels. Founded in December 1974 by Mœbius, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet and Bernard Farkas in order to publish Métal Hurlant, it quickly expanded to include a variety of science fiction work. Considered revolutionary in the comic book artform at the time, chiefly due to its focus on the sci-fi genre, it inspired many generations of authors and filmmakers, such as Ridley Scott for his film Blade Runner.
Métal hurlant and early work
In December 1974 critic and scriptwriter Jean-Pierre Dionnet, writers Philippe Druillet and Mœbius, along with businessman Bernard Farkas decided to found "Les Humanoïdes Associés" in order to publish a quarterly science fiction magazine, re-launch Le Bandard fou and to "prepare many other things". The first issue was published in January 1975, with Jean-Pierre Dionnet as editor.
The magazine was mainly welcome science fiction and fantasy works, but Dionnet prized diversity and published works by Chantal Montellier as well as those by Philippe Druillet. Dionnet also endeavoured to publish foreign authors: the first issue showcased the American Richard Corben, the second issued featured fellow American Vaughn Bodé, along with Brazilian Sergio Macedo, the Swiss Daniel Ceppi, the Dutch Joost Swarte, etc. In 1977 the magazine takes on Paul Gillon's the Naufragés du temps, and, in February 1979, Jean Giraud and Jean-Michel Charlier's Blueberry (the Nez Cassé issue). The same year Métal hurlant published the first episode of Hermann's [[Jeremiah, the Nuit des rapaces.
As soon as 1975, two books were published: Jason Muller, by Claude Auclair, and Rolf, by Richard Corben. As the years go by, and increasing number of comic books were published (ten in 1976, fifteen in 1977, seventeen in 1978, 28 in 1979, 38 in 1980, etc.). Mostly works were by authors featuring in the magazine, such as Druillet, Mœbius (Arzach was published in 1976), Jean-Claude Gal, Jacques Tardi, Réné Pétillion, Chantal Montellier, Frank Margerin, Serge Clerc, Alain Vos, Denis Sire, Ted Benoît, Dominique Hé, Nicole Clavelous and François Schuiten, etc. Nevertheless, "Les Humanoïdes" also published other authors, such as Italians Guido Buzzelli and Hugo Pratt, Argentinians such as Alberto Breccia, as well as American classics Conan the Barbarian, Spirit and Nick Fury or British classic Dan Dare. It was also responsible for publishing a handful of risqué works, such as John Willie's erotic Gwendoline (a very helpful financial success) or Jim's La Baronne Steel. Georges Pichard and Jacques Lob's Blance Épiphanie brought an added dimension to the publication. In 1977 Les Humanoïdes Associés published their first compendium of images with H. R. Giger's Necronomicon.
Les Humanoïdes Associé's publishing enabled it to gain a considerable financial grounding, which proved to be useful when confronted with a number of management mishaps (extortionate loan rates, high production costs, non-payment of dues to the NMPP, etc.). It also led to a number of landmark collections being begun, such as "Xanadu", which featured large-scale American comics (nine volumes between 1983-1985), or "Autodafé", which published comics in novel form. "Autodafé" (six volumes between 1982-1983) published the first manga to be distributed in French bookshops (Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa) but didn't have any success as it disturbed the public and booksellers.
From 1976 to 1978, Les Humanoïdes Associés published a second magazine, Ah! Nana, with a female focus. Its editors (Janic Guillerez, with early input from Anne Delobel) and principal contributors were almost all women. This innovative project, especially given the male-influenced milieu in which it took place, was nevertheless hampered by chronically poor sales and its ratings as adult-only material. In May 1977 Ciné Fantastic was published (with Jean-Paul Nail and Jean-Pierre Bouyxou), yet had only one issue. Several years later Dionnet noticed an increase in the number of titles available in bookshops, and sought to increase the presence of Les Humanoïdes Associés. Métal (hurlant) Aventure, with an adventure focus, and Rigolo!, with a humoristic focus, were both launched in 1983, but were only published until 1984 and 1985, respectively.
In 1977, Métal Hurlant gained world-wide attention when it was translated into English and distributed in North America and the Commonwealth countries under the name Heavy Metal. Heavy Metal featured mainly European authors near the beginning of its publication, but increasingly relied on American authors as time went on. Nevertheless, it introduced European comics to the North American market, where authors such as Mœbius began to have an impact on local art. By the end of the 1980s Heavy Metal became completely independent from Les Humanos Associés. As of 2011 it is still being published, though its sales have decreased over the past decade.
This mix of financial successes and failures led to a difficult situation for the publishing house. In April 1980 the company's ownership was divided between a Spanish printing company (a major creditor) and a number of private shareholders, principally people who had been associated with the beginnings of the company (such as Druillet, Mœbius, Margerin or Gillon).
In 1988, the publishing house and its catalogue (including Métal Hurlant) were purchased by Swiss publisher/producer Fabrice Giger, at the age of 23, who turned it into an intellectual property development company. Since then, in less than two decades, the company has developed one of the most respected graphic novel/comic book catalogues in the world, featuring authors such as Moebius, Alexandro Jodorowsky, Enki Bilal, Milo Manara and Juan Gimenez, and books from multiple genres.
The North American market
"Humanoids Publishing" was founded in the United States in 1999 by Fabrice Giger in order to showcase French cult classics as well as recruit American talent. A number of successful French works were published, including Bouncer, Les Terres creuses, Metabarons, The Nikopol Trilogy, Technopriests, Le Lama blanc, along with works by Pierre Christin and Enki Bilal, XXe ciel.com, The Incal, Olivier Varèse, Exterminator 17, Yves Chaland, etc.). In 2002 Humanoids began publishing an English-language version of the new Métal Hurlant, which would only last two years.
In January 2004, Humanoids signed an agreement with DC Comics aimed at integrating the Humanoids publications into the DC Comics catalog. This agreement enabled Humanoids to gain a greater visibility in the market, while DC Comics obtained the distribution rights for the English-language versions of Humanoids works. Certain works published since 1998 were reprinted, while new titles were also translated in English (El Niño, Victor Levallois, Megalex, Basil et Victoria, etc.). However, the books were expensive and success was limited, leading DC Comics to announce the end of the agreement in April 2005.
In 2007 and agreement is signed with Image Comics to publish Lucha Libre in North America. In July 2008 Humanoids began a partnership with Devil's Due to publish new translations of French works. The graphic novels were now published in the classic comic book format in order to not put off American readers. New series were translated, such as The Zombies That Ate The World or I Am Legion.
In 2010 Les Humanoïdes Associés cancelled the agreement with Devil's Due and began their own translated works publishing campaign in North America. Following its standard practice, the company chose to publish old translations as well as new European (Le Manoir des murmures, Le Cœur couronné, Le Jour des magiciens, etc.) and American (Flywires, Aftermath, etc.) series.
Graphic novels in digital format
The 1990s saw the widescale development of information technology accessible to the larger public, as well as the arrival of the Internet in the homes of individual users. Les Humnoïdes Associés began investigating the feasibility of digitizing its collection, however, screen resolutions and bandwidth were too low to permit satisfactory usage. The cd-rom format was then chosen, with Enki Bilal's The Nikopol Trilogy and Manara's Gulliveriana being published as part of the "Digital Comics" collection. Sales were disappointing, however, and comic book publishers returned the traditional paper format.
By the late 2000s smartphones were proliferating, which presented Les Humanoïdes Associés with an opportunity to make new inroads into the digitization of comics. The new media, dubbed "VideoComics", enabled smartphone users to experience their comics with added soundtracks, videos and even voice actors. A number of IT and web companies expressed interest in this new form of comics distribution, and Les Humanoïdes Associés gave two of them the rights to digitally distribute their works.
The latest development in digital distribution of comics has been the widespread use of the iPad. This technology has led Les Humanoïdes Associés to systematically digitize the entire contents of its catalog, in order to provide its comic books on its website. New publications should be available online even before being released in bookshops, thanks to an online application that will provide access to content via streaming. In 2010 Les Humanoïdes announced the arrival of an app on the Apple store.
A number of crises led Les Humanoïdes Associés to be put into administration, which it exited late 2009 after a period of 18 months. Since then the company has had a renewed success, with a number of new series, such as Crusades, La Légende des nuées écarlates, Les Épées de verre, Carthago and Le Manoir des murmures.
The publisher has also tried its hand at European manga, such as Omega or B.B. Project. These two titles were published in the traditional manga format, but Les Humanoïdes has also experimented with manga-type publications in a more European style. The Ecube series is an example of this mixed genre, written by Iovinelli and illustrated by Dall Oglio. Crusades, another exampled of a blended style, has European authors but a Chinese illustrator.
- The Adventures of Freddy Lombard
- Airtight Garage
- The Black Order Brigade
- Domu: A Child's Dream
- Exterminator 17
- The Hunting Party
- The Incal
- Lucha Libre
- The Zombies That Ate The World
The Incal universe
- Main article: The Incal
The universe has developed to such a degree that the publishers have created a specific blog dedicated to linking the various storylines together. The Incal world currently has 35 published volumes, and Les Humanoïdes continues its development in the Castaka and Final Incal.
- Main article: Lucha Libre (comics)
Jerry Frissen's creation, Lucha Libre is the second important world published by Les Humanoïdes Associés. The series showcases retired, failed Mexican catchers in their urban peregrinations. First published in France in small volumes labelled "anthologies", they were later re-published in a more traditional, hardcover form.
Sanctuaire (published as Sanctum in English), began with a first volume published in 2001, with Xavier Dorison as writer and Christophe Bec as illustrator. It has since become a star of the Humanoïdes collection. In 2007 the series was re-edited as Sanctuaire Redux. This latter production used the same storyline as the original, but with a manga style illustration. Its authors were Stephane Betbeder and Riccardo Crosa. Sanctuaire differs from The Incal, Lucha Libre and Carthago in that rather than narrating different stories taking place within a same universe, it retells the same story in a different manner.
Among several new stories sharing the same contextual world, Carthago which is slated to be redevelopped in a new series entitled Carthago Adventure. Other titles are also in preparation.
- Métal hurlant (1975-1987, 2002-2004)
- Ah ! Nana (1976-1978)
- Casablanca (1982)
- Métal hurlant Aventure (1983-1985)
- Rigolo ! (1983-1984)
- Shogun Mag (2006-2007)
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