Later this year, Archaia is bringing France to the USA once again with three follow-up titles to some of their most popular series. "The Killer: Modus Vivendi" by Matz and Luc Jacamon, "Okko: The Cycle of Air" by writer/artist Hub and "The Secret History Book Eight" by Jean-Pierre Pecau and Igor Kordey are all set for release in 2010.
Although the books are follow-ups to three of Archaia's fan-favorite titles, Director of Development Stephen Christy assures fans that all three are a prime jumping-on point for new readers. "They're very new reader friendly. That's why with 'Killer' and 'Okko,' we put the #1s on there specifically," said Christy. "These are new volumes, new issues because they are reader friendly. I view the 'Okko' series as each volume being self-contained in its own way. 'The Killer' starts a completely new story arc. All you need to know about 'The Killer,' you know once you dive into it. These are very new-reader friendly and done so on purpose. We want to expose new fans to these series and graphic novels as well."
"'The Secret History' really is the one that in all likelihood readers might feel the need to go track down previous editions," added Archaia Publisher Mark Smylie. "We hope that they'll read all of them, but part of the reason that we're continuing Secret History as issue 8 is because it is in a sense a limited series that's morphing into a continuing series. 'The Secret History' will be the one where potentially readers will have the most filling-in in terms of background to do. We're including synopsis information from the previous books in issue 8. If someone is coming to it for the first time, they'll have some idea where it's coming from."
But what prompted Archaia to continue these series and put out follow-ups? According to Smylie, the success of the first incarnations was only a part of the impetus. "We were happily surprised - European comics often have a mixed reaction from American readers," Smylie told CBR News. "Sometimes I think it's a matter of presentation, sometimes it's subject matter, but I think we were happily surprised by the response to all the books, particularly 'The Killer.' The response was really phenomenal. We felt like with continuing versions of the books coming out in France, it was a good idea to continue to put them out here as well. 'The Killer,' originally, when we had signed to do it, only five books had come out in France and that at the time was all that had been planned. We were going to do it as a ten issue mini-series. Because of the success of the mini-series, Matz went back and worked with Luc Jacamon on a new trilogy on the French side. That gave us a second miniseries that we can now do over here."
Smylie went on to describe how both "Okko" and "The Secret History" also have a following both abroad and in America that were deserving of follow-ups. "The French book 'Okko' had always been intended to be a set of five cycles and we had from the beginning felt that if the first series was successful enough, we would continue with further cycles to finish out the series," Smylie said. "The same with 'Secret History' - the first initial seven had done so well in France that they continued with another set of books following 'The Secret History,' so we thought it was a natural move on our part to continue those here as well."
"'The Killer' has been one of our most successful titles in terms of Hollywood," continued Christy. "Paramount has bought the rights to it and David Fincher is currently attached to direct the film version with Brad Pitt attached to star as the Killer. When Matz started doing more volumes, it was something we wanted to bring back not only for the success that we had on the publishing side, but the success that we've seen here in Hollywood with it. It was 'The Killer' sale about two years ago that really opened a lot of doors for Archaia and Hollywood and really got a lot of Hollywood producers to know Archaia as a company that really put quality first and really has this strong arthouse frame when it comes to comics which produces challenging stories and interesting ideas."
According to Smylie, Archaia's plan of attack when it comes to foreign comics is much the same as for the rest of their library. "When we look for comics, whether they're foreign comics that we're bringing over or creator owned titles that we're finding here in the United States, we look primarily for adventure stories, but there are some elements of grounding or historicity to those books," Smylie explained. "We do plenty of fantasy comics, but they tend to have a realism about them as opposed to being purely fanciful. Even 'Mouse Guard,' which is an all-ages comic, still has that sense of being grounded in reality of what it's like to be a very small mouse in a very big world. That level of detail and that level of attention even if it's a made up history is something we tend to look for in all of our titles.
"I think 'The Killer,' 'Okko' and 'The Secret History' definitely fit that bill in terms of being not only fantastic stories but having that realistic grounding that gives them a bit of weight, that makes them feel like these are stories of people you could turn a corner and meet, or worlds that seems so close to our own they're palpably real," Smylie continued. "These books struck us very much in tune with everything else that we do. It wasn't so much a question as to whether they were better than other translated titles than whether they fit with our company mandate when it comes to the books we publish."
While Smylie and Christy are deep in the comic book industry has a job, they're also both big fans of comics. Christy, in particular, mentioned that "Okko" was a favorite of his. "I think as a fan, to see this incredibly cool samurai epic that touches on so many of these touchstones that you've seen in these same tales in Japan, but there is that sense of European storytelling," he said. "The fact that 'Okko' is essentially each of these cycles is in my mind a $500 million samurai epic movie with incredible relationships between the characters and lots of really cool supernatural stuff that goes on. There are scenes in 'Okko' where you see these monasteries carved into rock a thousand feet up a mountain or these massive crevices the characters fall into. There are scenes that drop your jaw in terms of scope and in terms of how cool they are. As a fan, 'Okko' is what I gravitate toward, but 'The Secret History' and 'The Killer' are also amazing and they also have pretty big fan bases of their own."
Smylie chimed in, saying how much he enjoyed "The Secret History." "I've always been a fan of those alternative history epics and I really couldn't think of any comic that had really tried something on the scale that the authors of "The Secret History" were trying," he said. "One of the great things about comic art is that you can do anything you want. It's a question of time and effort and doing the research to make it look right. Igor Kordey, who worked on 'The Secret History,' has a great sense of being able to go in and research a period and make it look really close to how a period was supposed to look. You can get a giant epic series of looking at that kind of mystery underneath it and at the same time have it set over seven different time periods of thousands of years and not have to worry about getting it right on a budget. I couldn't think of anybody in comics who had tried something on that scale, or really something outside of comics in terms of popular entertainment. The new series is focusing entirely on the 20th century and trying to reinvent and recontextualize the events of the 20th century. I think it's going to be a fun run."
Only time will tell what the future holds for Archaia's European comics stateside. However, Mark Smylie was able to give fans a small glimpse at the future. "Immediately, the next once that we'll be doing is 'Cyclops,' which is another one done by Matz, originally with Luc Jacamon. Now it's with another artist because Luc is trying to finish up the next volume of 'The Killer.' 'Cyclops' is more of a near-future cyberpunk, science-fiction story. It's different enough material that it'll be interesting to people that like 'The Killer,' but hopefully will introduce Matz's writing to people who are more into the more science fiction story as opposed to the crime noir. We're hoping to bring on board a bunch of other books, picking slowly and carefully toward the stuff that we love, but we should have more announcements down the line on that also."
At the end of the day, Christy is hopeful that fans and new readers alike will embrace these series that have enjoyed so much success abroad, both in terms of sales and critical acclaim. "I think for people that haven't read European comics before, these are perfect places to start because there's enough American touchstones that these books don't feel very foreign," he said. "It'll just open up your world to a whole new style of European storytelling. The Europeans really are masters in a very different way of the art form than the American masters are over here. As a fan of comics and as a fan of the medium, these are really cool books to broaden your horizon in terms of storytelling and characters and ideas in general. People that are picking this up won't be disappointed and they'll have a really good jumping-on point for some of the best European series out there."