Markley’s Fevered Brain: I am Human, Oid!

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

I am known around the store where I work as being a bit eccentric and reading just about everything, and liking and recommending some book that most traditional comic book readers have never heard of. Part of this is because I believe comic books are so much more than superheroes, even though history or sales of comics in America would argue against this belief. I have often found that there are amazing stories being told in Europe that slowly show up in America. Historically, these imported stories (almost always as graphic novels) do not sell well, and have a difficult time finding an audience because the stories are not superhero centered. Marvel made a great attempt with their Soleil line of books (which to their credit Marvel did do as monthly comics first) but that relationship seems to have ended. Perhaps Marvel reprinted all there was to print, but I suspect it was more a victim of sales. But there is still a source of fantastic reading: Humanoids Publishing.

Metabarons

Metabarons


Humanoids was originally founded as Le Humanoids Associes, a French group of creators who were the founders of Metal Hurlant (which became Heavy Metal when published in the US) and a creative powerhouse for many years. The ownership changed over the years and the focus also changed from a group of creators with a vision to a publishing house. Humanoids the publisher was founded in 1998. They have been through a lot of changes over the last thirteen years, in terms of what they publish and how they publish. Originally, Humanoids did beautiful color hardcover albums reprinting some of the best of French Comics. They also did monthly comics of such classics as The Incal and Metabarons. Marvel years earlier printed The Incal under their Epic Line of comics. Then Humanoids made a deal with DC Comics to print and distribute their albums. And The Incal was printed by another publisher. And as with most of DC’s side imprints the relationship only lasted about a year.

Next Humanoids partnered with Devil’s Due Publishing. This was a very rocky relationship as Devil’s Due was having their own internal issues that lead to their closing only having published a handful of Humanoid comics. Finally, in 2010 Humanoids one again entered the American comic market by self publishing both single comics and graphic novels. They quickly learned that single comics that do not feature superheroes do not sell well in the American comic market and dropped that line, which is sad as there are still two issues of an excellent series called Whispers in the Wall that have yet to be released. But I have no doubt that ifHumanoids is able to grow and stay alive in this market, they will release a collection of Whispers in the Walls at some point.

So far Humanoids has published a large number of both hardcover and softcover collections of both stories by European creators and American creators who have done work for Europe. Wit in all of these collections is an amazing sense of freedom and creativity. Almost all of these collections are self contained and have a beginning, middle and end. Yes, a complete story. The subject matter of these collections ranges everything from science fiction to fantasy to war. I have written extensively about a lot of Humanoids titles in my past blog posts, so I am not going to rehash a lot of what I have already said, but if you are interested you can read all of my past blogs at http://westfieldcomics.com/blog/tag/markleys-fevered-brain/.

Elias the Cursed

Elias the Cursed


I am going to just review a handful of the more recent releases from Humanoids and try and give an overview of their publishing line in hopes of giving you guidance to some great books you may have overlooked. There is a complex and entertaining softcover graphic novel called Elias the Cursed. This is a tale filled with magic and war, as Elias struggles to reclaim who he is (I cannot say much more without giving away the story). This is a rollercoaster of a story that is non-stop action and is on par with Indiana Jones. It is set in a mid-evil world filled with magic. The art is very much in the traditional of European comics, with a strong touch of Kubert thrown in. A second recent release is Alexandro Jodorowsky’s Screaming Planet. As with most of Jodorowsky’s stories, this is an epic tale fantasy and creativity. It is a collection of stories that tell the tale of a planet that was destroyed by its inhabitants and ends up floating through space and influencing different planets it encounters. Each chapter has different illustrators including JH Williams III. It is a beautiful hardcover collection that is far from anything DC or Marvel publishes, but it is very well written and beautifully drawn.

I Am Legion

I Am Legion


Speaking of American artists doing work for Humanoids, here are a few of the best of these collections. There is I Am Legion with stunning art by John Cassaday. This is a story set in World War II and filled with Nazis and espionage. There is also Metal, a hardcover featuring art by Butch Guice. It is a story of a ruler who is murdered but finds his “being” in a metal form and then has to save his world, or destroy it. A third collection by an American creator is Flywires written by Chuck Austen. This is a softcover science fiction story set in the future where people are connected by Flywires, which have both positives and negatives. Add a murder on top of this and you get an amazing story. There’s also Aftermath by James  Hudnall. This is the closest Humanoids gets to the superhero genre telling the tale of a group of heroes who have gone their own ways until one of them is murdered. As with most of European albums, this story is more of a murder mystery than a superhero story.

Pandora's Eyes

Pandora's Eyes


Some of the European originated stories, by European creators, that Humanoids have collected include Pandora’s Eyes. This is a very beautiful black and white hardcover by Milo Manara. It tells the tale of a mob boss’ daughter who is kidnapped and the various adventures that follow the kidnapping. As with most Manara’s work it is not for children and has a fair amount of nudity. Day of the Magicians is a book telling the tale of a boy whose destiny and his desires are not necessarily the same. It is a great story on par with the best fantasy novels and has very nice art. One of my favorite books they have done (and mind you I have enjoyed them all) is the Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. This graphic novel is written by Alexandro Jodorowsky (yes, him again) and art by the amazing Moebius. Words are hard to find to describe this epic tale that spans the globe and has more twists and turns than a Bourne movie. Finally, I would like to recommend Humanoids version of The Incal. Once again by the amazing team of Jodorowsky/Moebius. Humanoids did a deluxe slipcase of this collection a few months ago that sold out almost immediately. They are re-releasing it as a new hardcover collection at half the price very soon and it is well worth the money. This makes the fourth publisher to have published this book if you count the beautiful hardcover collections from Graphitti Designs many years ago. Always the same material, with quality varying a bit, but any version of this story is recommend.

Overall Humanoids Publishing has a strong line of titles that all are top notch. Unfortunately they have a difficult time finding space on comic racks. They are books well worth seeking out if you are looking for something different. One side note is a lot of these books tend to go out of and back into print fairly quickly so please check for availability at www.WestfieldComics.com. As always, comments, opinions and review copies are welcome at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. Everything written here is my opinion and does not reflect the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics.

Thank you.

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  1. XIII Says:

    “Perhaps Marvel reprinted all there was to print, but I suspect it was more a victim of sales”

    Your suspicion is right. Marvel barely scratched the surface of Soleil’s huge catalog.