Last week Titan Comics announced it had hired Lizzie Kaye, formerly of SelfMadeHero, to the position of editor for their European graphic novel line. We talked with Kaye within a week of her jumping on-board the Titan Comics team about her new gig and Titan’s expansion into the bande dessinée market.
Edie Nugent: Congrats on your new position as editor for Titan’s European graphic novel line. How does it feel to step into those shoes after many years with indie publisher SelfMadeHero?
Lizzie Kaye: Thanks, it’s wonderful to have joined Titan, it’s a company that’s doing really interesting things and moving in a great direction. Obviously, it’s a bit of a change from SelfMadeHero, in terms of the kinds of books each company puts out, but I’m excited by so many of the titles we have coming up and can’t wait to see other people getting excited by them too!
Nugent: You have a background in literature. How you feel you’ll be able to draw on that knowledge in bringing bande dessinée to Titan readers?
Kaye: I think it’s most useful in that studying literature results in you being well-read, which leads to a good understanding of pacing, character, and plot.
This is something that the European market deals with differently than the US/UK market, as the standard length of an album is normally 48 pages. When they have the luxury of that page count, creators can take their time building characters and revealing the plot at a slightly slower pace. A lot of, though by no means all, BD series are designed from the outset to be at least three volumes, so you could almost consider them as neat, three-act plays.
It also helps in that the European market operates within a slightly different outlook, and BD are often filled with literary references, even if the subject matter itself may not explicitly be so. For example, the series The Chronicles of Legion, the first three volumes of which are out now, with the fourth coming soon, is ostensibly a vampire story. But it’s also more than that. It draws heavily on the origins of gothic literature (before vampires could sparkle!) as well as using devices traditionally found in that literature, such as a story within a story and a layering of narratives. Form my perspective, a literary background helps in that I can see the references, and therefore am able to judge the tone and direction of the story, and consider how that may translate to a market less familiar with seeing those devices used in a sequential art format.
Nugent: Three-act play, it sounds almost like a more Manga way of telling a story. Do you think the BD market exists in that place between monthly single-issue sequential storytelling and the more fast-paced, multi-volume format of Manga?
Kaye: That is one way of looking at it. BD readers can sometimes have to wait a long time for the next volume of a series they are following. It’s important from the outset that the narrative is tightly constructed, and that the characters are memorable, in order to retain the reader. I don’t necessarily think it exists in a place between monthly single-issue releases and manga, more that it uses the medium of sequential art for a different kind of story-telling that is less episodic in nature.
Having said all that, there are of course a number of series that go into much longer runs, Samurai, the first four volumes of which will be released by Titan as an omnibus later in the year, being one of them.
Nugent: Titan has released BD’s of Snowpiercer, which was a French graphic novel-turned-movie starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton, Elric, which is based on Michael Moorcock stories, and now Void. How does Titan decide which BD’s to put on the publishing slate?
Kaye: A lot of factors come into play when we’re choosing which titles to put out. There are certain books that we’d love to see in the English speaking market that we specifically seek out based on our own love of the stories or creators, such as the upcoming Lone Sloane series by Philippe Druillet, and my own personal favourite, The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal.
For others with creators that might not have had as much exposure in the English speaking market, we take a lot of time to consider the artwork, the story, the length of the series, and how we feel readers might react to it. There are a lot of incredible BD series out there, luckily, so we have a rich seam to mine, and we want readers to really love what we offer them.
Nugent: What series would you recommend to readers just starting to explore what BD’s have to offer?
Kaye: That’s a tough one, as there are so many great stories out there! It depends on each reader’s specific interests, and that’s the beauty of the BD market, it caters for all readers.
I think Elric is a great starting point, because it is so incredibly beautiful, each page is a joy to look at. It’s a good introduction to the more European artwork style, which tends to be a little looser and fluid with a more painterly aesthetic. Titan also has a wonderful new series coming out now called Masked, which is a European take on the Superhero genre, and would be a great entry point, too, and the artwork in that would probably be a little more familiar.