Statix Press is an imprint of Titan Comics devoted to bringing more great European comics to the English language market. Titan has already published some notable titles like Snowpiercer and The Death of Stalin but they’re announcing many new books at next week’s Angoulême Comics Festival and ComicsPRO. All week at The Beat we’ll be previewing their new titles.
To kick things off, here’s an interview with Chris Thompson, the Brand Manager of the Statix line. I’ve known Chris since he was the manager at the Award Winning comcis shop Orbital Comics in London, but he’s bringing a lot of knowledge and enthusiasm to the line, especially about introdcing some voices that aren’t as well known here. Read on for his take on gobal comics and his goals for the line.
THE BEAT: Just to get started. what is the basic log line for Statix Press?
CHRIS THOMPSON: In short (or ‘bref’ as they say in France), Statix Press is Titan’s new imprint to showcase the best comics from Europe and around the globe. We’ve been translating and publishing European material since Titan Comics first started five years ago (Happy Anniversary to us!) but it’s only now that we’ve brought these titles under one umbrella to really give them the spotlight they deserve.
We had previously published Fabien Nury’s Chronicles of Legion back in 2014, for example, but thanks to The Death of Stalin and the upcoming Death To The Tsar, he’s really caught people’s attention now.
It actually goes back much further though, as Titan were reprinting classic French albums in the late ’80s/early ’90s. Some of my favourite volumes of Moebius and Bilal come from those early years of publishing, and are still the only way you can get that material in English … I treasure the volumes I’ve managed to collect over the years dearly, and I’m just as excited about what we’re doing now.
With Statix today, the focus is to introduce people to new titles and creators, rather than relying on the same old ones that you’ve seen before. That doesn’t mean you won’t see more Jodorowsky, Druillet or Bilal (you will), but it does mean you’re going to be introduced to a whole host of new creators from the continent as well – which to me is one of the most exciting things … We’re looking forward. One of the reasons I love going to the Angouleme Festival (FIBD) each year is to experience that freshness and revel in a vital, thriving comic market, as well as delving deeper into their rich history. At the end of the day, I hope that Statix Press can give you a further glimpse into that world which has entranced us all so much for many years now.
THE BEAT: A lot of people have told me that there’s a more “global style” of comics now, partly through the way art is seen by so many more people via Tumblr and so on. Certainly an English comics publisher with a line of French comics is part of that movement! How do you see art styles influencing each other?
THOMPSON: I think the proliferation of the Internet and the various avenues for people to present themselves (e.g. DeviantArt, Tumblr, ArtStation, etc.) has allowed for a lot more cross-pollination in this day and age. Not only are US and UK artists discovering (and drawing from) European influences, but now artists from all over the world are able to compete in the same markets and work from home – wherever that may be. What’s interesting is that this hasn’t led to an homogenised style of art, but rather it’s opened the doors to a wider variety of styles, as well as some startling new ‘voices’ we might not have previously heard.
In terms of Titan, and specifically the Statix Press line, I think we’ve tried to highlight those similarities and cross-pollination by teaming up complementary artists on our various series. U.S. audiences may not be familiar with Mathieu Bablet and his work on The Beautiful Death, but they know Brandon Graham and there’s a definite kinship there, so it makes sense to get him on a variant cover for issue 1 to help ease audiences in. It’s that ‘spoonful of sugar’ as Mary Poppins would say, and I think that’s worked well for us.
Sometime’s it’s more of an aesthetic than a direct comparison – like getting a Francavilla cover on Simsolo & Bezian’sDoctor Radar – but there’s a definite suggestion of ‘if you like this, then you’re sure to like this’. I think each of these creators can be appreciated in their own right (and we’re seeing that in all the stellar reviews coming through), but providing a gateway is part of our job and I feel we’re making headway in that respect. It’s certainly a lot easier now than when I used to go hunting for good European comics and creators.
Sidenote: I loved Brandon Graham’s cover for The Beautiful Death so much that I got him to create the two avatars for me that you can see with this interview.
THE BEAT: The new books from Statix are very different and really show the variety of material that’s being produced in France now. Can you run us down the line and explain a little of what appeals to you about each title?
THOMPSON: We’re gearing up to announce some new titles as we go into ComicsPRO next month but, looking at everything we’ve announced/released so far, there’s already a huge depth and variety of material on offer. Hercules: Wrath of the Heavens takes classic Greek mythology and thrusts it directly into Metabarons/Technopriests territory both story-wise and stylistically. Looky’s art on that title earned the praise of Walt Simonson, who was more than happy to provide a variant for issue 1. The Beautiful Death (as I’ve mentioned before) could have appeared in the pages of Island magazine before we published it, which is why the Brandon Graham connection was particularly strong for me. Doctor Radar is classic pulp-noir in a modern style, which made the link to Francavilla’s Black Beetle so palpable – plus it was a title that Joe Keatinge had first talked to me about back in 2014. Under: Scourge of the Sewers is very much in the B-movie vein, so getting a James Stokoe cover and a quote from my friend Lloyd Kaufman felt like the most natural thing in the world. Add the anthropomorphic charm of Atlas & Axis on top of that, the gothic beauty of Alisik, and the classic Heavy Metal-esque world of Factory, and you have a line-up with something to suit everyone. Ultimately we’re trying to present a carefully curated line that offers a breadth of insight into European (and world) comics today.
THE BEAT: Of course, Titan has been publishing French comics for a while, including things like Snowpiercer. This title really has taken on a huge media presence with the film and now a TV show announced. How does this kind of attention help the print edition?
THOMPSON: The announcement of the Snowpiercer TV series has been hugely exciting for us, just as the announcement of the film initially was. The beautiful thing is that, like Death of Stalin, the graphic novels stand on their own two feet and make the perfect companion to both the film and new TV show. Obviously we’re all fans of the source material though, so we’re really hoping people will want to learn where it came from and what it was that captured the imagination of all these producers. On a curatorial level, it’s gratifying to know we’ve backed a winner and that we got in on Snowpiercer before all this news hit … Hopefully we’ll see more of our Statix Press books ‘translated’ into other media going forward.
THE BEAT: Finally, any other goals for the imprint you can tell us about?
THOMPSON: Ultimately, the goal of the line is to present the best comics from around the world and to provide a trusted imprint/platform where those titles can appear. The reviews for all of our Statix Press titles have been astounding so far, and I’m hoping that sets a standard in terms of us being a trusted curator and brand. If, at the end of the day, people trust us, then that would be the ideal scenario … We believe in the power of comics as a global (universal?) phenomenon, and being able to showcase that under the one umbrella is an opportunity to point the way. For those who’ve enjoyed our titles so far, stick with us – the best is yet to come. And for those who missed the first wave, it’s not too late – climb aboard now and discover the best of what the world has to offer.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.