By Adam Karenina Sherif
To celebrate twenty years of publishing in the US, French publisher Humanoids has announced a major new publishing initiative this weekend at NYCC. H1, which launches in 2019 with three ongoing and three mini-series, will be a shared science fiction and superhero universe under the supervision of Chief Creative Officer John Cassaday and freshly-minted Director of Creative Development Mark Waid.
The characters and world of H1 have been designed by a trio of architects: Carla Speed McNeil (Finder, No Mercy), Kwanza Osajyefo (Black, Black AF) and Yanick Paquette (Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman: Earth One). McNeil described the collaborative design process as like a ‘jazz band’ where serving the idea was their foremost priority. Humanoids have put the creators first, according to Paquette, who relished the experience as “a great exercise in open-mindedness”.
The first of the H1 books will be Ignited, an ongoing teen team book written by Osajyefo and Mark Waid, with art by Phil Briones (Aquaman). Osajyefo remarked that “Ignited is a story we wanted to tell about things going on right now in the world, the issues teens are facing – and a story with consequences. Like if Manhattan gets destroyed, it’s destroyed. It doesn’t get reset at the end of the arc.” Paquette designed the lead character and put emphasis on working to represent the seemingly unrepresentable.
Omni, written by Cheryl Lynn Eaton (Batman: Secret Files, Bitch Planet: Triple Feature) will focus on a young doctor who develops psychological, intellectual powers and set about helping her community, as well a strangers. Eaton asked, “If you have mental powers and you’re four or five steps ahead of everyone else, what happens when you have anxiety, or PTSD?” No artist was named for this book at the announcement, but Paquette’s striking, neon-tinged character designs were a real highlight.
The third of the ongoing series announced is Strangelands, described by McNeil as ‘a relationship book’ or Moonlight with superpowers. The full creative team was not revealed.
Three preliminary mini-series were also detailed for H1, beginning with The Big Country written by producer and screenwriter Quinton Peeples (Runaways, Iron Fist TV shows) and with art by Dennis Calero (James Bond: Casino Royale). With a tone reminiscent of the award-winning Southern Bastards, this book was flagged by Peeples as a “Texas neo-noir” with a story that looks at the escalation and modernisation in a small town where the Sheriffs can’t keep up. The book’s slated for five issues, with covers by Darick Robertson (The Boys).
Meyer, a five-issue series written by Jonathan Lang (Plunder) and drawn by Andrea Mutti (Port of Earth), presents an imaginary biography of famed Jewish mobster Meyer Lansky. Cassaday detailed that the book would be set towards the end of Lanksy’s life, presenting a portrait of “a man used to power seeing everything stripped away because of his age and his health”. Covers come from Shawn Martinbrough (Detective Comics, Black Panther: Man Without Fear).
The last of this first wave of titles announced was Nicnevin and the Blood Queen written by filmmaker Helen Mullane and drawn by Dom Reardon (2000AD). Jock (Detective Comics, 2000AD), who’s providing covers for the series, described it as “a drama, wrapped in dark fantasy and set in an England where all of the British Isles’ folklore and mystical, spiritual traditions are very much alive”. Nicnevin is set for four issues.
The H1 initiative marks Humanoids’ first significant foray into serialised monthly comics in the US direct market. CEO and Publisher Fabrice Giger was keen to emphasise that the books would be in-keeping with the high quality production values of their graphic novels and albums. All of the titles have logos designed by the esteemed, prolific designer Rian Hughes. Paquette positioned H1 as a bridge between what he described as the more sophisticated European tradition and the scrappier style of American comics.
Cassaday stressed that H1 will be more ‘real and resonant’ than other shared superhero universes, that they wouldn’t be shying away from politics in comics: “Politics have always played a part. The real world is always reflected in these stories”. Eaton added that “we put so much of our culture into our work. And Humanoids have brought varied voices in to load these books with a range of perspectives”.
H1 launches in July 2019 with lead title Ignited.