[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about The Littlest Pirate King by David B., Fantagraphics' second Franco-Belgian kids' comic release, now available to order from us or at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
This is Fantagraphics' first full David B. book, right?
Correct. We published the second issue of his Ignatz comic Babel (D+Q published the first one before wimping out on the whole Ignatz deal), and four of his short stories in Zero Zero and MOME (in fact, the three MOME stories will be collected next year), but this is our first David B. release with a spine.
What made you pick this one specifically?
It more or less fell in my lap last year: The French publisher offered it to us, and if I didn't grab it up NBM, which released David's Nocturnal Conspiracies back in 2008, was ready to. I really enjoyed the story, and I thought it would make a nice match-up with Blanquet's Toys in the Basement to launch our Franco-Belgian kids' line. [Ed. Note: You can currently purchase The Littlest Pirate King and Toys in the Basement together for 20% off the cover prices!]
Are you and NBM in competition for books often?
Not really. Terry Nantier's and my tastes are pretty different, as are my tastes and First Second's — and, God knows, Heavy Metal's. But there are so many great European comics still to translate that this kind of collision is rare anyway.
It's David B.'s first color book, too?
In the U.S., yes, but it's about his sixth color book in France, actually; ever since he finished Epileptic and moved from L'Association to more mainstream French publishers like Dargaud and Dupuis — see, the Fantagraphics-to-Random-House alternative-to-corporate pattern isn't unique to the U.S.! — he's been working almost exclusively in color.
Who is this Pierre Mac Orlan who wrote the original story?
At this point I know as much about Pierre Mac Orlan as anyone who's bookmarked Wikipedia.org does. Apparently a French novelist, songwriter, and children's book writer.
Sure, go to YouTube and key in his name, you'll get page after page of videos of French singers singing his songs.
For a kid's book, this has got some pretty adult stuff in it. Like the fact that the zombie pirates talk about the prostitutes back on land they miss...
This has been brought up to me by sensitive members of our staff. Well, it's handled pretty delicately. It would fly right over a theoretical young reader's head: He might think the pirate want to spend the money on the women just taking them out on dates or something. If anything, it's far more genteel than the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride in Disneyland, which used to have the pirates carrying off serving wenches with the clear intent of rape until it got politically corrected. (Perhaps even worse, they used to have one ugly serving wench who was disconsolate because no pirate would take her.) You could also argue that all the pirates' cursing God in Littlest Pirate King might be problematic for some parents, but they're pirate zombies, they're not role models. And they have a pretty good reason to be ticked off at God.
The ending is very bleak.
That's true. Although most Disney movies have even bleaker moments at one point or another, usually involving the death of a parental character. But I think kids can take it. It's not as bad as Old Yeller getting killed or anything. [Spoiler alert — Ed.]
You mentioned Babel, David's sequel-of-sorts to Epileptic, which delves into his relationship with his brother from a different angle, their shared fantasy life as kids. Will that ever continue?
Well, the whole Ignatz series ran into some rough waters. It was predicated on being published by at least three or four publishers in different countries, and after starting off with six (Holland, Germany, Spain, France, the U.S., and Italy), three of the publishers dropped out almost immediately because they discovered the format didn't work at all for their market, and of the three remaining two ran into financial or structural problems, which meant the books weren't being published and cartoonists weren't getting paid except by us, which wasn't sustainable. So David, like most of the cartoonists, had to move onto actual paid work. The good news is that as the Ignatz stuff gets sorted out it looks like he'll be able to finish the series with a third issue which he'll then be able to sell as a book in some of these markets, including the U.S. where we'll either release it as an Ignatz and then a book, or go straight to book. The funny thing is that we actually published several pages from #3 in our I.G.N.A.T.Z. Free Comic Book Day preview comic a few years ago, and that's literally the only place in the world those pages have been published... In the meantime he just published a really cool sketchbook comic, and I understand he's working on a major historical volume now.
Okay, so I'm confused... What if anything would you say is next for David B. in terms of Fantagraphics releases after the MOME stories collection?
I'm playing it by ear. Could be Babel if/when that's finished, could be this new project, could be one of his earlier L'Association books for that matter. Wait and see!