Lizzie Kaye recently joined the Titan Comics team as an editor, tasked with bringing more bande dessinée to English-speaking readers. And while Titan has published great comics in translation in the past, including Snowpiercer, I’m excited by this announcement; it seems like the team are aiming to vastly expand this arm of the business.
I caught up with Lizzie to talk about career, comics, and expanding the market for bande dessinée.
What are your professional and personal goals for this line? For example, do you plan to increase the diversity of French-speaking creators translated into English? Are there particular genres or story forms you’re particularly seeking out? Will you be commissioning original works by French and Belgian creators, in addition to publishing translations of existing works?
In the first instance, we want to bring the vast array of European graphic novels to the attention of the English speaking public. I think the most important thing we are hoping to achieve with this new line is a wider appreciation for the diversity of the medium of sequential art, and hopefully we’ll be able to bring in new readers as well. We’re interesting in exploring all genres and really hope to be able to commission new works from European creators in the future.
Let’s talk big dreams: Are there any books you’re dying to adapt, or creators you dream of working with?
I have always wanted to own The Nikopol Trilogy by Enki Bilal, which is almost impossible to get hold of, so I’m thrilled that Titan will be releasing a new edition of it. I’ve been really lucky in terms of working with some incredible people, but I’d really like to work with Olivier Ledroit, I love his artwork.
Just last week on Twitter I was chatting with the folks at Broken Frontier about the dearth of English criticism of bande dessinée. Part of that is due to the spotty availability of these titles to North American and even British audiences, but it’s also a lack of visibility and, I guess, lazy disinterest on the part of critics. How do you plan to get the word out about these titles, and what kinds of market niches do you hope to fill?
I suppose the lack of visibility is an issue, and that is something we’re hoping to combat with giving these titles plenty of opportunities to shine, engaging with retailers and letting people know that they exist. I’m not sure that there is disinterest; I just think there might be a lack of information getting through to reviewers, and this is something we really want to talk to them about and hear from them what might make it easier for them to engage with the titles.
You’ve worked on comics—literary and more popular—in translation before. What kinds of special challenges does this work involve? For example, is it difficult to “translate” cultural differences in addition to translating the text? Do you work directly with translators and original creators throughout the process?
Translating cultural differences isn’t really the biggest issue, strangely. What’s more difficult is translating sfx, which tend to be burnt into the artwork, meaning you have to have quite a steady hand when changing them. We work with a great team of translators who are all really experienced in dealing with comics and graphic novels, and we make sure that we’re all happy with the translation before it goes to print.
Before joining Titan, you were an editor at SelfMadeHero and before that, you worked in B2B (business to business publishing). Can you tell me a bit about your education and your career path and how you came to work at Titan? When did you know that comics publishing was your thing? (The WWAC staff want to know: “How did she get her job?”“How can I get that job?”)
I have a degree in English Literature from UEA, and knew I wanted to work in publishing in some capacity when I graduated, but wasn’t entirely sure what. I took the first job offered to me that would allow me to move to London after graduation, which was as an office admin for a B2B magazine. When I left three years later, I was Production and Communications Director. I had decided that I was too young to be doing something that I just enjoyed, but didn’t love, and had become interested in comics and sequential art. I basically just approached SelfMadeHero at London Book Fair one year and asked if they needed a editorial or production assistant. I was working for them three months later.
Where does your passion for the work come from and what brings you the most professional pride and joy? That is, what is it about comics, and working with comics, that you love?
I think seeing a book turn out really well is what brings me the most pride, and when an artist or author is happy with it. What I love most about working with comics is the variety in the job, and the fact that even when you’re incredibly stressed, the work on your screen is beautiful, and that’s what you get to look at.
Are the books you work on also the books that you read for pleasure? Where and how do you draw a line between personal taste and what’s right for the business and for the market? (Do you have any comics guilty pleasures? I have so very many.)
To be honest, I try to limit my comics reading outside of work hours, as it’s too easy for me to get sucked into a series, and before I know it I haven’t read anything else for months. I make a real effort to read widely, and never feel guilty about anything I read!
And lastly, are there any special projects you’re working on right now that you’d like to tell us about?
We have some really great titles coming out from Titan in the next year; ones I’m particularly excited about are the new editions of Lone Sloane by Philippe Druillet and The Quest for the Time Bird by Le Tendre and Loisel, which is a beautiful book!