Challenging Taboos

Challenging Taboos

Eurotica & Amerotica [NMB]

From Interview ComicBookBin with Terry Nantier of NBM by Hervé St-Louis (2010):

NBM Publishing is one of the oldest comic book publishers in North America. Its repertoire of volume is unique and wide. NBM publishes comic books that cater to children, adaptations from Europe, comic strips compilations and erotica.

CBB: Many of the readers reading this article only have vague notions about who NBM Publishing is. Can you shed some light into your early years as a publisher?

Terry Nantier: I started this company when ‘graphic novels’ wasn’t even a word yet back in 1976 with the vision that GNs were what was missing here. As the time comic strips were getting increasingly cut in papers, and comic books were getting cut out of newsstands, comic book stores were barely starting. I had spent my teen years in Paris where GNs were responsible for an explosion in creativity, popularity and importantly respectability. I thought ‘why don’t we have this in the US?’ So I started NBM (then Flying Buttress) principally bringing over European GNs to show the way really, not with the intention of just being a Euro-comics publisher. We were the first to publish Bilal here. Soon enough we started publishing American artists as well but along the way, we were the 1st to start doing complete library-worthy collections of comic strips with the complete library of Caniff’s Terry & the Pirates which proved very successful. In GNs’ we wowed the world with The Mercenary, the first fully painted series of GNs, we did Hugo Pratt’s Corto Maltese.

From the start our choices for our catalog have been to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, not just a certain group of fans. Even in the late seventies I was already actively pursuing general distribution in bookstores. Obviously it was very tough but I learned a lot and ended up very ahead of the game compared to the rest of the comics industry in dealing with that market. By the time everyone else wanted to enter it and GNs were becoming a real factor in comics, we had been there, done that and were starting to get reviews in Publishers Weekly and newspapers, helping to establish comics as a respectable art form. We were also the first to distribute Dark Horse into that market, btw.

CBB: What led you start a comic book publishing company that published what would later be known as graphic novels way back in the 1970s?

Terry Nantier: [answered above]

CBB: How close is the North American graphic novel to the European album which it seems to have been inspired from? Do you think a cardboard stock cover would work well in North America?

Terry Nantier: American GNs have taken a turn more to real novel-length as opposed to the shorter from that was standard in Europe. The irony is now ‘Le graphic novel’ in France means a full, somewhat smaller, more like a regular book of fiction, GN, so we’ve ended up being an example to them!
Shorter works in large size and especially in hardcover simply didn’t work here for a variety of reasons, from looking like it’s for kids to shelving problems but now it looks like that may be changing.
CBB: Why have the pages and format not followed the extended format of the European album even in translations done by NBM? Is that a market/industry requirement?

Terry Nantier: We were the first to come up with the idea of adapting the ‘album de Bande Dessinée’ by going to a 6x9 standard fiction format AND putting 2 stories into one book for at least 100 pages, as opposed to the standard Franco-Belgian 48 in 8 ½ x 11. The thicker book is better but the lower size is good for some, like Trondheim, Sfar or Blain but not all, so it’s good if we can have more leeway as our market evolves.

CBB: How has the comic book industry changed since you started publishing comics way back in 1976?

Terry Nantier: Oh, one heck of a lot. Mainly it’s been years for the GN and comics to become fully accepted as it is today and its success in the last decade is certainly great vindication! But my vision that GNs would become the prime vehicle has indeed come about. Back in 1976, both comics fans and general bookstores thought I was some laughable nut.

CBB: NBM has a great library of books some of which covers crucial American comic strips like Wash Tubbs and Captain Easy. Many of those books seem to have fallen out of print. What is the process involved in making sure that as a publisher you continue to have rights to all these books you published and can reprint second editions?

Terry Nantier: Hey, books all have a certain life cycle and our comic strip reprints lasted many years but can’t last forever. I’m just very proud that we were the first in 1982 to show that expensive hardcover complete reprints could actually work, instead of magazines. Now we’ve relaunched ourselves into this classic strip collecting with vintage greats presented in our ‘Forever Nuts’ collection with Mutt & Jeff, Happy Hooligan and Bringing Up Father. We have others up our sleeve but are not looking to flood the market. NBM has always been about quality and each book being worth publishing, not quantity.

CBB: Are second editions difficult to publish and market?

Terry Nantier: With enough years in between, one can come back as witness new collections of Terry & The Pirates.

CBB: It seems that there is a new aesthetic for publishing older comic strips and designing books around them. What’s your take on modern comic strip compilation design?

Terry Nantier: I think it’s great, they’re really keepsakes, lovingly designed. Forever Nuts also has a strong design element but as we’ve always done, not bringing attention to itself, jus being a good
platform to show off the star: the classic comic being collected. Our design on all our books follows that aesthetic. We’re not designing magazine/periodicals/comicbooks. We’re designing BOOKS. That means something more eternal that must have room to breathe. Not every page needs to have some full bleed art, blank pages are OK. Less is more. You’re doing a platform for your artist, not trying to invade his work with excessive splash.

CBB: Many publishers have published erotica lines in the past. Yours, called Amerotica continues to this day. Is erotic material a crutch to sustain and finance a comic book publisher or is it a fully developed genre in itself with its own audience, media and network? Is there a built in audience or are collectors single men in buying one book or twice per year and reading them in solitude?

Terry Nantier: Our main imprint is in fact Eurotica of which Amerotica is a part. We started that in 1990 with Crepax’ Story of O which we just brought back out. While this line does help us financially, we’ve always managed it with the view that erotic comics are a perfectly legitimate form of expression, need not be some horrid sausage factory. We’ve had some very intelligent comics in this line, even if hardcore, they’ve had something to say, but most of all they’ve had very beautiful art. And that works well to this day where adult slop exists by the silo-fulls on the internet. That’s how we differentiate ourselves.

CBB: How much space does the Amerotica line occupies at NBM?
Terry Nantier: Eurotica is about 40% of our sales and publishing program.

CBB: What would it take for mainstream media, like The Comic Book Bin to cover erotic comic book adequately?

Terry Nantier: Balls. I’ m serious! Most media cave in to the puritan pressures.

Eurotica & Amerotica Website

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