Axel-In-Charge: Facing the 'Divided' Marvel NOW! Future
[Updated 5:55pm PST: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Humanoids had filed for bankruptcy. Also, since the original article’s publication we have spoken to a representative from the American company Humanoids Inc., who currently holds the rights to Hide & Seek.]
Chris Claremont casts a long shadow in modern superhero comics, due to his landmark run on Uncanny X-Men. Many of Marvel’s current X-Men stories — and let’s not forget Fox’s blockbuster movie franchise — are built on earlier work by Claremont and has collaborators. Despite that pedigree, new Claremont comics are few and far between.
In a 2012 interview, he told ROBOT 6 that while he no longer received work from Marvel, he did have a string of projects set up in Europe.
“I have two comics projects that I started in Europe, one science fiction and one fantasy. The fantasy series, titled Wanderers, got one issue published, a second issue fully complete and a third one plotted out before the artist left to work for Marvel,” Claremont said, referring to artist Phil Briones. “That’s no fault of the artist, but the book was published as a dual-publishing arrangement between a French and Italian publisher that came to blows. I think the French publisher was hoping for better sales of the first volume, and lost interest afterwards. But now because of that, I’ve got a hundred pages of story sitting on my desk. The other series, the science fiction one, went to the publisher and an artist drew 20 odd pages before the company collapsed. The other publishers I’ve shown it to were interested, but said that either the artist or the story wasn’t quite right for them. Again, there are many cases of concepts that look golden to creators but hit speed bumps along the way and never make it to fruition. That’s the business.”
The publisher for this second unreleased graphic novel was Les Humanoïdes Associés, and this graphic novel remains an interesting loose end to Claremont’s career — much like the mysteries in his Uncanny X-Men run. But after months of digging, ROBOT 6 has uncovered what this second graphic novel series was, what it was about, and who it was with.
Hide & Seek paired the veteran American writer with up-and-coming Italian artist Denis Medri, who recently drew a strip titled “Arcade Boy” for Dark Horse Presents. Medri describes Hide & Seek as a “sci-fi/steampunk story” that followed a 19th-century Englishwoman named Alyxandra (aka Alyx) who’s kidnapped into a “dark and decadent” futuristic world populated by aliens, monsters and space pirates.
“I met Chris Claremont for the first time at the Angouleme Festival in 2004,” Medri tells ROBOT 6. ” I showed him my work and he liked it a lot, and gave me his email address. It took a couple years, but we planned something together and partnered with Les Humanoïdes Associés to publish it.”
Hide & Seek was intended to be a trilogy of European-style 48-page graphic novels, with Claremont completing the script in early 2007 and Medri hard at work on what was for him a dream project. But after he completed 25 pages, Medri says he was told by Les Humanoïdes Associés to stop working on it. Medri states that this was because the company “fell into bankruptcy,” but there are conflicting reports saying that Les Humanoïdes Associés was not in bankruptcy but was under financial stress from debtors that led to a French legal action called administration in 2008, which froze its debts until the company restructured — which it did by the end of 2009. However the case, Medri was told to stop working on the project midway through the completion of the first volume.
“This is something that makes me angry each time I think about it. It was a great chance for me wasted.” Medri admits. “Unfortunately, Les Humanoïdes Associés still owns the rights to Hide & Seek and we can’t move it to another publisher.”
Years after the suspension of this project, Les Humanoïdes Associés’ catalog was acquired by the Los-Angeles Based company Humanoids, Inc. in 2012, and later fully merged with them under the joint name of Humanoids. Although they share a similar name, the American Humanoids and the French Les Humanoïdes Associés were two separate entities prior to the merger, with different owners even. But now, both publishers — and both of their library of titles — are owned and operated under one roof as Humanoids, Inc., including Claremont and Medri’s Hide & Seek. Last week ROBOT 6 reached out to both Les Humanoïdes Associés and the related American company Humanoids, Inc., for comment on this story, but received no comment. But after the original publication of this story, Humanoids director/editor Alex Donoghue emailed ROBOT 6 with additional information.
“Chris Claremont is perfectly aware of the fact that the rights to Hide & Seek can be picked up by a third party publisher at cost,” Donoghue says. “Consequently, the quote by Denis Medri makes us look as if we were blocking the rights, is unfair.”
When asked about any interest Humanoids might have of resuming the production of Hide & Seek for themselves, Donoghue says that they have no plans for that and reiterate that they are available “at cost” for interested parties.
Here is a sample of the unfinished pages and sketches Medri completed in 2007 before the project was suspended.