Interview: Tristan Roulot and Patrick Henaff on The Will of Captain Crown and French Comics for an English Speaking Audience
Source: Kickstarter Page
Tristan Roulot and Patrick Hénaff are the co-creators of The Will of Captain Crown, a two volume pirate adventure comic originally released in French in 2011. The comic earned Roulot a Joe Shuster Outstanding Writer Award nomination in 2012. After a successful release in Europe, Roulot and Hénaff turned to Kickstarter for funds to translate and reformat the comic for an English edition. The first volume was successfully translated last year, and now Roulot and Henaff are working on a Kickstarter for the second volume. As of this morning, the Kickstarter had successfully raised 133% of its $6,500 goal, with 19 days remaining.
I spoke to Roulot and Hénaff via email about the comic and their Kickstarter campaigns:
Christian Hoffer: How did the two of you meet and decide to collaborate on The Will of Captain Crown?
Tristan Roulot: Hello Outhousers! I’ve lived in Paris for about twenty years, and came to Montreal five years ago as a permanent resident. As soon as I got off the plane, I found a studio that included several artists who were published by big European publishers, or by American ones such as Marvel or DC comics. That’s where I met Patrick and we quickly decided to put together a book: a true pirate story, hard and salty.
Patrick Hénaff: I had been living in Canada for 15 years and after a few years in the west had decided to move to Montreal.
I had joined the studio where Tristan and I met, about a year before. We had a lot in common with Tristan and got along well. It wasn’t long before we decided to work together.
Hoffer: Was the Will of Captain Crown influenced by any other comics or other forms of literature/entertainment media?
Roulot: Obviously Treasure Island from R.L. Stevenson. He established the guidelines of the genre for all pirate stories to come. However, The Will of Captain Crown is not only a pirate story but for the most part a crime story. So I must admit that the other main inspiration for me was Agatha Christy's Ten Little Indians. I always wanted to make a crime story with a limited cast and a closed environment.
At that time, I was looking for a twist to the typical structure, and for weeks I was asking myself "Is it possible to make a real gritty, hard boiled crime story somewhere different than in a usual dark, nightly atmosphere?" To answer it, I realized I could just do the opposite and place the setting under in a brilliant sun. From there, all the elements came together: the Caribbean sea, the murder on a pirate ship, and the double goal of Captain Crown’s second in command (finding the killer and bringing the heirs to their inheritance).
Hoffer: Why did you feel it important to make an English translation of The Will of Captain Crown?
Roulot: Patrick and I both live in Montreal, a multicultural city, as fond of US comics as Euro comics. After all, we are only an hour away from the US borders. It was natural for us to be read by the other half of the city... and then the world :)
Hénaff: A lot of friends I have in Canada have asked me about my work, but being unfamiliar with the European comic scene and often unable to read in French, I couldn’t share with them my most recent work. Beyond our immediate circle of friends, we have discovered that a lot of people all over the world have a passion for pirates. This story is unlike any I have read in that universe. It was very well received in France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. We saw no reason why English reader wouldn’t in turn enjoy the series.
Hoffer: Besides translation, what sort of changes did you make to The Will of Captain Crown for its English edition?
Roulot:: A hell of a lot!!! The Will of Captain Crown was published in 2011 by Soleil Prod. in two books filled with 46 big pages each. In Europe, the page size is roughly 9 x 12.5 inches, whereas the standard size for comic books is 6.5 x 10 inches. So for our English speaking audience, we did not only translate the book, but also reformatted it to the comic book standard. That meant recompose it, panel to panel. Adding drawings, dividing pages, adding punches... Also, splash pages are extremely rare in Euro comics, but they add a great deal of impact to an adventurous story. So we were able to include some in the English version. In the end, it was a hell of a job, but it was totally worth it. From 46 pages, the first book is now 112 pages, and I find that the new version added a lot of rhythm to the story.
Hénaff: Using the same raw material (the panels and captions), the pages were entierely rethought to fit the new format. It changes the pace, allows for more space and more emphasis on some images that we feel are particularly important in the storytelling.
Hoffer: How do the French-language and English-language comic markets differ?
Roulot:: Hard to tell, as for now, we didn’t try to step up from the indie to comic store distribution. In the end, it's all in the reader's hands, I guess... It seems to me that, maybe, the US market is more open to indie books like The Will of Captain Crown.
Hénaff: The industry for English comic books is organized in a totally different manner than in Europe. But as far as the readers are concerned, they are looking for the same things: original stories and good looking artwork. And if the readers are interested, after that it just a matter of understanding how to promote your work the best possible way.
Hoffer: Do you feel that there's a potential for more comics to make the transition from one to the other?
Roulot:: You know, it's a lot of job to transform a book into another version of itself, and I don't think a publisher would finance the extra cost to do it. He would simply translate and resize it without reformatting it, and all the greatness of one version would be loss in the other version. Without kickstarter, we couldn't have paid the translator, but also finance the time required to go through the whole process.
Hénaff: Due to the adaptation in comic book format, people have the opportunity to read the book in a format that is familiar and are not bothered by a way of reading that is foreign to them. That way they everybody can enjoy new stories, and not just hardcore readers who are into obscure European editions. I believe this kind of adaptation is a great opportunity to promote good stories on both sides of the Atlantic.
Hoffer: What was your reaction to Tristan's nomination for the Joe Shuster Outstanding Writer award for this comic?
Roulot:: I remember I was so proud, and really moved by it. The Shuster’s celebrate the best Canadian authors, and at that time I was just a permanent resident (now I have my citizenship, so I guess I'm here to stay :). It really felt like a warm welcome from the Canadian authors community, which has such great artist like Fiona Staples, Jeff Lemire, and this Shuster guy :).
Hénaff:I thought it was well deserved, but I might be biaised.
Hoffer: Have you been surprised how much support your two Kickstarters has received?
Roulot:: Yes! When we started our first kickstarter campaign, we really didn't know what to expect, and a complete failure was a real probability. Thing is, we didn't want to bully our friends for their money, because the main goal of this campaign was to know if there was a readership outside of France for our kind of story : entertaining but historically accurate, offering detailed arts and strong characters but no superpowers... and Pirates... but not with Johnny Depp nor zombies :)
So we made our little video and stared anxiously at our computer screen to see what would happen... And as the days passed, things went better and better until Kickstarter chose The Will of Captain Crown to be their “Project of the day”. Then things exploded. The best surprise we had was when the community that supported us during the first campaign came back for the second as well, and already helped us meet our $7, 000 goals in only 3 days ! And now, new backers come along each days. That’s truly amazing. Kickstarter has this incredible effect to restore your faith in humanity, one backer at a time.
Hénaff:Yes, it greatly surpassed our expectations. We were a little nervous at first and right before starting, the amount we were asking for seemed way out of our reach. But we had done our math and that’s what we needed to complete the project the way we wanted. So we were very relieved and sincerely moved to see the support, the encouragements and advices. We are very grateful towards all the backers.
Hoffer: Do you have any plans to sell and distribute the English translation of the comic outside of those supporting the Kickstarter?
Roulot:: That is one big question. One thing is certain : the story in the version of two hardcover books will be reserved for our backers, and you will not find them anywhere else than on Kickstarter (except maybe for the few comic cons we will attend next year). Once our 1000 copies print run will be exhausted, there won’t be another, to keep the collector's value to the books. Someday, I have that big dream of publishing the complete story in one big 250 pages book... Time will tell!
The current Kickstarter link can be found here. Please note that those who donate $50 will receive copies of both the first and second volumes. I can't speak highly enough about the first volume of The Will of Captain Crown, and I encourage everyone who can to read it. Hénaff's website can be found here. French editions of The Will of Captain Crown can be found here and here.
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About the Author - Christian Hoffer
Christian Hoffer is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Hoffer is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.
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