I’m always up for a challenge and I love the sort of motley crew that makes up my office’s clientele. But there couldn’t have been a subject matter that I knew less about when starting French comic book publishing professional Fabrice Sapolsky’s O-1 (Extraordinary Ability in the Arts) visa application. Overwhelmed by the vast plethora of characters, storylines, publishing houses, mythos, genres, and styles of the comic book industry? I hear you. To boot, the industry is extremely particular—full of history, lingo, and etiquette, and the learning curve was steep with me. However, not only did Fabrice and I create a (large!) file that was immediately approved, I learned a great deal about his unique talent in a fascinating and often misunderstood field.
Fabrice Sapolsky is an internationally acclaimed writer, publisher, and literary packager in the Comic Book and Graphic Novel industry. Impressively, as author of the acclaimed “noir” series, Spider-Man Noir, Fabrice is only the second French author in history to pen for the comic book powerhouse Marvel Comics. Fabrice’s latest original work, One Hit Wonder, hit American comic book shelves in 2014 to rave reviews.
Not only is he a talented writer, he has long been cited as the foremost authority on American comic books in France, publishing the only reference about the U.S. comic book industry in the French language, Comic Box. For example, when CANAL+, a major television news channel in France, wants commentary on Disney’s purchase of Marvel Entertainment or the details of the upcoming release of Iron Man, the journalists are interviewing Fabrice. He’s a feature of countless Comic Cons and other festivals around the globe and often lauded for his unparalleled network of comic professionals. He has held probably every role in the publishing field throughout his illustrious career: writer, author, publisher, art director, editor, you name it, including “Packager,” which, in a way, is a role that encompasses them all.
Fabrice was recruited by Grand Design Communications, a New York City based literary agency, licensor, packager and independent publisher of Comic Book and Graphic Novels, created by David Bernstein. Grand Design is one of the most experienced comics-focused licensing agencies and publishing packagers in the business, with a catalog featuring over 10,000 pages of content, specializing in foreign print and digital publications, and boasts an ever-expanding portfolio of international clients, including content from Italy, Denmark, Brazil, Spain, Turkey, Greece, and Canada. Grand Design has licensed content to print and digital publishers in multiple foreign territories including France (Ave Comics, Editions Delcourt, Panini, Semic, Casterman), Germany (Egmont Ehapa, Eidelon), Portugal (Devir), and Spain (Planeta D'agostini). Grand Design also has had an international presence at trade fairs including the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Anoguleme BD Festival. Harnessing the European market is a major step in Grand Design’s growth strategy, and it shouldn’t be difficult with someone like Fabrice in its arsenal.
As one might expect, this project was super fun for my office, despite its challenges. There were many Skype calls with Fabrice and David, as well as long nights reading articles and books about the history of the comic book industry, pinning down the correct terminology, and learning the ins and outs of this particular field of publishing, as well as diving into some comics books and comic book films (“for inspiration!”). Through the hard work of everyone involved, I think we ended up with a petition all of us were pretty proud of.