L’association was created in 1990 by seven comic book creators: Jean-Christophe Menu, Lewis Trondheim, David B., Mattt Konture, Patrice Killoffer, Stanislas and Mokeït (who left early on). The main reasons to create this new editorial structure were simple, to fill a void not occupied by the major publishers and to create something different, something more artistic centered on a new vision of what a comic book could be. Contextually, L’Association was created at a time where the European comic book scene was at a low. Futuropolis was agonizing, there was no more press covering the medium specifically, the 48 pages color hardcover format was the only option and there was little place for new series.
Even if the publisher started small, the artistic maturity and the experience accumulated in the fanzine world by the founders were two factors that helped build a strong foundation. At first, the printing were relatively low (1000 to 3000 copies) and the formats of the books were adapted to the content which was novel at the time. This gave birth to a wide variety of comic book and helped the publisher build an identity. After a couple of years, l’Association had growth enough to rent an office and hire permanent staffs.
Lapinot et les carottes de patagonie by Lewis Trondheim
With this growth also came more ambitious projects and new creators joined the fold. Translation also became a part of the publisher’s catalog at the same time. By the end of the 90’s, many major publishers had started new line of comic book based on l’Association’s recipe for success. But the small publisher had an advantage that could hardly be imitated. They were authors and understood the medium. They combined this knowledge with a strict editorial policy and thus created a strong reputation for quality materials. This reputation was later acknowledged with literary and popular success such as Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis or Guy Delisle’s Shenzen and Pyong Yang.
In the last couple of years, l’Association has seen much change. Internal dissent and the calls of a wider distribution led most of the original founders to leave in 2005-2006. Johann Sfar also announced that he would not publish there anymore. Only J-C Menu and Konture now remain and the original editorial committee has been dissolved
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Even if the publisher is still in operation, I personally feel that their better years are behind. With many publishers trying to occupy the same niche market and surfing the ‘’independent’’ wave, completion is strong. Some of the founders are even workings in these bigger structures bringing along credibility and a reputation.
If you have never checked out l’Association’s catalog you should definitely do so. They redefined how comic book and graphic should be done and brought a whole new wave of creators into the light when no one else would. For that alone, they deserve much respect. Many titles are translated by Drawn & Quarterly and First Second Books among others.