I love this still from the upcoming animated feature, Arco. I have to hand it to the French as this looks like something very weird and wonderful–and will live up to its promise. All the little details, so delicate and precise, speak to the dedication of a true graphic novelist, which Ugo surely is as he has a fine and consistent track record of actually creating numerous graphic novels. You really can’t call yourself a graphic novelist without actually being one! So, here is a bona fide bande dessinee artist!
Here is the news on Arco which appeared in Variety last month:
Blutch is one of the greatest cartoonists working today. You may not be familiar with him but, once you see his work, you can’t help but fall in love with his fluid line and worldly narrative. This guy is simply brilliant. At 49, he is relatively young. All of us cartoonists seem to age well. Part of it has to do with a bit of arrested development. Just a touch of Peter Pan can go a long way in a youth-oriented industry. If only all could be counted on to go well, then a true artist-cartoonist could enjoy a most meaningful, productive, and youthful life. But things rarely go according to plan. That is part of what the great Blutch confronts in his new graphic novel, “Dark Side of the Moon,” available in French and English at izneo.
All in a day’s work.
Now, one more thing, keep in mind that American cartoonist greats like Paul Pope and Craig Thompson turn to France and worship at the altar of Blutch. This is the time for all the great work in French by Blutch to be translated into English. And, believe me, that is currently happening. Take a look at a recent English version of “Peplum,” published by The New York Review of Books. This is also time for the master to reach ever new heights with ambitious and complex bildungsromans and roman-a-clefs. He does just that sort of thing with this new book which has a cartoonist satirizing his lot in life in a similar vein as Fellini satirizing his. We begin with a dream, an ideal, and how it fares when it dukes it out with cold harsh reality.
Much has been said about Blutch’s expressive line. It seems as if he conjures up the most lively and vivid figures from head to toe. Well, that ability does not come from being showered with likes on Facebook over knocking off a quickie sketch. In Blutch’s youth, and in mine, to be liked was a hard won endeavor that really meant something between two human beings, if it happened at all. And for someone to like your work, well, that meant you must have torn your heart out with elbow grease. Oh, the nostalgia can weigh so heavy as to floor me. In the case of this book, we go back and forth between Lantz, the cartoonist in the bloom of youth and in the pit of middle age. Lantz is on a journey where memory and desire conflate the truth.
Liebling at her easel.
Perhaps sweet and dewy Liebling holds the key to happiness, to perpetual youth. It is this lovely young woman who begins our tale. From her, we find all the energy and promise of youth fully intact. But, alas, Liebling has certainly come of age to go out and get a job and so off she goes to give up her soul to the nearest employment agency. Blutch mercifully sweetens things by setting it all in a fanciful world of the not too distant future. All Liebling seems to have to do at her new job is stick both of her hands in a big blob. Yes, a blob, not a blog. It is a goopy half-sentient network that keeps things running smoothly at Mediamondia, the mega-publisher-content-provider. Okay, you can see the easy segue to Lantz, a master content provider, er, cartoonist.
Pips tells it like it is.
Imagine your favorite pop culture franchise. Okay, that’s what our hero, Lantz, has a pivotal role in. Lantz is responsible for churning out the next installment of The Brand New Testament. The only problem is that Lantz is losing his mind. The passing of time is making Lantz sad again. It’s a whole new world. It’s not like the old days and it’s hardly like it was in the heyday of Pips.
No one appreciates all the toil involved with creating a work of such epic proportions…and all done by hand. Hint: Blutch speaks of his own work and the relative indifference he must confront. There are people who want what he can make but do they really know him or love him?
You will bow down to Cuckoo Puff!
Blutch triples down by giving himself three alter egos. There is a young Lantz and an oldish Lantz. Plus, there is a shrewd youngish character named Blutch, a corporate jester who knows how to play the game. It is this character who needles Lantz and convinces him that, if he refuses to go on with The Brand New Testament, then he damn well better be content to churn out the very next installment of the popular, but decidedly subpar, Cuckoo Puff series.
Nothing goes according to plan.
Lantz will either avoid reaching a breaking point or Blutch will happily dance on his grave. And then there’s the ethereal Liebling. Surely, she must hold a key. This is an utterly mesmerizing work. If you are new to Blutch, consider this an excellent introduction.
DARK SIDE OF THE MOON is a 56-page full color graphic novel and available in a digital format at izneo.
“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” will open in U.S. theaters on July 21st. It all began as a French comic book series. First published in Pilote magazine in 1967, the final installment was published in 2010. The science fiction comics series was entitled “Valérian and Laureline,” or just “Valérian,” created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. The first volume in a complete collected works was recently published by Cinebook. “Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1” is now available from Cinebook. You can also purchase it at Amazon right here.
“Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1”
This deluxe edition includes various supplementary material related to the movie. It starts out with an exclusive interview with the film’s director, Luc Besson (The Fifth Element). He shares his childhood adoration for the Valerian comics. He dutifully awaited each new installment in Pilote magazine, just like all the other kids he knew. The Valerian comics, with their mix of classic science fiction and whimsical fantasy, helped to influence Star Wars. And perhaps, only now, has movie technology caught up to do justice to a Valerian movie.
Drawing by Jean-Claude Mézières of Star Wars meets Valerian
All you really need to know to enjoy the movie is that it’s like Star Wars but with a distinctively French flare. The main characters are a couple of special operatives, Valérian and Laureline, on a mission to save the world, or should I say, the universe! It is in reading the actual comics that a reader quickly picks up on that refreshing sense of irreverence that is Valerian. Keep in mind that director Luc Besson worked with Valerian artist Jean-Claude Mézières on “The Fifth Element.” Indeed, this is a very special case of a major motion picture and its comics source material working seamlessly together.
Now, consider the significance of the Valerian comics because, make no big mistake, Valerian set the stage for much that was to come. Valerian comics, in their day, were groundbreaking. There was nothing quite like it in its scope and influence. These comics hit France in the Sixties during a major time of transition: a post World War II culture seeking out fresh new entertainment. To get away from the gray and the drab, the two French creators of Valerian went west to the U.S. for a time to get recharged. In fact, their first work together originated in Salt Lake City, Utah!
Panel excerpt from Valerian
In the U.S., Mézières, the artist, and Christin, the writer, were enthralled with wide open spaces, colorful B-movies, and great promise for change, as demonstrated with the Civil Rights movement. They honed their skills. Mézières focused on such artistic talent as Giraud, Jijé, Franquin, and Mad magazine. Christin focused on science fiction writers like Asimov, Van Vogt, Vance, and Wyndham. And, together, they created Valerian.
This first volume of the collection contains books 1 and 2 of the series: The City of Shifting Waters – in its original two parts, 9 pages longer format – and The Empire of a Thousand Planets. It also includes book 0, Bad Dreams, translated into English for the first time: the very first adventures of our two heroes, published after City and retroactively numbered.
And to really get a sense of what’s in store with the Valerian movie, check out this particularly informative trailer below that goes into the vital connection to the original comics. Yes, Valerian is a big deal. Consider it as big as Star Wars:
“Valerian – The Complete Collection Vol 1” is a 160-page full color hardcover suitable for all ages. Buy it on Amazon right here.
Baru (Hervé Barulea) is a legendary cartoonist known for such work as 1995’s euro-manga, “L’Autoroute du Soleil,” which won the prestigious Alph’ Art award for the best original French language comic. More recently, he won wide acclaim in 2010 for his 300-page graphic novel, “Villerupt 1966,” published by Les Rêveurs. Baru favors recollections of his adventures as a youth in the ’60s. “The Swimming pool of Micheville,” published by Les Rêveurs in 2015, is an excellent collection of comics that chronicles Baru’s coming of age. It is one of a vast array of comics that you can find at the new home for online comics around the world, izneo.com.
The theme for this collection of Baru comics is a lost generation of kids who, despite a bleak environment and dim prospects for the future, still pursue dreams and hopes. Take “Goofy John,” for instance. He will do anything to impress the girls even build his body to Charles Atlas proportions. But, even with his new bod, the girls are not in the least interested. As the guys are quick to point out, John still has buck teeth and rabbit ears. And, besides, as the little stinkers take pleasure in pointing out, all the girls have moved on to lean mod boys.
One such teddy boy, is Verdini, who manages to frustrate the guys on all counts. Verdini has been sized up as not too bright, along with other shortcomings. And, despite it all, the girls all go for him! You can see that Baru takes great delight in doling out all of his social commentary to the point that you are immersed in it. Baru’s light artwork lifts off the page. His style is wry and light, pleasing to the eye.
Circa 1963: A lost generation
Baru excels in bringing out the pathos in a scene. He roots for the underdog. His beloved characters are all supposedly “losers” in the great game of life. Baru sees the poetry and gentle beauty in his lost generation. These are the kids who are held back, dismissed, forced out of any higher education. The steelworks and the typist pool await these poor youth. But, for at least a few summers, they can all enjoy the local swimming pool in their prime: lost in their libidos and flirting in their swimsuits. So what if everything is covered in a fine mist of rust red from smoke coming from the nearby bessemer converter?
THE SWIMMING POOL OF MICHEVILLE is a wonderful collection featuring stories about cars, rugby, and romance. It runs 81 pages in full color. And you can find it at izneo.com right here.
Here is some more information on izeno:
THE FIRST OFFICIAL AND LEGAL ONLINE COMIC BOOK READING SERVICE
The biggest comic book publishers have partnered to launch izneo, the first digital comic book reading service.
With izneo, publishers like Bamboo, Casterman, Circonflexe, Dargaud, Dupuis, Fei, Fluide Glacial, Grand Angle, Jungle, Kana, Le Lombard, and Lucky Comics will offer the largest catalog of e-comics.
Open to all comic book genres, the izneo catalog expands every month with even more new albums.
The izneo service is simple: rent an album from €1.99, or buy from €4.99 (online reading)! What’s more, for €9.99 a month, subscription allows comic book lovers to read as many albums as they like from all over the world.The comic book is a form of graphic and literary art, which is particularly suited to on-screen reading, especially on a tablet. With the izneo app, you can read your comic books while on the move.You can also access izneo via e-bookstores such as iBookstore, Immatériel, Amazon.fr, Fnac.com or even Starzik.com… izneo also has a special subscription plan for libraries.
Yet another opportunity for new readers to discover the joy of comic albums…
Illustrator and cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu is like any gifted artist: curious, industrious, and someone who welcomes a good obsession. I say that in the best sense of having an obsession since artists need them to spur on their work. Bagieu followed her muse to the music legend Cass Elliot. You can read my review of her graphic novel, “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas,” published by First Second Books, right here. I had an opportunity to chat with Bagieu. We discuss her book, her thoughts on music, and what lies ahead.
We begin this video interview with my sharing with Pénélope my encountering the hit song and title of her book while I was having lunch. It seemed a bit uncanny to me. Pénélope did not exactly shrug off the observation but quickly acknowledged how ubiquitous that song is. And how powerful. It is every bit a work from the Sixties and yet totally co-exists in a timeless Neverland. Certain songs from that era aimed for such a vibe but precious few attained that quality. And so it was to be with Cass Elliot, one of the few to reach an ethereal and graceful immortality.
CALFORNIA DREAMIN’ by Pénélope Bagieu
Before we started rolling video, Pénélope was telling me about her visiting MoPOP here in Seattle. She said, if she could, she would live in that museum. That sort of sentiment won me over all the more. You can catch more of that thread in the interview when Pénélope responds to my asking her about the power of music.
What I would like to suggest to you is that, if you are going to Emerald City Comicon (and I’d love to hear from you about ECCC either on or off this blog) make sure to visit the First Second Books booth #1602 on the exhibit floor and get yourself an advance copy of “California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas & the Papas.” For those of you not fortunate enough to visit, I highly recommend that you get a copy at your local comics shop, bookstore, or online.
Pénélope Bagieu is an illustrator and cartoonist worthy of as big a reading audience as possible. CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ is her second book to come out in an English language edition with First Second Books. Her first book was EXQUISITE CORPSE. Both of these titles, and others, originally were published in France by Gallimard. You can easily find EXQUISITE CORPSE online and I highly recommend that you do so. This is a 128-page full color hardcover. It is a sophisticated comedy about a young woman who becomes involved with an older man who happens to be a famous author. The question is whether she is in over her head or perhaps it is the other way around. There are a number of twists as the story builds. Bagieu has a keen sense of humor and wonderful timing. The main character of 22-year-old Zoe is full of life and quite memorable.
For more details on CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’, visit MacMillan Publishers right here.
Ever since its publication in 1986, it has developed a cult following. It’s been out-of-print in English for 30 years. And THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE has not lost any of its magic. This is a prime example of what is possible in comics in the graphic novel format. Thanks to Drew Ford and Dover Publications, it is back! As your guide through comics, I strongly recommend that you put aside everything, your morning coffee, your late-night rendezvous, whatever, and seek this book out. It will change your life.
THE MAGICIAN’S WIFE by François Boucq and Jerome Charyn
All these French masters who took an American art form, the comic strip, and transformed it into the graphic novel: Bilal, Boucq, Blutch, Tardi, Masse, Liberatore, and Loustal. I was in Paris in that heady time, circa 1988, and I most vividly recall as a very young aspiring cartoonist and writer that something very different and exciting was happening. In that same year, Drew Ford, as a youth, would stumble upon a copy of “The Magician’s Wife” in a secondhand shop in upstate New York. Drew Ford would go on to see that book get a proper reprint at Dover Publications after being out-of-print in English for oh too long. So, what is so exciting, and magical, about this particular comic? Well, it speaks to that desire for a truly ideal and satisfying entertainment. It manages to actually realize that dream of a comic that is perfect down to each and every panel. A fantastical story that strikes you with its poetry and poignancy. And there’s supernatural things going on to boot. Rita, the magician’s wife, could quite possibly be a werewolf.
Our story makes its way to New York City.
Much in the irreverent and artistic French spirit, this is a story that simply is. In some sense, is it both a complex and straightforward visual treat. It is also a splendid work of surreal, absurd, whimsy. And, in the end, it is a very well-structured, undeniably tightly-knit story. It feels like a dream that goes on forever and yet you sense that it is also quite a lean and determined piece. Silly, fun, but also deadly serious. Full of symbolic impact. With a squarely-in-the-eyes shot to the deepest recesses of your mind. Graphic novels come from the city and this is very much an urban story full of gritty elements. Yes, this definitely has mature content. But, like in the best work of this kind, there is a certain level of restraint that makes this suitable for young teens and up.
Verbone continues to track down clues.
Edmund, the magician in this story, is a cross between an amazing wizard and a cowardly ne’er-do-well. It is a struggle that will consume him and those that come into his orbit. Things move at a relatively steady clip in a work of comics. However, there a number of reasons to slow down the pacing: to convey a mood, to reinforce an idea, to thoroughly establish a setting. This comic manages to keep things moving while seeming to have all day to do it and all in a tidy 82 pages. I maintain that a comic need not run longer than 80 or 100 pages. You find your sweet spot and you don’t need to pad things up.
Edmund futilely attempts to show everyone who is boss.
Consider the above page. Not too much obvious movement but you can quickly sense a rapid energy at work as well. This is a pivotal moment for Edmund: he is momentarily in full control and in the process of consolidating his position, and then he must confront a huge setback and a taste of what’s to come. We first find him emerging from a restful pose; then a full-figure attentive pose; followed by arm raised in confrontation; right in the center, an indignant look; his former lover defies him; he escalates the situation; finally, his new lover puts him in his place.
Edmund. Rita, Detective Verbone. Ah, all the misbegotten jockeys from Saratoga Springs. The gals at the diner. The regular group of cops too concerned with hamburgers. And the hoodlums from the Lower Eastside led by the monstrous Ross. And, for an added literary touch, Dolores, a name that keeps floating in and out of the narrative. At varying times, it belongs to someone’s sweetheart, an animal, and a maid. If only Dolores could be pinned down for just a moment, she might have something quite insightful to reveal. But, not to worry, perhaps the jockeys will carve up another horse. And everything rendered in this glorious semi-realistic style that floats along perfectly with great distinction–and such vivid color. Yes, this is it. This is the graphic novel you’ve been waiting for all your life. Get it at our friends at Dover Publications right here.
Imagine that you are in Paris and you stroll into a local comics shop in search of comics, or “bande dessinée.” There are plenty of BD shops to choose from and, moreover, plenty of comics. Now, imagine that a massive selection of French comics is available to you right from wherever you happen to be. ComiXology presents to you what they like to call their own “French Invasion.” This week, comiXology unveiled its first line of titles from Delcourt Group, the leading independent comic book publisher in France.
We begin with five lead monthly titles and one lead graphic novel. Among the monthlies is “The Curse of The Wendigo” by Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard and writer Mathieu Missoffe. The lead graphic novel is “Come Prima” by Alfred, the Winner of the Prix du Meilleur Album at the 2014 Angoulême International Comics Festival. You can find them all by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.
Below you’ll find my reviews for all six of these titles. There are more than 150 Delcourt Group titles to be released exclusively by comiXology. This is truly a French comics invasion!
The Curse of the Wendigo written by Mathieu Missoffe and illustrated by Charlie Adlard.
To be published in two monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What creature is dangerous enough to unite the French and German troops in July of 1917? Only one man knows: Wohati, one of the 12,000 Native Americans in the U.S. Army. Wohati must lead two warring sides to solve the mystery of the Wendigo, for he alone understands the horror of what’s out there waiting for them.
This is what comics are all about: a story that takes you to some very trippy and scary places with a masterful sense of horror mixed with biting satire. You get great character studies here as we go back and forth between French and German trench warfare. But there’s a common enemy that will compel both sides to lay down their arms against each other. And, emerging from the background, as he’s not much of a talker, is the Native American warrior, Wohati. With his help, these two mighty forces can find the bogey man they seek and then resume blowing each other’s heads off.
Iron Squad co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Ronan Toulhoat.
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 1 by Matteo Scalera (Secret Avengers)
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
What if new technology in 1944 turned the course of World War II and led the Germans to victory?
What would a batch of BD be without a good World War II tale? Ah, and this one takes the cake. It will be sure to please many a reader of many levels. Having just read Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” I was in just the right mood to check out “Iron Squad,” an alternate history story with quite a kick. Filled with all the details that make for a good war story and sci-fi story, you will lose yourself in the spectacle of it all.
Josephine created, written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Cartoonist and blogger Pénélope Bagieu tells the story of Josephine, featuring professional relationships gone awry, a series of faux pas, and many a failed romance.
“Josephine” is a perfect example of quirky light humor. Just as you may expect, we follow our heroine on a series of misadventures. She’s the cute girl who marches to the beat of a different drummer. This is a collection of webcomics that grows on you as you take it all in. I would be surprised to find this collection on the laptop of one of the characters from “Girls” but it would fit right in.
Prométhée created, written and illustrated by Chrisopher Bec
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
Preface by bestselling writer Mark Waid (Insufferable)
comiXology exclusive cover for issue 2 by Andrea Sorentino (Old Man Logan)
What happened on September 21, 2019 at 1:13 PM can never be explained. And then, for 13 consecutive days, another unexplainable phenomenon occurs&hellip every day at exactly 1:13 PM. Prométhée is a mind-bending science fiction story written and drawn by Chrisopher Bec that recalls Lost and the very best science fiction.
This sort of heroic over-the-top story is a prime example of solid adventure BD. Full of larger-than-life characters tasked to save planet Earth, you better fasten your seat belt before you blast off. This is quite a treat as we follow a story full of mystery involving alien technology and a fateful Space Shuttle mission set in the not so distant future.
Spin Angels co-created and written by Jean-Luc Sala and illustrated by Pierre-Mony Chan
To be published in ongoing monthly installments, beginning July 6.
The bestselling, action-filled Spin Angels series features a Catholic Church Cardinal who runs a black-ops group of spies, and the mafia godfather who puts his very best hitman in service of the Vatican in order to settle a debt.
You’ve got to have at least one adrenaline-fueled adventure involving the Knights Templar! Turns out there’s a strong lead indicating holy relics, long since thought part of Templar myth, are to be found in present day Nova Scotia. Of course, it will take nothing less than an A-team commando squad to fight off all the interested parties. If you’re looking for a fantasy-laden madcap BD adventure, then this is for you.
Come Prima created, written and drawn by Alfred
To be published on July 6.
With his award winning graphic novel Come Prima, Alfred (Why I Killed Peter) has created a poignant homage to Italian cinema and a surprising story about two brothers who hit the road following their father’s death.
The master cartoonist Alfred brings to life a most vivid world with a crisp and economical style. More cartoonists would do well to learn from him. We begin with a yell, “Fabio!” This leads us to bold and muscular scenery: a French cityscape, a boxing match, a boxing poster. It is circa 1958. Giovanni has come for his brother, Fabio, who seems to always find a way to escape responsibility.
It appears that Giovanni offers a path to redemption. Fabio, we can tell early on, is distant and yet vulnerable. He resists the call back home to Italy up until he sees that his brother is holding an urn with his father’s ashes. That is too much, and so begins a journey.
Alfred offers up a poignant story with plenty of twists and turns. We find that Giovanni is not so much the saintly son. And Fabio is not entirely the brute. But they can dig their heels in too and conflict is always around the corner.
Ultimately, we cheer them on and wish them as safe a journey as is possible. Quite a realistic story of two stubborn men coming to terms with life, mortality, and something greater than themselves.
And so there’s reviews for the first round of titles from Delcourt. You can find all these titles by visiting our friends at comiXology right here.
Bilal’s Marpada (Wonder Woman?) from “Phantoms of the Louvre”
Bilal is a legendary sci-fi and fantasy artist. He has an uncanny ability to evoke a vast world of suspense and mystery. His villains are utterly macabre. His women are utlra-cool sexy. For his contribution to the NBM ComicsLit Louvre collection, Bilal provides us with twenty-two ghost stories in his graphic novel, “Phantoms of the Louvre.” He focuses on a particular work in the Louvre, photographs it, and then works his magic with acrylic, pastel, and prose. For example, we have the story of Marpada who, it would not be a stretch to say brings to mind Wonder Woman. If you ever wondered what a Bilal Wonder Woman would be like, this has got to be it. Note to DC Comics: Entice Bilal to do a Wonder Woman story!
Christian Durieux states that he sought to create comic book poetry with his graphic novel, “An Enchantment.” He definitely succeeds in doing just that. The collaboration between the Louvre and NBM ComicsLit to co-edit books inspired by the Louvre results in such wonderful works of comics. This one is pure magic. It’s like watching a dance sequence with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The comic flows so well that it glides. It could easily have been wordless but the dialogue is so charming.
“On the Odd Hours” is part of the NBM ComicsLit collection of Louvre-inspired comics. Eric Liberge not only gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the grand museum from the perspective of museum guards. He’s created quite a fanciful story. What if the Louvre was haunted by all its great works and it’s up to one particular guard, in the odd hours of the night, to pacify the spirits?