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Review: THE DETECTION CLUB: PART 1 by Jean Harambat

The Detection Club: Part 1 by Jean Harambat

This is one of the most inspired scenarios for a comic that I’ve seen in a while. What if all the great mystery writers of the 193os formed a club–and had amazing adventures? That is exactly what is happening in this totally cool new graphic novel series, The Detection Club, script and art by Jean Harambat, published by Europe Comics. We’re talking about the golden age for mystery writers including G. K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, John Dickson Carr, and Dorothy L. Sayers. This is from the same brilliant talent who created the spy thriller series graphic novels, Operation Copperhead. If you like crisp and witty humor, then this is for you. And, yes, this book is in English. That’s an essential component of Europe Comics, your home for comics from Europe, translated into English.

The Detection Club page excerpt

First off, you need to know that there really was a Detection Club and it must have been something! Just imagine all of these world-class writers meeting on a regular basis, helping each other out with their craft, and even writing books together under the name of the club itself! I don’t think I was aware of this and, if I was, I’d forgotten. So many years and beers ago, you know. But now I’m fully aware of this fact thanks to this wonderful graphic novel series. So, that is the basis in reality for this series but Harambat takes it much further and places a select bunch of our writer heroes in quite a madcap adventure involving a crime-solving robot who may or may not have just committed murder! So, lots of fun for all ages, even for much older kids at heart such as myself.

Panel excerpt: Our main characters all in row.

I really like to showcase panel art. There are so many reasons to do this. The main reason is to simply get a closer look! This makes sense, just as you would focus on a particular passage in any novel. It gives us a moment to savor the process. What is key about Harambat is that he loves to draw. This is quite evident in the above example. Too many young aspiring cartoonists believe that any scrawl that they produce is priceless. That wrongheaded thinking is much too ingrained in the indie comics community. Yes, there is a place for spontaneity and a loose and sketchy style can be quite legitimate. But look at the dazzling results you get from rigorous  care in the pursuit of refined essentials. Everything reads as very crisp and clear! You want that kind of clarity!

The Detection Club page excerpt

Harambat is an auteur cartoonist who truly loves to write and draw economically. It is a very functional approach that makes it easier to tackle such an ambitious project that involves characters with formidable back-stories. We’re talking about some of the greatest popular writers of all time–either intimately known by readers or at least recognized to some degree. There are expectations already in place. Many readers coming to this graphic novel already have some notion as to who Agatha Christie was and expect someone unusual and clever–and will expect the same from her contemporaries. Any reader attracted to this book is already curious about the world of mystery and crime fiction and related matters. Harambat is there to deliver on all counts: he fills in the blanks, connects the dots, and thoroughly entertains. All the characters are drawn in a direct and clear way, easy to keep track of, easy to relate with. Then you bring in the villain, an eccentric billionaire living on some secluded tropical island with a huge robot at the center of a murder mystery. Bingo! What a premise to kick off this series!

The Detection Club: Part 1 is an 86-page book, available in digital format on various platforms. For more details, visit Europe Comics, your home for all European comics, all digital, all in English.

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Angoulême 2020: Emmanuel Guibert and Other Notable Winners

Emmanuel Guibert

ANGOULÊME FESTIVAL – The 47th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival took place January 30 thru February 2, 2020. Arguably, it is the most artful and significant of all comics festivals. It is, without a doubt, on many a serious cartoonist’s bucket list simply to attend. The Grand Prize of the Angoulême International Comic Book Festival (Fibd), which rewards an author each year for all of his work, was awarded to Frenchman Emmanuel Guibert. Other awards presented this year demonstrate the scope and breadth of comics of the highest quality. The Grand Prize of the City of Angoulême, awarded on the eve of the comics festival, is one of the highest distinctions for a comic book author. This prize is awarded following a vote by the community of professional comics authors published in French, regardless of their nationality. Emmanuel Guibert, screenwriter of Ariol and author of Space sardine, succeeds Japanese winner Rumiko Takahashi last year. The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the second largest comics festival in Europe after the Lucca Comics & Games in Italy, and the third biggest in the world after Lucca Comics & Games and the Comiket of Japan. It has occurred every year since 1974 in Angoulême, France, in January.

Emmanuel Guibert wins Grand Prix 2020

The following is a beautiful description from the Angoulême festival site of the career of Emmanuel Guibert, the winner of the Grand Prix for 2020:

After the American Richard Corben in 2018 and the mangaka Rumiko Takahashi last year, the Frenchman Emmanuel Guibert is elected Grand Prix of the 47th International Comic Book Festival of Angoulême, after a vote which brought together 1852 authors and comic book authors. With Emmanuel Guibert, it is a masterful author with an exemplary career who is today rewarded. Born in 1964 in Paris, Emmanuel Guibert began his career in comics with Brune , a work on the rise of Nazism in a hyper-realistic style which he quickly abandoned. The album, which it took seven years to produce, appeared in 1992. Frequenting the authors of the very young publishing house L’Association, he began to publish stories in the review Lapin , and joined the atelier des Vosges alongside notably Emile Bravo, Christophe Blain and Joann Sfar. On a script by the latter, he drew The teacher’s daughter , Alph’art coup de coeur and Prix René Goscinny at the Angoulême Festival in 1998. Emmanuel Guibert implemented a sepia drawing, sensitive and flexible, in a graphic style that he continues to shape in The Scarlet Captain with David B. in script (2000). Always with Joann Sfar, he began in 2000 the children’s series Sardine from space, of which he first wrote the screenplay before also ensuring the drawing. He gives free rein to his imagination and develops his formidable talent as a storyteller. From 2001 he drew the series Black Olives (3 volumes) on a little Jewish boy in Judea 2000 years ago, again with Joann Sfar in the script.

At the turn of the 2000s, Emmanuel Guibert began publishing an ambitious and long-term project, a series of albums inspired by the memories of his American friend Alan Ingram Cope, La Guerre d’Alan (three volumes from 2000 to 2008 ), Alan’s childhood (2012), Martha and Alan (2016). With his elegant and restrained line, of great technique, Emmanuel Guibert excels at staging Alan’s life, exposing the intimate with subtle modesty. This magnificent work of memory smuggler continues in The Photographer (three volumes from 2003 to 2006), inspired by memories and photos brought back from trips to Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders by photojournalist Didier Lefèvre. Here, photos and drawings complement and merge, to better fix time and memories. The Photographer will be rewarded around the world with the Prix Essentiel d’Angoulême in 2007, the Eisner Award for the best American edition of an international work and the Micheluzzi Prize for the best foreign series in 2010.

In Alan as in The Photographer , Emmanuel Guibert, by his virtuoso gesture and his technique, sublimates the intimate and the everyday, magnifies the innocent and the passing of time, and above all, unconditionally places the human at the heart of his stories. An interest in the other that can be found both in Alain’s news , a book on Roma communities in Europe produced with Alain Keler, and in the irresistible series for young people Ariol which he created in 2000 with Marc Boutavant at the drawing. There, under the cover of telling the adventures of a small anthropomorphic donkey, he explores modern life and everyday life as a child, appealing to his own memories. Emmanuel Guibert received the René Goscinny Prize in 2017 for all of his work.

The Grand Prix crowns a complete author, innovative designer and unparalleled narrator, whose work for adults and children is imbued with the greatest humanity.

Angouleme Palmares 2020

There is an essential list of eleven awards at Angouleme that provide a window into the wide and wondrous world of alternative comics. After all these years, many a talking head is still chattering away about the boom in arthouse comics and, sure, that is all well in good insomuch as it helps spread the word. After all these years, the playing field on the pop culture landscape is pretty far flung and spread out. We now have wave after wave of specialized “comics journalists” out there taking the pulse of the comics scene, many of who have never attempted to write or draw a comic of their own, have limited knowledge, and who are more ready than anything to espouse a hasty theory or proclamation about the comics medium. Well, that brings us back to the reality of a platform such as Angouleme where work has gone through a fairly rigorous vetting process. Hey, the process is subjective on many levels but quality work usually manages to rise to the top that is worth discussing and has a chance of holding up to the test of time. That is why a list of Angouleme award winners rates taking notice. Here is my own enhanced presentation that I cobbled together by making liberal use of the live Twitter feed by 20 Minutes:

Fauve d’Or for the best album: “Révolution” tome 1, by Florent Grouazel and Younn Locard

(Prize which rewards the best album of the year, regardless of genre, style or geographic origin)

Revolution

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The Fauve d’or for the best album is awarded to Florent Grouazel and Younn Locard for “Revolution – Tome 1 Liberté” by Actes Sud / L’An 2 # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme # FIBD @ActesSud pic.twitter.com/NiJSS37IVX

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020
The first part of this choral story focuses on the year 1789 and blows the wind of the Revolution in the street. This titanic project, expertly documented, was carried out by four hands by two young authors who retrace the revolutionary period in a resplendent graphic bubbling, inspired by the imagery of the time.

20 Minutes’ opinion: Telling the French Revolution of 1789 in just over 1000 pages is a very ambitious project, especially on the part of such young authors (the Breton Florent Grouazel is 32 years old and the Norman Younn Locard is 35 ). The value does not wait for the number of years, the first volume of “Revolution” is a total success, with dynamic and captivating narration (and choir, since we witness events through the eyes of three characters) and striking graphics of realism. Hyper-documented, demanding, their work has made, since its release, a critical and public unanimity. At 20 Minutes, we appreciated it so much that we rarely consider Fauve d’Or for the best album to have been so indisputable.

Révolution tome 1, by F. Grouazel & Y. Locard – Actes Sud / L’An 2 editions – 26 euros

Clyde Fans

Fauve Special Jury Prize: “Clyde Fans”, by Seth

(Prize given to a work which particularly marked the jury by its narration, its aesthetics and / or the themes addressed)

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The special Fauve of the jury is awarded to “Clyde Fans” of Seth, published by @DelcourtBD # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD pic.twitter.com/6FajrXrFUV

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020Fruit of a work started twenty years ago, “Clyde Fans” tells the story of two brothers who inherited their father’s business after he abandoned them. The Canadian Seth, whose elegant graphics are imbued with a touch of nostalgia, is second to none to tell intimate stories that touch on the universal of the human condition.

Clyde Fans , de Seth – Delcourt editions – 49.90 euros

Lucarne

Fawn Revelation: “Skylight”, by Joe Kessler

(Prize awarded to the album of an author or an author at the start of their career who has professionally published a maximum of three books)

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The Fauve Révélation is awarded to “Lucarne” by Joe Kessler, at @lassociation

# FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD pic.twitter.com/rPehVKGr62

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020These five short stories impregnated with strong colors translate the most intimate sensations of the characters. A singular graphic and narrative experience, signed by the artistic director of the English publisher Breakdown Press, to express fear, pleasure or smells, supported by a hypnotic narration and an original vision of the world.

Skylight , by J. Kessler – Éditions L’Association 2 0 euros

In the Abyss of Time

Fawn from the series: “In the Abyss of Time”, by Gou Tanabe

(Prize which honors a work in four or more volumes, regardless of the number of volumes in total)

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The Fauve of the series is awarded to “Dans l’Abîme du temps” by Gou Tanabe and HP Lovecraft at @ki_oon_Editions # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD #Fauve pic.twitter.com / dXJgZDsjF7

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020After The Hallucinated Mountains, Gou Tanabe continues his adaptation of the novels of the master of horror, HP Lovecraft. Leaving Antarctica for the Australian desert, with a black line of oppressive realism, the mangaka draws the inexpressible and gives body to this nightmarish SF masterpiece that combines a journey through time and a terrifying transfer of personality.

In the Abyss of Time , by Gou Tanabe (after HP Lovecraft) – Ki-Oon editions – 17 euros

Act of God

Fawn of Audacity: “Act of God”, by Giacomo Nanni

(Prize which rewards experimentation and formal innovation through an album with an inventive and innovative graphic style, using all the possibilities of comics to better push its boundaries)

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Beasts – The Beast of Boldness is awarded to Giacomo Nanni for “Act of God” by Here Same editions

# FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD @_icimeme pic.twitter.com/SnaUklWi1V

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020On August 24, 2016, in Italy, an earthquake killed 298 people and left nearly 400 injured. Giacomo Nanni traps the moment in a choral tale that makes the mountains speak, lingers on a stray deer in front of a supermarket and tracks the unicorn in the viewfinder of two hunters. His pantheistic ode confronts man with nature and creation with chaos, in a pointillist and dazzling graphic magma.

Act of God , by G. Nanni – editions Ici même – 19.50 euros

The Green Hand and Other Stories

Fauve Patrimoine: “The green hand and other stories”, by Nicole Claveloux and Édith Zha

(Prize rewarding a work which is part of the world history of the 9th art and whose edition, re-edition or the integral offers a particularly neat editorial work)

Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The Fauve du Patrimoine is awarded to “La Main Verte et autres récits” by Nicole Claveloux and Edith Zha at @ed_cornelius
# FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD pic.twitter.com/hVFmYwIy6d

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020First volume of an anthology dedicated to Nicole Claveloux, painter, youth illustrator and cartoonist, passed by the magazines Métal Hurlant and Ah! Nana .Collection of poetic stories enhanced with flamboyant colors, “The Green Hand” describes an absurd and funny world in which reality plays hide and seek with reason.

Note that Nicole Claveloux received a Fauve d’honneur during the official Fauves award ceremony, Saturday, February 1, 2020.

Standing ovation for Nicole Claveloux who receives a Fauve d’honneur at @bdangouleme #Fauves # FIBD2020 # BD2020 pic.twitter.com/E4HhBMGfJy

– see read (@ see read) February 1, 2020The Green Hand and other stories , by N. Claveloux & E. Zha Cornelius editions – 23.50 euros

La Saison des Roses

Fauve Audience Award France TV: “Saison des roses”, by Chloé Wary

(Prize awarded by a jury of nine spectators from France Télévision)

(Live Tweet) Ceremony of the Fauves – The Fauve Audience Award France Télévisions is awarded to Chloé Wary for “La Saison des roses” at @editionsFLBLB @Francetele # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD pic.twitter.com/PYdKw1x8Px

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020Barbara passes the bac. She lives with her mother in the ordinary suburb of Rosigny-sous-Bois and lives only for her football club. But this year, the leaders decided to favor the men’s team, preventing the players from registering for the championship. With her markers, Chloé Wary puts her bright colors at the service of the story, to salute the team’s commitment to the collective field of football and the feminist struggle.

Saison des roses , by Chloé Wary Flblb editions – 2 3 euros

No Direction

Fauve Polar SNCF: “No Direction”, by Emmanuel Moynot

(Prize awarded by a jury of personalities)

(Live Tweet) The Fauve Polar #SNCF is awarded to “No Direction” by Emmanuel Moynot at Sarbacane editions @ SNCF # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD @ESarbacane pic.twitter.com/QrpG938GRx

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020In this paper road movie in the form of a choral narrative, Moynot follows two serial killers in their mad race across America, like a filmmaker filming on the shoulder. Bloody and hopeless epic, doomed to failure and violence, “No Direction” is a human comedy in twenty chapters that strike the reader in the stomach like so many punches.

No Direction , by Emmanuel Moynot Sarbacane editions – 2 4 euros

Komikaze

Fawn of alternative comics: “ Komikaze (collective – Croatia)

(Prize rewards the best non-professional publication, chosen from around thirty non-professional productions and coming from any geographic origin)

(Live Tweet) The price for alternative comics is given to Komikaze # 18 # FIBD2020 # BD2020 #BD #Angouleme #FIBD pic.twitter.com/ncmmty1HHw

– Festival d’Angoulême (@bdangouleme) February 1, 2020https://komikaze.hr

  • Culture
  • Angoulême Festival
  • Manga
  • BD
  • Literary prize
  • Palmares

Source: 20minf

Not included in this Twitter collection but just as worthy are two more titles…

Le Tigre de Neiges

The Youth Awards Adults Prize: Le Tigre de Neiges by Akiko Higashimura.

Les Vermeilles

The Youth Prize: Les Vermeilles by Camille Jourdy.

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Review: ONCE UPON A TIME IN FRANCE, published by Dead Reckoning

Once Upon a Time in France, written by Fabien Nury and illustrated by Sylvain Vallée

Once Upon a Time in France is such a gorgeous book. One of the best ways that I can demonstrate to you the beauty and artistry that you will find in this graphic novel is to show you a sample page, in black & white, next to the same page in color. Once Upon a Time in France, written by Fabien Nury and illustrated by Sylvain Vallée, is published by Dead Reckoning and makes for a most riveting and immersive story like you probably have not read in quite some time. This is the story of Joseph Joanovici, a Romanian Jew who immigrated to France in the 1920s and became one of the richest men in Europe as a scrap-metal magnate. For some, he was a Nazi collaborator villain. For others, he was a French resistance hero. He undoubtedly played both ends against the middle! It makes for a fascinating story. The graphic novel series was an international bestseller with over 1 million copies sold. Thankfully, Dead Reckoning has collected the entire French series in this new English translation omnibus edition.

Sample one in b&w

I just completed some traveling in Europe and so I’m still processing all of that. Of course, World War II looms large, bursting at the seams of history, as you make your way through such places as Paris and London. It can be no other way. The past pulls you in and makes itself present. The past is always present. It seeps its way into the culture and the daily lives of the natives. History is more respected and acknowledged in Europe than it is in the United States. And that’s not so much a criticism as a simple observation. There is a special connection to the past in Europe that encourages readers and thinkers in all strata of society. It is a culture that celebrates books and has a unique love for comics and graphic novels. That’s certainly not to say that thoughtful expansive works in comics are not appreciated in the U.S. but it is to say that an even keener appreciation by large numbers of readers will be found in Europe, without a doubt. That said, I highly recommend to my American friends that they check out a book such as Once Upon a Time in France in order to get a better sense of the appeal of serious works in comics outside of the United States.

Sample two in color

This omnibus edition collects six books of comics. As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer the typical European format of a hardcover book of comics spanning less than 1oo pages. So, this collection is a total of 360 pages, comprising six books of about 60 pages each. And that is a perfect setup. Tell a riveting and expansive tale within the covers of six manageable books! The European culture accepts that format and treats a series of books such as this in the way that Americans treat following a television series. Of course, you see similar efforts in the U.S. with much of it taken up by the big two superhero publishers followed by various other publishers and rounded out by an assortment of micro, indie and self-publishing cartoonists. Speaking of history, we’re right in the thick of a significant time in comics history as the comics medium continues to redefine itself and position itself within the book market in general. And, again, I say that everyone would do well to seek out this wartime thriller as a brilliant example of what is possible within comics!

A thrilling story that won’t quit.

You will be utterly pleased by reading this impressive omnibus edition. It satisfies on many levels: as a brilliant example of the comics medium; as a wonderful taste of European culture; and as a rollicking good thriller! In fact, I can easily see this book adapted into an amazing series at such venues as Hulu, Amazon or Netflix.

An elegant wartime thriller.

Once Upon a Time in France is a 360-page trade paperback, published by Dead Reckoning.

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Review: PEPLUM by Blutch, published by New York Review Books

Bringing that page to life.

No one does the dance with death, and life, on the page as well as French cartoonist Blutch. He has influenced a generation of cartoonists, including such big names as Paul Pope and Craig Thompson. You can see it in how they create in ink, how they attack the page. But neither Pope nor Thompson can really match the master. The way Blutch brings his pages to life is more mysterious, even dangerous, truly like a tightrope walker without a net. It’s not only ink, for Blutch. It’s one’s own life’s blood. Blutch is well known in France in sort of similar fashion to, say, Robert Crumb is known in the United States. By that, I mean that Blutch has a reputation for artful and provocative work. When the reissue of Peplum first came out a while ago, I was deep in the process of a lot of things, including a big move and so I do a revisit of this book now, Blutch’s first book translated into English. It began as a serialized comic in the magazine, A Suivre, and  established Blutch as a serious artist back in 1996, at the age of 28. And it is the book that New York Review Books chose as part of their entry into publishing reprints of classic work in graphic novels.

Give me a reason to create art!

This is really the sort of work in comics that appeals to me the most: work created by someone who is masterfully pushing the limits of the art form. Peplum is ambitious in scope and highly inventive and original in execution. Having become bored with conventional comics tropes, Blutch needed to pursue comics more as would a painter, filmmaker or novelist. He chose the ancient Roman fable, The Satyricon, as his jumping off point. As this is a satire of Nero’s court, Blutch essentially wished to associate himself with satire on a grand scale. He marries that refined ambition with a low brow reference. Peplum refers to the peplum film genre, the sword-and-sandal Italian B-movie epics of the ’50s and ’60s. With all that in place, Blutch can work as a painter, having created the wash upon which he can structure his canvas.

PEPLUM by Blutch

A good deal of this comic is wordless, so much the better to study Blutch’s work. Often, what you find is a hungry artist feasting upon creating work. He’s set himself up a glorious excuse to paint, as many a painter will tell you. Blutch proves with this early work that he is fully capable of evoking the mystery and energy found in the best work of comics or any other art form. Our story is set shortly after the assassination of Julius Caesar and the  focus ends up on the sole survivor of an expedition en route back to Rome. He is a slave who takes on the identity of a nobleman, Publius Cimber. During their ill-fated journey, Cimber’s group had discovered a beautiful regal-like woman encased in a block of ice. What this supernatural entity might mean or be is beyond anyone’s wildest guess. Cimber only knows he must return to Rome with her–and he might be in love with her. Ah, this is a story only Blutch could tell!

You always need a really good MacGuffin.

Is the lady in ice that Cimber covets nothing more than a MacGuffin, an elaborate plot device? Sure, the reader senses that this is probably the case early on but no matter. It’s the journey that counts for everything. Poor Cimber is well over his head. He isn’t even really Cimber! He has pledged his heart over to the enigmatic frozen maiden but, aside from that, he’s a bit of a loose cannon and a tortured Hamlet. Cimber is a bit of all of us, climbing and grasping for something, not always sure of what he wants. Cimber makes for a perfectly fine present day hero even if his life and struggles take place in ancient Rome. What we find in Peplum are the first significant signs of what was ahead for Blutch as an artist. That same wry energy is found in other work such as the celebrated Mitchum, also from around 1996, and So Long, Silver Screen, from 2011. In Mitchum, among the players is none other than Hollywood legend Robert Mitchum who is there to stand on a young woman’s hair during a pivotal scene. Yet another perfectly surreal Blutch moment! And speaking of Mitchum, New York Review Books will be releasing an English translation of this most dazzling book, set to be released April 7, 2020. It will have an English translation by none other than cartoonist and comics scholar Matt Madden. Below, I present to you the cover to the original French version, published by Cornélius.

MITCHUM by Blutch

Peplum is a 160-page hardcover, published by New York Review Books.

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Review: The Kardashian Jewel Heist, a Graphic Novel

The Kardashian Jewel Heist, a Graphic Novel

Here is a graphic novel that many of you, especially in the States, will be intrigued by–or it might make you scratch your head: Les bijoux de la Kardashian, (loose translation, Kardashian’s Jewels) published by Glénat. Of course, this is a book focusing on the ordeal that Kim Kardashian went through in Paris back in 2016. This is a French graphic novel that just screams out for an English translation. Given that Glénat and American comics publisher, IDW, work closely together, it would be easy to see this happen. That said, just enjoying the lively artwork alone is well worth it. Would a U.S. audience not be receptive to an English translation version of this?

Talk about how anything can become content for a graphic novel! The Kim Kardashian hotel heist is actually a complicated story and comics, in fact, prove an ideal tool to sort through the details. Written by journalists François Vignolle and Julien Dumond, this graphic novel is decidedly fact-driven. The artwork is by cartoonist Gregory Mardon who does a marvelous job of bringing what amounts to a classic crime story to life. Mardon’s style is very crisp and clean, as if he were drawing wonderfully concise sketchbook drawings. It is a particular look, very French, exemplified by such legendary French cartoonists like Etienne Davodeau, Jacques de Loustal, and Blutch. So, Mardon’s artwork will evoke for the reader a reporter’s notebook come to life.

The Hôtel de Pourtalès, where Kim Kardashian West was robbed. Celebrities seeking privacy often stay there. From Vanity Fair.

It is quite an undertaking to bring this whole story together. You have two dramatically different worlds colliding: all the aspects of the crime, including the criminals and the police; and all the aspects of the glitzy lifestyle of a true American reality TV icon. The story is based upon police records and investigations into the high-profile crime that took place in an apartment in Paris’ upmarket 8th arrondissement on Oct 3, 2016. François Vignolle, one of the French journalists who co-authored the graphic novel, states: “We explored the routes the thieves and Kardashian took, we went to the places where they were, spoke to sources and took photos of the spots so that the story would be as real as possible.” And it was as if all other news took second place at the time of the media circus. “We no longer were talking about the terrorist attacks in France or Donald Trump in the United States. Everyone wanted to know about the Kim Kardashian theft.” So, all in all, a full portrait of the event and its aftermath.

An unlikely high-profile criminal.

Ultimately, a fabulous story emerges involving a most unlikely band of thieves. The time is right to take a closer look, with the initial story processed in our minds, a story that gratefully did not turn more violent than it might have. And that’s not to diminish at all the very real trauma of being robbed at gunpoint. Only after the passage of time, in hindsight, do we get a full story. The thieves were all past the age of 50, some even past 70. They had no idea who Kim Kardashian was. They initially were just after a ring but managed to stumble upon a collection of jewels worth some $10 million. And their getaway was on bicycles which they had a very hard time with. The whole thing, with respectful hindsight, brings to mind some Pink Panther caper. So, it is no surprise to find a bit of humor. There is no malice here, no ridicule. But you do get a lot of scenes of the queen of reality TV posting on social media.

Kim Kardashian back in her element.

That all brings us back to whether or  not it makes sense to have an English version to this graphic novel devoted to the Kim Kardashian jewel heist caper. Is it just too much for audiences outside of France to comprehend? Time will tell. The thieves go on trial in 2020 and there’s talk of a sequel graphic novel. Perhaps the biggest barrier is not language to this story. Perhaps something culturally would get lost in translation. And that’s a shame.

Les bijoux de la Kardashian, (loose translation, Kardashian’s Jewels) is published by Glénat.

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Graphic Novel Review: ‘The Old Geezers: Book 3: The One Who Got Away’

OLD GEEZERS: BOOK III

Writer Wilfrid Lupano and artist Paul Cauuet offer up the intricately plotted Old Geezers graphic novel series. You can easily jump into the latest Book 3, “The One Who Got Away,” and enjoy a tale involving family, mystery, and more than a touch of whimsy. It is also a grand ole tale of comeuppance. Could that be for the Old Geezers themselves? Ah, time will tell since this is very much a story about how time can heal some wounds while allowing others to fester.

Antoine and Milsey trying to get along.

If you enjoy quirky humor, especially the sort led by a group of offbeat seniors, then this is the book for you. The Old Geezers are: Antoine, a buttoned-down patrician; Milsey, a old seaman who misses the sea; and Pierrot, a boisterous activist who is lively beyond his years. These guys have chosen different paths but, in the end, each seeks out the other. The one person who helps keep them on track is Sophie, Antoine’s granddaughter. Sophie must look after these guys and, in no small way, look after her little hamlet of Dourdouille. After all, there are sinister forces at play lurking in the shadows.

Pierrot, Fifi, and Baba take a stand!

The most sinister villain in this tale is Garan-Servier Pharmaceuticals. It holds sway over the growth or decline of Dourdouille. And, as Pierrot has found out, Garan-Servier is lobbying the European Union countries to ease up on restrictions on its pesticides. This, in turn, kills millions of bees, wreaking havoc on biodiversity and the environment. The relationship between the pesticide lobby and the EU is an inconvenient truth that, in reality, is all too real. It’s great to see this issue in a graphic novel that both entertains and informs. Readers won’t forget ole Pierrot, in his bee costume, speaking truth to power.

The weight of the world on Sophie’s shoulders.

Paul Cauuet’s light and warm style makes all the characters all the more accessible and compliments Wilfred Lupano’s script. This is a very character-driven tale that is masterfully crafted by this remarkable team. The color by Cauuet and GOM has a uplifting quality to it that rounds out and adds to the story’s pacing. There are a number of twists and turns here and Lupano and Cauuet give themselves the time to explore and to develop. Like a favorite TV show, you can delight in this episodic storytelling. You will want to go back to the previous books as well as await more to come.

“The Old Geezers: Book 3: The One Who Got Away,” is presented by Europe Comics and is available in English thru izneo digital comics right here.

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Review: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON by Blutch

DARK SIDE OF THE MOON by Blutch

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.

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Review: ‘Haytham: A Childhood in Syria’ by Kyungeun Park & Nicolas Hénin

“Haytham: A Childhood in Syria” by Kyungeun Park & Nicolas Hénin

“Haytham: A Childhood in Syria” depicts a typical Syrian family in clear and accessible terms–and that alone is a powerful vehicle to understanding Syria today. Like many an American family, each individual helps the other to progress. In the al-Aswad family, much is expected from young Haytham. He demonstrates both academic and athletic skill. And he adores his activist father. It is in following this family that the reader is given a unique perspective into how average Syrians live under a dictatorship–and how they resist.

Growing up with the Assad regime.

The story begins with Haytham reveling in the beauty of lemon trees in his family’s garden. By age four, he observes the first signs of threat from the outside world. The dictator Hafez al-Assad has died. Haytham’s father is jubilant. But the celebration is short-lived. Assad’s son, Bashir, takes over control. And so the control of the Ba’ath Party continues and intensifies. The Ba’ath Party is Soviet-inspired, complete with its own secret police, the Mukhabarat.

A graphic novel about Syria that educates and enlightens.

The script is based upon the true story of Haytham al-Aswad. It is written by Nicolas Hénin, a French journalist who was held hostage by Isis for 10 months. Hénin has spoken out against air strikes in Syria, saying they represent “a trap” for Britain and other members of the international community. The reader will appreciate the sense of urgency to this story, an authentic work of reportage uniquely brought to life in a graphic novel format. The story of Mr. Hénin, and his thoughtful views, are very compelling:

Illustrator Kyungeun Park (Yallah Bye) does a heroic job of bringing Hénin’s script to life. Park has a very warm approach to family and character details. The reader is made to feel at home and compelled to invest in the story. Park does great justice to a graphic novel equipped to do much good: to both educate and enlighten.

Kyung-eun Park, Haytham al-Aswad, and Nicolas Hénin

Crossing the border into Jordan.

“Haytham: A Childhood in Syria” is an 80-page graphic novel, black & white with gray tones. This book was originally published in France by Dargaud. You can find it at izneo, the place to go to read European comics in French and in English. Izneo BD Comics Manga is the best app for French-Belgian comics, with thousands of digital comic books. Give the izneo comics reader a test drive right here.

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Review: MACARONI! by Vincent Zabus and Thomas Campi

MACARONI!

MACARONI! is a graphic novel involving three generations in conflict. And 11-year-old Romeo is caught in the middle. It seems that Romeo’s father has struggled to get to know his own father. The resolution to years of silence may be found in a week-long summer visit. Romeo’s dad wants him to hang out with his grandfather Ottavio at his rural home out in the countryside. Poor little Romeo reluctantly agrees to do it. MACARONI! is written by Vincent Zabus (Spirou et Fantasio), drawn by Thomas Campi (MAGRITTE), published by Dupuis, and available as a digital comic in French or English at izeno right here.

An agreement between father and son.

Zabus and Campi have collaborated on the one-shot “Les Petites Gens,“ published by Le Lombard, as well as “Les Larmes Du Seigneur Afghan,” written by Vincent Zabus in collaboration with the RTBF (Belgian television) reporter Pascal Bourgaux, published by Dupuis Editions and awarded the Prix Cognito for Best Graphic Novel at the Belgian Book Fair in 2014. For this story about a boy and his grandfather, you can easily sense a close connection between the writer and artist, as if they were one creator. The natural dialogue fits so well into the expressive artwork and vice versa. There’s a spontaneity running throughout, moving the story forward, embracing the reader. You instantly sympathize with Romeo.

“You’ll be fine.”

Romeo’s father assures him that he’ll be fine. And, in little time, Romeo knows visiting his grandfather is the best thing that could have happened to him. It won’t be easy. The old man is gruff and secretive. With a little help from Lucie, a neighbor girl Romeo’s age, Ottavio shares tales of his tumultuous life going all the way back to fighting in World War II. Peppered with insightful facts, the reader cannot help but get caught up in the emotional recollection.

Ottavio has a lifetime to share.

MACARONI! takes on the full breadth of a stage play as three generations come to terms with each other. The reader comes to see just how much of a burden Ottavio has had to bear: from learning why he lost his thumb to seeing what a struggle it was for Italian immigrants to start a new life in Belgium. This is an exceptional narrative that will appeal to any reader of any age.

MACARONI! is a 145-page full color graphic novel. You can read a digital version at izneo right here.

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Comics Focus on Everything You Need to Know About ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets’

It all began as a French comic book series.

“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.

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