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.
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)
(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
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
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
– 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.
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
– 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, byN. Claveloux & E. Zha–Corneliuseditions –23.50euros
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, byChloé Wary–Flblbeditions– 23euros
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, byEmmanuel Moynot–Sarbacaneeditions– 24euros
Fawnof 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
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.
Francis Bacon was certainly on my radar during my time in art school. Just as I was completing my formal training at the University of Houston, I was aware of Bacon’s continued presence and activity. And then he died. I earned my BFA the year he passed away, 1992. Yes, Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was acknowledged as a heroic figure, a painter in the great tradition of towering romantic and angst-ridden artists. But what were we as art students doing with that information? What were our professors sharing with us about him? I mostly recall the awful jokes that he was Bacon the contemporary artist and not Bacon the great philosopher. So, in a nutshell, we didn’t do much of anything with Bacon looming in the background. Maybe I did more than most. I know a lot of students were lost in their own uneducated and overindulgent worlds or absorbed with the hotshots of the recent era as we understood it, people like Francisco Clemente, David Salle, even Julian Schnabel, especially Schnabel since he’d gone to UH for a short time. And, of course, there was no internet as we know it today and, in hindsight, I damn well could have used it back then!
Second Version of Painting from 1946, Museum of Modern Art, 1971.
After 1992, life’s circumstances gave me a bit of a bum’s rush from school and out the door. I’ve been cartwheeling ever since. Not to digress too much, but I’ve come out on top in a number of ways such as having the opportunity to gaze upon this dazzling show of Francis Bacon paintings at the Pompidou Centre! From the little I could glean from glossy art magazines, art history books and a few lectures, I was aware of Bacon’s raw and tortured energy. He was a rough cut fellow, is how I would casually put it if I was attempting to introduce him to someone unfamiliar with him and his work. Bacon’s career began in the 1940s and blossomed in the next two pivotal decades. Many an art student was familiar with Bacon’s landmark painting of the screaming pope, Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953. What did it mean? Where did it come from? We mostly chalked it up as subversive. That much we knew for sure and we loved it.
Gathering among Bacon.
That brings us to this current show at the Pompidou Centre. Jennifer and I had managed to arrive just in time to settle into it with little else than an introductory pamphlet. So, there was some adjusting to do as we both gorged upon Bacon. We were certainly not alone. There was a nervy energy running throughout the crowd of people. The show had recently opened for its run of 11 September 2019 to 20 January 2020. They had all come to see Bacon! But what did it mean to them? They knew his name and they knew about the famous work and the raw energy. There was that and there was a theme attached to the show–but gathering up so many Bacons in one space was more than enough, theme or no theme. It wasn’t until I’d made the turn into another room that I sniffed out the curator’s ardor for organizing, labeling, categorizing and zealous need to impose their ownership upon another’s work. After all, Francis Bacon was first and foremost a painter. He was self-taught. He, unlike countless academics and so-called scholars, got dirty and actually did things. This is not to say that a finely-articulated analysis is not welcome from time to time but it is often best to be taken with a grain of salt. Anyway, the idea for the show is to tie Bacon’s choice of reading with his painting. That’s why this show has rooms where all you have is a book on display and an audio of someone reading.
Oedipus and the Sphinx, after Ingres, 1983.
It does make sense to link Bacon to his reading habits given the fact he was such an avid reader. He loved books. They came naturally to him as they did for many a young rebel of his time. There are a number of choices on display in this show that would have been catnip for many a young artist back then and even today. At least, one hopes young artists haven’t changed so much now that they are, on the whole, bypassing gorging upon the works of Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Jean Racine, Balzac, Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Freud, T.S. Eliot, Joseph Conrad, Proust and many others. Well, that is the formal tent under which all these Bacons have been arranged. Process that however you like.
Walking towards Bacon.
One thing that struck me about this show is how it feels like it is stretching past its own time, as if it is still pulsating, still preening upon the gallery wall space and not ready to succumb to a timeless role as a museum artifact. I mean, the work still feels “contemporary” to me. While I was an art student, we had to suffer through all the prattle from critics and tastemakers over whether or not figurative painting was dead or not. To think we were getting this kind of talk even as we’d been experiencing a bunch of interesting “new” approaches to figurative work by the likes of Eric Fischl and Jonathan Borofsky. Finally, fast forward to today, the big secret is that figurative painting will never die. It’s just too vital, too primal, too essential. I guess, seeing this show takes me back to sometime before Bacon’s death, a world where there was a Francis Bacon still making new paintings and even making definitive versions of previous work. That is what this show is about: Bacon’s last two decades of his career (from 1971 to 1992). I can feel that artist raging and creating, knowing time was running out. So, ultimately, this show is more than about books and painting. This show is about an artist taking what he’s learned about painting and setting forth with his final explorations.
Bacon was always raging and rebelling, seeking a way to be the next Picasso. He was being himself when it was against the law in England to engage in homosexual acts. It wasn’t until 1967 that sex between two adult men (21 years-old) was decriminalized in the UK. What’s a “British artist” like Bacon to do? Well, that’s easy enough, go where you are welcome: Paris, the city that is open and fluid, revels in bohemian excess, and welcomes sex in all its many flavors. It was at the Grand Palais show at the Pompidou Centre in 1971 that Bacon delivered a landmark show that earned him critical praise, and raised him to the rank of a Picasso. And the show was more about love and sex than books. You can add a variety of erudite references but, at some point, you need to acknowledge the human being writhing upon a toilet! The Grand Palais show revolved around Bacon’s lover, George Dyer, who killed himself the day before the opening. As Jonathan Jones describes in a wonderful piece in The Guardian, it was Bacon’s muse, in the form of Dyer, who made the show what it was and, with his suicide, nearly brought it all tumbling down. The new show at the Pompidou Centre, interestingly enough, covers the time after the celebrated Grand Palais show of 1971. Again, this has nothing to do with the connection of books to paintings, but it’s a nice theme to wrap around a body of work that defies the curator’s nimble touch.
A genius is not always fortunate to be appreciated in his own time. That was the fate of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You would think that he’d get some love in such a sophisticated place as Paris but, back in 1778, he needed to hustle in order to get recognition. And Mozart was not one who easily hustled. He repeatedly had to fight for the right to be acknowledged as an artist on his own terms. Frantz Duchazeau brings that struggle to life in his new graphic novel, Mozart in Paris, published by SelfMadeHero, distributed by Abrams, available starting October 8, 2019.
A genius in Paris.
Mozart is Mozart, who can deny that? Maybe Salieri? You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen 1984’s Amadeus. But even Salieri, the rival and villain in that movie, had the good sense to know he was dealing with a genius composer. In this graphic novel, we get a wonderful look at the reality of indifference and shortsightedness. French tastemakers, threatened or indifferent to Mozart’s original and innovative music, would try to keep him out of the limelight. Mozart’s own father was relentless in dismissing Mozart’s efforts but, to his credit, he was dealing with a highly precocious individual who did not calm more conservative nerves.
MOZART IN PARIS by Frantz Duchazeau
Mozart didn’t think it was really up to him to convince anyone of his skill and talent. That kind of attitude doesn’t come without a price. Frantz Duchazeau does a wonderful job of showing the reader just what price Mozart had to pay for his own brand of naive arrogance. What if he had only held back and allowed someone to receive a false compliment? What if he had held back and not insulted a rival?
Mozart, as instructor.
Duchazeau has quite an engaging way with the page. Of all the comics I’ve been reading lately, he is definitely among those I see with a magical touch. As if evoking the grace and uncanny elegance of Mozart’s music, Duchazeau balances an engaging mix of variety upon the page with nicely modulated recurring elements, like the way he constructs his panels with one center panel speaking to the bigger picture. In the two examples on display in this review, you have Mozart in the center of one page seeking consensus on his genius. On another page, he is at the center again, but this time he must restrain himself for the sake of his beloved pupil.
Mozart, a young man in a hurry.
Sometimes you must fold your wings in order to someday spread them. That is, unless you’re Mozart. But, on the other hand, this is also the story of a young man in the big city. Mozart was only 22 years-old during this early visit to Paris. And Mozart was driven and had no time to waste. Duchazeau guides the reader through Mozart’s bumpy ride as he stumbles and gets that much closer to his destiny.
Run, Mozart, Run!
Mozart in Paris is a 96-page full color trade paperback, published by SelfMadeHero, distributed by Abrams, available starting October 8, 2019.
Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63 by Marcelino Truong
Here is one family’s unique experience with the Vietnam War byway of the diplomatic corps: Such a Lovely Little War, written and drawn by Marcelino Truong, published by Arsenal Pulp Press. As a cartoonist and writer, I’m attracted to the more idiosyncratic works in comics and this led me to the work of Marcelino Truong.
A family terrorized.
These deeply personal comics resonate the most with me. Add to it the fact that the author is dealing with being bi-racial, and feeling out of place, and that gets my genuine attention. Truong’s mother, Yvette, is French and his father, Khánh, is Vietnamese. It is circa 1961 and the family has left Washington, D.C, the home they’ve known. Khánh, as cultural attaché at the Vietnamese embassy, has been called back to Saigon where he will become the personal interpreter to the new president of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem . Thus, our narrative unfolds. It’s quite a perspective, one that is up close and encased in a bubble, in step with the cheeky title to this graphic memoir.
One boy’s adventure is another boy’s horror.
Truong’s story is triggered by a need to come clean with as many facts as possible. The Vietnam War is many things. One boy’s adventure is another boy’s horror. A boy safely tucked within the circles of affairs of state will witness one thing. A boy who is part of a family in the killing fields will witness another thing. Obviously, little Marco and his brother Domi have got a lot to learn if they’re thrilled to see napalm bombs on the wings of a plane upon their family’s arrival in Vietnam. Of course, Marco and his family are in for an education. Truong goes to great lengths to lay out as many pertinent details as possible, the sort of details that can get lost in, well, the fog of war. This is a story of relative safety, even at the most privileged levels, slipping away. It’s up to everyone to know when to jump before reaching that boiling point.
One family’s experience of the Vietnam War.
Truong’s work is another exquisite example of the auteur cartoonist. As I’ve said many times, it is the auteur cartoonist who meets the full definition of a cartoonist: the creator who does it all: the writing, drawing, and even coloring when applicable. These are the three main roles, along with editing and layout, that are often taken up by a creative team. It’s fascinating to study work where you have one creator basically calling all the shots. It can result in a work that weaves together script and art to an uncanny level. It is a tradition favored in indie circles in the States and even more ingrained in Europe. You can even take this auteur profile one step further and say it involves creating work by hand, as opposed to digital, as much as possible. A lot of artist-cartoonists, with Truong being a leading example, prefer to engage with their comics within a painter-cartoonist mindset. You’ll find here in Truong’s art that you can break it down into a series of watercolors, a complex network of watercolors. Truong does an exceptional job of modulating his use of color. This is a delicate balance, a shifting between duo-tone to full color, whatever fits best. It all adds up and enhances the immersive quality of Truong’s exceptional memoir.
Siagon Calling: London 1963-75 by Marcelino Truong
And there is a sequel. If you’re inspired to pursue further, then you will want to read Saigon Calling: London 1963-75. The irony is as front and center on the cover as it could be as you have the main characters strolling down a crosswalk, ala Beatles, with a napalm blast in the background.
Both Such a Lovely War and Saigon Calling are published by Arsenal Pulp Press. And be sure to visit Marcelino Truong at his website right here.
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.
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.
The cartoonist Typex presents a comics biography of the artist Andy Warhol that is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. If you thought you knew Andy Warhol, then read Andy: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol, published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams. This is quite an ambitious and fascinating biography, a work of art in and of itself. Typex delivers such a detail-rich account in this 562-page book and leaves you wanting more! He does this by keeping to a crisp and finely-tuned and organized narrative. We go from one period of time to the next, evoking the quotidian while distilling the essential. In the process, the reader is treated to a behind-the-scenes look at Andy Warhol’s personal and professional life.
Andy Warhol meets Edie Sedgwick
An inquisitive cartoonist like Typex is not one to be easily satisfied with a standard comics biography, especially for such a towering figure in art and pop culture as Mr. Andy Warhol. Love him or hate him, Warhol has left a significant mark on the culture and, if not for never fully recovering from a murder attempt and a botched up gallbladder operation, he would have remained active that much longer. He would have found a way. That is what this book is all about: finding your way even when you might seem, like Andy Warhol, to be the most unlikely person to do so.
Typex is most interested in subverting any Warhol hagiography and bringing Warhol down to a human scale. Perhaps influenced by the books he chose for reference material, Typex often tamps down Warhol’s reputation in favor of depictions of him munching on Hershey chocolate bars and lusting over young men. No doubt, Warhol was a highly idiosyncratic individual but he was nobody’s fool and a workhorse. Scant mention is given in Typex’s book to Warhol’s contributions to art history. Typex acknowledges Warhol’s commentary of consumer culture but rather reluctantly. Very little is said about Warhol’s landmark use of serial imagery or his revolutionary use of silkscreens. Warhol made art history, after all. That is a major accomplishment and it sort of gets a bit lost in this otherwise marvelous book. You can say this book is not where you go for art history lessons, per se. This is a book decidedly about a scene or a set of scenes. Then again, it’s what’s happening in those scenes where you find the most interesting art.
Adding to the level of interest Typex has for his subject is how he’s presents his work. He has full page and two-page spreads to evoke the energy and mayhem of various moments. And, for much of the book, he keeps to a nicely packed grid format, nine panels per page. He goes that extra mile by anyone’s standards with including a program guide of notable players from each time period. In fact, Typex is just as concerned with the characters surrounding Warhol than simply Warhol himself. That could account for the somewhat slim analysis of Warhol’s actual career and work. You have to find a way to balance it all out and properly address Edie Sedgwick, The Velvet Underground, Valerie Solanas, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the countless followers all in search of their own fifteen minutes of fame. It is Valerie Solana who ultimately stands out among the pack with her unhinged grasp for fame and attempt on Warhol’s life. And it is Basquiat who breathes new life into Warhol just as the two of them are nearing the end.
Warhol was driven and he also had a lot of help from his evolving network of colleagues, mentors, and a myriad of aspiring artists, dreamers, and party people. The Andy Warhol phenomenon did not happen overnight nor did it exist without various setbacks. Andy Warhol was neither god nor monster. It all comes back to the fact he was driven. He had the skill, the intellect, and the resources to actually make art history and, despite any naysayers, that’s exactly what he did. Typex explores this ambition as he sees fit while also demystifying the man and his times. Overall, this is quite a fascinating read to be added to other notable books on one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. In the end, I believe Andy Warhol would have approved of this book.
Typex is a Dutch illustrator and graphic novelist. A graduate of the Amsterdam College for the Arts, his work appears in many nationwide newspapers and magazines. He has illustrated numerous children’s books and has published some of his own. His graphic novel biography, Andy: The Life and Times of Andy Warhol, is published by SelfMadeHero, an imprint of Abrams. He lives in Amsterdam.
French Comics Association
You can see Typex this weekend if you’re in the D.C. area and this event happens to fit into what you’re doing. Typex will be there as part of the invited guests touring with the French Comics Association. The FCA will be taking part in this weekend’s American Library Association Conference. Okay, if that makes sense, then congratulations, you are a true Typex fan and well above average in every way.
Any close study of history will reveal a vast array of ironies and contradictions. Both individuals and whole nations have checkered pasts. Which leads us to Mata Hari, charged with treason and espionage and executed by a French firing squad in 1917. France had been rocked by the Dreyfus affair only a few years earlier, another case of someone being wrongly accused and being used as a scapegoat. In a new limited series from Dark Horse Comics, we get a fresh look at the enigmatic and exotic Mata Hari.
There is more prose involved with comics than some would think. Prose, lots and lots of prose, is the bedrock to any comics project. Then it is a matter of matching up, balancing out, just the right fit of text and image. MATA HARI is an excellent example of this process as writer Emma Beeby (Judge Dredd) began with reading, of all things, a book! Yes, she read “Femme Fatale: Love, Lies and the Unknown Life of Mata Hari” by Professor Pat Shipman.
Mata Hari as Salome
And then one thing led to another. Artist Ariela Kristantina (Insexts) came on board and did her thing. Then, like a mini-orchestra taking form, colorist Pat Masioni added her special skills. And, finally, we have the mastereo, the conductor herself, editor Karen Berger, who has conducted quite a lot of masterworks in her tine at Vertigo. You know, I have to say this: (and I’ll say more at a later date) it is a very misguided myth that the best comics are being created by the misfit in a garret. True, amazing work comes from there but we need to always come around to what quality gems are put out my professionals. Europe, for instance, has understood that for a very long time.
The quality, especially of offbeat and daring content, that Karen Berger is bringing to Berger Books is right in step with what readers in other parts of the world have appreciated for generations. DC Comics added that extra layer of quirk with Berger at Vertigo. And now Dark Horse Comics gives us Berger at Berger Books! What more could you ask for, right? So, you see a comic book like MATA HARI and you snatch it up, that’s what you do, my dear discerning reader. This is a five-issue limited run. The first issue sets the tone quite nicely. We get a sense of the woman who came to be known to the world as Mata Hari. We get a look at her as a little girl, growing up, and discovering early on that her interests and passions would make for a challenging, but quite stimulating, life.
Rating of 10/10
MATA HARI is available now. For more details, visit Dark Horse Comics and Berger Books right here.