Tag Archives: France

Book Review: ‘The Last Mona Lisa’ by Jonathan Santlofer

THE LAST MONA LISA

The Last Mona Lisa. Jonathan Santlofer. Sourcebooks. 2021. $27.99

It was back in 1987 that I made my first visit to Paris, which included viewing the Mona Lisa. My more recent visit was in 2019. I can tell you that the ’87 visit was not like the uber-spectacle it is now. It wasn’t even in the same location. As I recall, it was a huge square of a space and the Mona Lisa was housed in a booth that made me think of a carnival fortune telling machine. The gatherings of people were left to do as they pleased and behaved like instinctively polite starlings. People seemed to know just how to behave! Now, it’s like a cramped and narrow airport terminal with everyone jockeying for position, queued up for a few seconds of viewing, and then directed off by guards. Really, I’m not kidding. Anyway, I had to say that because I figure it will strike a chord with some of you and it’s a perfect opening observation to a book that I believe would satisfy a lot of the curiosity out there for the mega-famous painting. The book is entitled, The Last Mona Lisa, by a truly captivating writer, Jonathan Santlofer. I’ve been intrigued by Santlofer for some time as I’ve observed how well he’s done as both an artist and a writer. I was quite moved by his memoir and that led me to check out some of his crime fiction, which is a lot of fun. His new book takes his skills and passions  and distills them into an urbane thriller that will stay with you just like a memory of your favorite dinner overlooking a beautiful sunset. So, yeah, it’s that kind of book. In fact, if it’s not already, it should be stocked in the Louvre gift shop. And, yes, the museum is now open, albeit with health restrictions. Also, I should add here, this is a book that is ideal for any book club as you may imagine.

Mona Lisa Mania!

The Last Mona Lisa is about the greatest museum heist of them all, the theft of the Mona Lisa by a Louvre museum guard in August of 1911. It was a sensation in newspapers all over the world and catapulted the Leonardo Da Vinci painting to world-famous masterpiece status. Santlofer takes that story and weaves a narrative that explores the inner life of the thief, the frustrated artist Vincent Peruggia, and present day attempts by his great-grandson, Luke Perrone, along with a rogue INTERPOL detective among others, to unravel the mystery behind the details of this most unusual museum heist caper. All this investigating leads to the possibility that the real Mona Lisa was never returned to the Louvre and now some people will stop at nothing to get the real thing. Among the various subplots, it’s the story of Luke, the great-grandson of the original thief, that leads the way, neck and neck with following the drama of Vincent, the thief and aspiring celebrated artist.

It’s fun to follow Luke’s progress as an unlikely hero who grows into his role as a sleuth. He stumbled upon the story of his infamous great-grandfather when, as a boy, he’d been tasked with cleaning out the family attic. One look inside a chest reveals the tell-tale mugshot of Vincent Peruggia which triggers a lifelong obsession with finding out the truth about the thief of the Mona Lisa. Fast forward to the present and Luke finagles his way to gaining access to a rare books section in a prominent library in Florence, Italy. It is there that he becomes involved with a mysterious beauty, a striking blonde who just so happens to be pursuing her own scholarly search at the same table that Luke is camped out at. This, of course, sets in motion some of the key elements needed for the romantic thriller that ensues.

Santlofer paints a portrait of Vincent Peruggia as the classic malcontent would-be bad boy artist who just so happens to fall into the company of Pablo Picasso and other notable figures of the Parisian art scene, like Max Jacob. Vincent Peruggia is no Vincent van Gogh! Instead, he’s a somewhat competent artist of the most obvious subject matter like pretty still life paintings. He’s resentful of the avant-garde cubist work by Braque and Picasso which he dimly understands. Vincent is the Lee Harvey Oswald of the art world, destined for infamy.

The Mona Lisa was indeed “stolen” in 1910, a year prior to the famous 1911 heist.

The building blocks to Santlofer’s novel are all true. The Mona Lisa was, in fact, “stolen” a year prior to the celebrated heist by Vincent Peruggia. Santlofer provides a news clipping of the story that sort of just came and went in 1910 but, without a doubt, documented a robbery of some kind. It’s a fine piece of detective work on Santlofer’s part as it doesn’t readily come up on a casual internet search. For whatever reason, that story ended up an odd blip without a follow-up. Nothing was ever officially said again about any theft. Not until the story that would not go away, the celebrated story of 1911. It is this incongruous situation with the ignored “theft” of 1910 that has fed countless rumors and conspiracy theories. It is this stranger-than-fiction phenomena that was just waiting to be plucked and processed into Santlofer’s latest delightful page-turner.

For more information, and how to buy this book, go to Sourcebooks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Jonathan Santlofer, Paris

French Graphic Novelist Ugo Makes Animation Debut, ARCO

Ugo’s ARCO

I love this still from the upcoming animated feature, Arco. I have to hand it to the French as this looks like something very weird and wonderful–and will live up to its promise. All the little details, so delicate and precise, speak to the dedication of a true graphic novelist, which Ugo surely is as he has a fine and consistent track record of actually creating numerous graphic novels. You really can’t call yourself a graphic novelist without actually being one! So, here is a bona fide bande dessinee artist!

Here is the news on Arco which appeared in Variety last month:

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under animation, Bande Dessinée, Comics News, French Comics

Review: MAIDS by Katie Skelly

Maids

Maids. by Katie Skelly. Fantagraphics Books. Seattle. 112pp, $19.99.

An eyeball plops onto the floor, is picked up, and then turns into a doorknob. That is the best moment in comics for this year. 2020 has been a very spooky and sad year and so this little graphic novel is all the more made for this moment.

That eyeball!

There’s a lot of comics theory out there being tossed around. It’s very easy to start one of those erudite conversations about comics and ponder about what lies between the panels. Well, it’s a vast nothingness. It’s the gutter space. And, while you’re advised upon how you can manipulate the gutter space, slice it and dice it, the fact is that, in general, you don’t really want to call attention to it. No, it’s mostly the panels where the action is and that is what cartoonist Katie Skelly mindfully builds. Her gutter space is neutral. That’s where time passes. In fact, the panels could all be nothing more than a grid and we, as readers, would be satisfied. But a good variation in panels can do a lot of the heavy lifting in order to enhance the reading experience. Maids is Skelly’s latest graphic novel and it is quite an experience.

Beautiful narrative flow.

If you aware of this book, then you already know this is a stylish take on a true crime story, set in 1930s France, with the simple enough plot of two maids who murder the mansion’s inhabitants. For a story such as this, it is all in the telling–or showing. Skelly takes delight in presenting us the two culprits, two young women, Christine and Lea. These are two down-and-out girls who stumble upon working together for a rich family. By and by, we get to know the two girls, just barely out of their teens. What’s interesting is that they are far from likable. In fact, they are more likely to steal and loaf around than much of anything else. In turn, the rich family is not particularly villainous. They are more or less right to find the two girls to be repulsive. So, plenty of gray area to consider. No clear hero or villain. And yet, some may read a story here of a worker’s revolt. What is happening here is more open-ended than that. This is less a call for class warfare and more of a macabre journey we might enjoy on a cold winter’s night and, for that, Skelly has masterfully delivered.

Rise and shine!

For more details, visit Fantagraphics Books right here.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Graphic Novel Reviews

Review: ‘GENTLEMIND: Episode 1’ from Europe Comics

Gentlemind: Episode 1

Gentlemind: Episode 1. written by Juan Díaz Canales and Teresa Valero; art and color by Antonio Lapone. Published by Dargaud (France) Presented by Europe Comics. 2020, 88pp. Digital.

When Print Was King!

Think of Gentlemind as a comics version of Mad Men, set in the 1940s. The hub of activity is New York City, center of media and entertainment. And the specific activity is one woman’s goal of transforming a middling men’s girlie magazine into a platform for social commentary, literary and artistic excellence. Listen to the guys talk in their bullpen at the offices of Gentlemind, circa 1940, and they could be men talking today:

“I’ve seen you doing stand-up in the clubs in the Village, Bert. You have a gift. We want you to write a few jokes for each issue.”

“Written jokes aren’t funny. Either you tell them, or you draw them.”

“Hey, Mosky, how bout drawing something other than women?”

“I can’t draw anything else.”

Another time and place from which we can learn so much.

New York is a funny city, in a lot of ways still championing a dry and sly wit perfected over generations by the trendsetting creatives of the moment. This is a story about what is was like back in the day, in a golden era, when writers and artists of all stripes pushed boundaries while also navigating a world dominated by an elite patriarchal class. Enter Navit, a woman with a self-confidence in all things, intellectual, sexual, and emotional. This is Navit’s journey as she goes from a love affair with a struggling artist to the mistress of a playboy billionaire to the leader of a brash new magazine in the heyday of magazines. Due to a fortuitous set of circumstances, Navit finds herself in charge of an old girlie magazine which she is determined to turn into something worthwhile. Navit begins by having real women express themselves about what they think of men, a refreshing and quite revolutionary idea in 1940.

An old girlie magazine is confronted with opinions from real women.

Written by Juan Díaz Canales (Blacksad) and Teresa Valero, this is an utterly charming, as well as challenging story that will leave the reader wanting more. There’s a whole subplot involving the disparity between rich and poor and the virtue of ethics that really powers the narrative, bringing up many issues. And that’s all a good thing since this is only the first installment. While our heroes, and the setting itself, are thoroughly American, the sense of style and elegance embrace a European sensibility. And that vibe, in turn, is influenced by such American film noir classics as 1945’s Mildred Pierce, about a woman’s struggle to the top. You can also throw into the mix the influence of Seth, a Canadian cartoonist who has perfected his own take on comics noir.  The artwork by Antonio Lapone taps into this quirky vision. His characters have an ethereal cartoony quality about them. They are ghosts from another era while also very much alive on the page. This is a wonderful treat for the reader to experience another time and place. A time well before much of what we take for granted. A time when print was king. A time when “men were men; and women were women” but everyone seemed to be very much in the dark as to what the other most desired. It wasn’t always sex. In fact, it was often a higher calling of some kind: a simple desire to be entertained and enlightened by a story. If all this sounds like too much to ask from a graphic novel, then I’m here to tell you it is one of the things that a graphic novel does best: explore the meaning of life. This one does it better than many out there.

Those “Mad Men” from 1940a New York City.

There are numerous exciting titles to explore at Europe Comics, your hub for all sorts of wonderful European comics (translated in English, of course) in a convenient digital format. Visit Europe Comics right here.

 Leave A Tip

If you liked this post, or anything on this blog, you can now support it’s continued existence by leaving a digital tip for about the same amount as a cup of coffee. Because that’s how you cultivate things you love.

$5.00 or whatever you like.

4 Comments

Filed under Comics, Europe Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews

Review: MITCHUM by Blutch

MITCHUM by Blutch

Mitchum. by Blutch. English translation by Matt Madden. Published by New York Review Comics, New York, 2020, 232 pages. $24.95.

I adhere to the strict view that the truest, most robust, and most legitimate forms of comics are created by the cartoonist auteur. You can’t just shrug and say, “Comics are comics!” Nope, that is way too broad and just plain nonsense. If we’re talking about comics as a true art form, then there is only one answer. And, keep in mind, comics are not just art but words too. So, the auteur is a very special creator, the artist-writer. I’ll even go one better and declare that the best living cartoonist auteur is Blutch. Yes, it’s that simple when you take into account such a versatile style and broad range of subject matter. Now, consider one of his best graphic novels, Mitchum, which has recently been re-issued by New York Review Comics with a new English translation by Matt Madden. I applaud New York Review Comics, part of the vision of New York Review Books, for bringing Blutch another step closer to a wider audience. Imagine a dazzling light, a smooth caress, a melodious song, a deliciously bitter coffee, or a wondrously smokey scent. All of this is Blutch!

A cartoonist as artist and an artist as cartoonist or magician.

Blutch is the sort of artist that I relate to the best. He is an artist as well as a magician–or even a wizard. Perhaps you must be working at the same craft, aspiring to that same level, to truly appreciate what I’m saying but I think, in fact, I know that I can explain it. It’s sort of one of those cases of it takes one to know one. I can engage in similar loose drawing and disjointed narrative and know what I know and, in that way, I share my insight. Christian Hincker, otherwise known as Blutch, has enjoyed an ongoing career as a cartoonist since graduating with a degree in illustration from the Decorative Arts College in his hometown of Strasbourg, France. It’s been a bit of a charmed life. At 53, Blutch could be looked upon as the grand old lion of comics. However, as some seasoned cartoonists, like Daniel Clowes, point out, serious cartoonists are only coming into their own after age 40. Whatever the case, Blutch seems to be in that heroic tradition of the wild bohemian artist, following some deep sensual instinct. Often, you see his characters either naked and about to erupt or well into some sexual act. On the cover of Mitchum, we kick off with a provocative image: a dog licks the slick and smooth bare foot of a beautiful young woman while a naked man lounges with a paper bag over his head. It’s totally a loaded image however you care to look at it. Pure Blutch.

Beautiful, raw and unbridled Blutch!

The sexiest part of the human body is the brain, of course. The brain controls our emotions, whatever they might be. Any good artist appreciates that and Blutch understands this better than most. So, it’s not just sex that he’s after but all sorts of goodies, naughty, sensual, primal and nearly unspeakable. If that sounds good to you, then you’re really gonna love Blutch. Dreams. Rants. Jazz. Not necessarily in that order. And a good healthy does of Robert Mitchum just for the hell of it! Out of a dream! But it’s not a rattled mess. Just think of it as that sketchbook come to life that I mentioned in a previous review. This is like the best jazz, highly structured while highly improvised, or at least appearing that way. The trick, if there is a trick, is that Blutch loves to draw and he does a hell of a lot of it. Back at the start of this new century of ours, when the indie comics boom was in full gear, it was Blutch who so many young cartoonists were emulating, even if they didn’t know it because they were so enthralled with emulating Craig Thompson, who was Blutch’s biggest fan. Thompson tried to tap deep into Blutch’s relentless passion but he was only going to be able to take what he needed. Fair is fair among artists. Thompson has a tidy version of Blutch’s style so, in that sense, he spun off his own style. As for Blutch, he keeps being Blutch because that’s the best way to be and he’s in it for the long haul, even if he may say he’s ready to hang it all up. In the end, Blutch maintains his position as an artist: unorthodox, unruly and mischievous.

A comic entitled, MITCHUM, only obliquely having to do with Robert Mitchum.

Anyhow, you can’t really fully copy the way someone of any caliber creates art just as you can’t fully copy the way someone else chooses to spend their day. It goes that deep! No one reviews comics the way I do, nor should they try. You might hurt yourself. Nor does anyone draw exactly like I do, and that has to do with my drawing long enough to develop a style. Not all artists are patient enough to develop their own style or anything coming close to it. By that, I mean many artists are more than content to follow a particular trend, school of thought, house style. That brings me back to all the disciples of Blutch. I won’t hesitate to say that there’s a ton to learn from Blutch and, if one is patient, one can avoid looking too closely at the sun and power through to an individual vision. In other words, I advise that any aspiring cartoonist would do well to study the hell out of Blutch but keep some energy for yourself and be willing to look away at some point and craft your own personal way of drawing.

I suppose if there are some more secrets to success to dispense with, I’d throw in the need to pace yourself. Rome was not built in a day, right? Well, this graphic novel sure wasn’t. It’s actually a collection of single issues of Mitchum comics. A very arthouse thing this all is since Robert Mitchum doesn’t even appear in the first couple of issues. And, when he does appear, well, many people won’t even know unless you’re of a certain age or a big fan of film. With that said, Blutch is a huge fan of many things, including cinema, pop culture and high culture. Alright then. Now, how about a few words on the English translation by notable cartoonist Matt Madden. Mr. Madden is notable for many reasons, as a man of good taste and the author of one of my favorite books related to comics theory, 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style. Madden also happens to know French very well and lived in France for a good long while with his wife, fellow cartoonist Jessica Abel. By far, Madden has just the right sophisticated palate to capture the essence of Blutch’s words. Both Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have made some amazing contributions to the comics medium and, at the end of the day, that’s priceless. When you consider the work of Blutch, you can understand how art can be, when it’s all said and done, the most lasting gift.

A dazzling work by an uninhibited artist.

Mitchum is available through New York Review Comics.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews

Howling Metal

Métal hurlant #57. The only collaboration between Moebius and Phillipe Druillet.

Comic books are perhaps the most popular sources of inspiration for moviemakers in this decade. Just think of all the movies of a highly variable quality that have been released since the Marvel Cinematic Universe has started on its glorious assault on our pockets more than a decade ago. And it’s not only movies either. From broadcast channels to the most popular and accessible streaming services online are filled with content inspired by graphic novels and comic books – some of them are better (like Amazon’s acclaimed “The Boys” series), others, not so much.

The comics flocking to the screen these days have one thing in common: they are American. Of course, comic books are a typically American form of entertainment – this doesn’t mean, in turn, that they are unheard of in other parts of the world such as Birmingham in the UK. On the contrary.

France too is famous for its wines, cheese, and landmarks – and also, in some circles, for its comics. One of its most widely-known titles is “The Adventures of Asterix”, a series of bandes desinnées created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo in 1959. The stories revolve around Astérix, a mighty Gaul (and his oversized sidekick Obélix) and their adventures in defeating the Roman conquerors trying to overrun their village. This proves harder than it seems thanks to Getafix, the village druid, and his magic potion that gives the villagers superhuman strength. The two were the protagonists of countless comics, ten animated features, four live-action movies, not to mention the theme parks, the board games, and the first French satellite named after the mighty Gaul warrior.

There’s more to Francophonic comics than Asterix (and the Smurfs that were born in Belgium), more than the lighthearted fantasy stories above. The hallmark of the French comics’ golden age was a magazine called “Métal hurlant” (Howling Metal) created in December 1974.

Les Humanoïdes Associés

The United Humanoids (Les Humanoïdes Associés) consisted of comic artist Mœbius (Jean Giraud), Philippe Druillet, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, and Bernard Farkas, who acted as the financial director of the publication.

Les Humanoïdes Associés

Giraud was already an acclaimed cartoonist and writer at the time, having released several Western and science fiction and fantasy comics in the previous decades, Druillet won the European SF award for Comics in 1972 for his comic series Lone Sloane at the first Eurocon, and Dionnet was a long-time collaborator of the two, writing scripts for them at the comic magazine Pilote.

Métal hurlant

At first, the magazine was released quarterly – it had 68 pages (18 of them in color), and the first editions consisted entirely of works by the founders, Mœbius and Druillet. These early editions contained several Lone Sloane comics, and experimented with new formats and storytelling methods – they were, among others, home to Arzach, a silent warrior riding a pterodactyl-like creature through a desolate arid landscape. The “Arzach” comics have no dialogue, telling the stories through visuals alone. Later, many other artists published their works in the magazine, like Chilean-French artist and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, Enki Bilal, Francis Masse, Milo Manara, and many others.

Arzach by Mœbius

The content of the magazine was later expanded to include not only comics but articles about science fiction books and movies, later music and video game reviews. It remained true to its origins, though – it is considered one of the first examples of comic books for mature audiences, focusing on surreal, complex visuals, often cinematic graphics, and complex, experimental storytelling.

Métal hurlant has published 133 issues between 1974 and 1987, then for another brief run between 2002 and 2004, with 14 more.

Heavy Metal

Heavy Metal was the American version of the original French magazine – at first, it was the licensed translation of the original, later evolving into a publication featuring the works of North American artists like Stephen R. Bissette (Swamp Thing), Alex Ebel (Friday the 13th), Gray Morrow (Man-Thing, El Diablo), and Bernie Wrightson, the co-creator of Swamp Thing. The magazine published a blend of science fiction, dark fantasy, steampunk, and erotica, often explicit and ultra-violent, intended for a mature readership.

RanXerox by Tanino Liberatore

The magazine is still published today, albeit the ownership has changed – it is currently owned by David Boxenbaum, and Jeff Krelitz, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Kevin Eastman serving as a publisher.

Heavy metal on the screen

Heavy Metal was adapted to the silver screen before it was cool thanks to director Gerald Potterton and producers Ivan Reitman and Leonard Mogel (who was also the publisher of the magazine at the time). The animated anthology contained several stories taken from the magazine as well as original stories in the same spirit – and it is as adult-oriented as its printed original. The overarching story revolves around the “Loc-Nar”, a sentient orb that describes itself as “the sum of all evil” traveling across the galaxy, causing harm wherever it can.

Heavy Metal

The stories in the magazine were also adapted to the small screen in a series called “Métal Hurlant Chronicles” but the English-language Franco-Belgian series, written and directed by Guillaume Lubrano, failed to live up to its name.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comics, Essays, Heavy Metal, Moebius

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.

4 Comments

Filed under Comics, Europe Comics, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Angoulême, Angoulême Comics Festival, Comic Arts Festivals, Comics

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, European Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews

FRANCIS BACON: BOOKS AND PAINTING at the Pompidou Centre

Texting before Bacon.

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.

10 Comments

Filed under Art, Artists, Painting, Paris