So I went back to the Hugo Pratt exhibit with a friend of mine. It was later in the day, so it was slower and I had more opportunity to take more blurry pictures.
Here are the findings.
So I went back to the Hugo Pratt exhibit with a friend of mine. It was later in the day, so it was slower and I had more opportunity to take more blurry pictures.
Here are the findings.
I went down to the Hugo Pratt exposition at La Pinacothèque de Paris. Corto Maltese is one of the greatest comic books ever produced, a massive influence on how I write comics, and who I want to be when I grow up, so I was dying to go. I knew I would love it, but I didn’t expect it to be so damn massive.
Here are some shots I was able to sneak in with my camera phone. Forgive the blurriness, but this shit had to be covert.
It gets better.
So then I saw this.
And was shocked to see a room filled with every. single. page of Ballad of Salt Sea, in order. All originals, of course.
That looked like this.
And here’s a few more blurry shots of brilliant art.
And there you go.
It’s really a damn shame Corto Maltese isn’t available in English right now. I hope the Universe collections come out and don’t suck.
Give it a read to find out what Angouleme finds I tore into first, what comic makes me think the entire industry is drunk, which publisher is not getting the recognition it deserves and just how many times I’ve read and reread and reread again every single issue of Casanova.
I don’t like the term ‘Eurocomics’.
I just like ‘Comics’. Big C.
It doesn’t matter where – or even when – they’re from.
They can be giant albums from a 70-year old European master of the medium or a Portland based 20-year old stapling together their own mini-comic. They can be from France, Japan, North America, South America, Korea, Africa, India, China or wherever living things make comics. The world’s too big and now too connected to limit yourself to who your source for comics is and where they’re from. Furthermore, with our Golden Age of reprints upon us it’s not hard to reach back into our century plus history for comics from the world over.
My goal’s to absorb it all or, at least, as much as one can in a lifetime. I want two color autobio web comics, four color superhero single issues, giant science fiction epics and everything else in between.
The trick is finding them.
Even with the advent of The Internet connecting pretty much every single artist across the globe in a click, I find the best way to do this is in person with the artists, writers and cartoonists making the books. In America, I’m particularly fond of the Baltimore Comic Con, Emerald City Comic Con and Alternative Press Expo to name a couple of the most prime examples and am looking forward to my first Stumptown Comics Festival. They’re comic-centric and attract a wide variety of artists, both established and otherwise. You can get a big charge out of meeting new people and seeing their projects.
Still, even with these great shows I found some aspects of comics missing.
Even at the gigantic shows like San Diego and the New York Comic Con I found certain types of artists lacking. While I felt the Asian scenes were represented, seeing someone like Milo Manara sign at the Dark Horse SDCC booth last year was more of an exception than the rule. If I wanted to flip through stacks of Hugo Pratt, I had to go elsewhere.
In 2010, I found such a place.
Just a week ago, I returned.
The Festival International de la Bande Dessinee takes over the small French town of Angoulême, located South of Paris, around the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Just one two-hour high speed train trip from Paris’ Montparnassee station can drop you off in one of the world’s biggest comics festivals.
Saying it draws a crowd is an understatement.
To give some perspective, the biggest show in the United States is the San Diego Comic Con International. Even if you’re not into comics, you’ve regularly heard news of it over the last several years. While movies has been a part of the show since its inception (Star Wars actually debuted there), ever since the first Sam Raimi Spider-Man movie was previewed, their presence – along with television and video games - exploded. Entertainment Weekly runs an annual cover feature. The New York Times, situated a country away, has reported on the show’s news. It’s gigantic, as big as it gets here.
Its attendance clocks in around 150,000.
Angoulême’s hits 250,000.
Yeah, it’s a big show.
I had been dying to go for years. Like I said, I loved my regular shows, but it sounded so alien from everything I attended. I’m not even talking about the guest list. For example, if you’ve been to an American show, you’re used to convention centers located in major cities. They mostly look the same on the inside.
Angoulême is a small town mostly located on a small, yet steep hill most likely built many a century ago to ward off invaders. At least, that’s what I get from the ancient arrow slits located all around the center of town. Throughout the hill a number of tents are erected, all focusing on a different aspect of comics. These aren’t your cheap tents either, on the inside you would think you were in a permanent building, nicer than some of those convention halls I mentioned.
Each one has its own focus, some as large – if not larger – than an entire show.
I’ll run you through the main sites.
Le Nouveau Monde is more or less APE or SPX. You’ll find some of the coolest shit here, especially in terms of new talents working on some of the most experimental work. Lots of self-published works, along side the types of books you would see stateside through Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics. Dash Shaw’s a regular at the booth for Editions Ca et La table. In 2010, I also met other American cartoonists like Mike Dawson, Alex Robinson and Frank Santoro over there. It’s also the regular home of indie juggernaut, L’Association, the original publisher of titles such as Persepolis. In fact, one of their artists, Dungeon cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, designed the festival’s mascot, Le Fauve.
I have to say, it was an interesting year for L’Association. I certainly missed their usual set up of artists and new books, but due to an employee strike their table was nothing but pamphlets explaining why their staff wasn’t working. That said, I completely stand by what they’re striking for.
Le Monde Des Bulles is a two tent set up, which is the equivalent of San Diego Comic Con featuring massive publishers such as Delcourt (they have a massive library, not the least of which are titles such as Walking Dead, Hellboy, Star Wars and many more American translations), Soleil (you’ll remember them from their recent publications with Marvel, my favorite being Sky Doll), Panini (imagine one publisher releasing everything Marvel and DC does), Casterman (publisher of Corto Maltese and American comics such as Asterios Polyp), Dargaud (the home of Blake and Mortimer and the spy epic, XIII), Jungle Comics (known best for their licensed albums, especially The Simpsons) and many more. You can also buy a selection of American imports there from our friends at Alca Comix. However, my favorite booths may be the ones run by Moulinsart, the Tintin People, and Moebius’s own Stardom Productions.
Espace Para-BD is a great mix of retailers and creators, consisting of folks such as Simone Bianchi, art book publisher CFSL Ink, concept art group Imaginism Studios, in addition to yet another Alca Comix booth. The majority of the BD I buy is out of this booth. While the publishers usually have their new material, this is where you can buy some older titles. I even bought a Manara watch there. Believe it or not, it features a woman.
In fact, the town has a massive comics presence even when the show’s not going on.
Just look at the street signs.
Their Corto Maltese statue.
Their giant Herge head.
It’s not limited to decoration. North of the center of town is the Cite De La BD, an institute dedicated to all things Bande Dessinee. During the show it’s also host to a number of talks – last year featured R. Crumb, this year featured folks like Charlie Adlard and Moebius. It was at the latter Q&A I was finally able to meet the guy I consider today’s greatest living artist, regardless of medium.
That’s Jean “Moebius” Giraud on the left, holding a copy of Nate Simpson’s upcoming Image Comics series, NONPLAYER. I only meant to show it to him, but he liked it so much (“Very cool! Beautiful!” was the exact quote) he asked if he could keep it. So, you know, look out for that this April. You can’t get higher praise.
I briefly met him the year before, right after he completed a two hour live-drawing demonstration at the WACOM booth and was impressed by how someone who has been involved in the medium since the 1960s was still looking at what came tomorrow and kept an enthusiasm I usually only see with younger cartoonist brand new to making comics. Good guy, that Moebius.
Across the river is the Musée De La BD, featuring the most impressive permanent collection of comic book art I’ve ever seen, featuring a wide range of cartoonists and artists from comics grandfather Rodolphe Töpffer, Frank Miller, Herge, C.C. Beck and Rob Liefeld, among many others. Each year they also have a special exposition. Last year it was people doing Krazy Kat covers, this time around it was all about Parodies, which included guys like Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Robert Sikoryak and Johnny Ryan.
They also had some programming, my favorite of which I went to almost on accident. Fellow Stardust enthusiast and the man responsible for bringing Fletcher Hanks to the masses, Paul Karasik, was doing a talk. We had corresponded a bit online and got along pretty famously, even though he hated my take on Stardust with Mike Allred. Still, I had always wanted to meet him face to face as I always felt we were otherwise kindred spirits.
It turned out he was part of a larger block of programming put on the Platinum Group, which, as I understand it, is a collective of various comics researchers and experts, including the museum itself. They went over its new initiatives and findings, including the establishment of a Scandinavian comics society, Sunday Press Publisher Peter Maresca’s new Forgotten Fantasy Sunday Comics and the museum’s latest discoveries, such as lost pages of the original graphic novel, Maestro, and an entire sketchbook believed to belong to the artist Cham. Paul presented two pieces, one about his upcoming book How To Read Nancy (in which he flawlessly breaks down 40 elements of comics in one three panel Nancy Strip) and a brief history of Adaptation in comics, including examples from the awful Partridge Family series and his brilliant adaptation with Asterios Polyp (itself a Grand Jury winner at Angouleme!) cartoonist David Mazzuchelli, Paul Auster’s City of Glass.
Luckily for me, the presentations were in English with each and every one extremely fascinating in their own unique way. In a way, they exemplified one of my favorite aspects of the festival: I’m a guy who has read comics his whole life, appreciates them and their history the world over, yet they featured so much I had never seen or, at the very least, new elements and perspective on those comics and creators I was familiar with.
For instance, every year they choose a Grand Prix winner – think lifetime achievement award – who then becomes the president of the festival the following year and helps curate the event. This also includes an exposition of their work and in some cases, other special programming focused on them.
Last year, while Craig Thompson mentor Blutch was the Grand Prix, Baru won the prize, giving him the huge exposition, design of the festival’s marketing and a number of events including a live art concert with Jon Spencer’s Heavy Trash.
That’s right – a comics show featuring one of the world’s best rock bands doing what they do best as some of the world’s best cartoonists, well, do the same.
Anyway, while I was familiar with both Blutch and Baru’s work, their expositions were massive, containing work I had never seen before. Blutch’s in particular featured a number of his own personal sketchbooks. Both were intimate yet comprehensive looks into masters of the medium. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year’s Grand Prix, Maus cartoonist art spiegelman, brings together for the event.
Although, there’s much more than just the big names.
Like I said, you can find a lot of cool new stuff at Le Nouveau Monde, but there’s a lot to be found throughout the show. Not only does the festival put on an exposition taking up an entire tent called Pavillon Jeunes Talents concentrated on selected new, young creators, but there’s a number of independent expositions throughout. My personal favorite was L’exposition CARTNETS, put on by a collective of students (from Angouleme’s own permanent BD university), L’association ARGH.
I’ve talked at a number of schools stateside in the role of an editor for PopGun, most recently at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Editor’s Day. It’s always a fantastic experience as I’m absolutely fascinated to see what tomorrow’s creators are excited about and producing. It’s always impressive as their fresh enthusiasm for the medium is infectious.
Meeting students from an international school was fascinating in its own way. Seeing what they were working on and hearing what they were into was a different experience than I’m used to.
I spent a good chunk of time talking to L’association ARGH’s President, Li Wei, about his work and influences, which included Will Eisner and Wally Wood. I’ve previously found creators don’t get into them these days until later in life, but here was a young student already well versed in their entire bodies of work. I also found his own art very impressive as his pieces and sketchbooks jumped around from one art style to another seemingly on a whim and with ease.
After editing or at least overseeing 2000+ pages of PopGun, I might expect to be getting used to how much amazing talent is out there. Luckily, it’s quite the opposite. Considering how, in the grand scheme of things, each member of L’association ARGH is really only starting, it was even more impressive to see all the work they had to show. I know I’ll personally be keeping an eye out for what each and every one of them are working on next.
I suppose that sums up what I find so attractive about visiting Angoulême: while other stateside shows are a great time and a wonderful way to connect and reconnect with artists from all over, I’m never ready for what I’ll find at Festival International de la Bande Dessinee. I can try to keep up to date from home, but even with the number of blogs and foreign news sites up and about it’s hard to keep completely on top of what’s coming out. Most of the works and creators never make it over here, save for what our friends at Stuart Ng Books bring over. I never know what to expect when I go there, so I end up with the sensation of going on a four day roller coaster of All New Comics.
My creative batteries are always refilled.
But that’s just Angoulême.
Next week, I’m telling you all about Paris, the differences between the French Market & the US and quite possibly my favorite street in the entire world.
Special Thanks to Dyane for her support and fact checking.
Please note: while I focused on talking about this year’s show, I displayed pictures from 2011 and 2010. I felt they helped illustrate the point I’m trying to make here: this festival is awesome and you need to go.
Remember that meme going around about 500 years ago where creative types were filling out an Influence Map?
Well, guess who just caught up with the times.
My buddy Brandon urged me to do it, so I agreed even though I wasn’t sure I could.
It seemed impossible to map out everything that influences someone. I imagine it shifts so dramatically for everybody.
For me, some days I’m all about old jazz records; other days I’m all about movies coming out two years from now. Like wise, some days all I can think about are dead cartoonists; other days I’m way more excited about who is coming tomorrow.
I had to view it as a snapshot of this night - what was currently going on in my head - and purely who was fueling me to draw. There are different influences for when I write as there are drawing influences who have nothing to do with art. There are a number of bands and filmmakers who should really be on here, but if I took them into consideration I would never get this done.
Furthermore, I gave myself a rule of “letting it go.” I put down whatever artist first came to mind, at the size I imagined and moved on. While it IS driving me insane art spiegelman, Steve Ditko, Bill Waterson, Brendan McCarthy, Frank Miller, Paul Pope and countless others aren’t on here, I’m sucking it up. I wanna go to bed at some point.
All this said, here’s what I’ve got.
Going from left to right as much as makes sense to (feel free to ask if you’re confused who I’m pointing out):
1) R. Crumb: Probably the most famous underground cartoonist out there. I got into his stuff right around when the documentary Crumb was coming out. My grandmother heard about it and urged my father to take me since it was about a “cartoonist” (I’m sure she thought he drew Thimble Theater) and afterward I was hooked. He gets such a big spot since he radically altered the way I thought comics in general could be presented, especially with taking a style (basically big foot funny comics) and doing something so radical.
2) Winsor McCay: Artist of Little Nemo in Slumberland, among other strips. This one’s my favorite. This is going to sound corny as all hell, but there’s a magic to Little Nemo that’s hard to deny. It’s especially evident when you read the giant Sunday Press hardcovers reprinting them at actual size. I feel that if two characters in comics best represent my Id, it’s Nemo and, well, the dude under him. We’ll get to him/her in a sec.
3) Herge: It’s really hard for me to finish any volume of Tintin, because as soon as I’m far enough into one I wanna do nothing but draw. Like Crumb this guy gets a massive spot as he equally fuels my desire and will to draw. Anytime I get lazy I think about the huge body of work he left behind and how only the very beginning is spotty. He reached a point and just kicked ass for decades till his death. Plus, hey, traveling the world with your dog is awesome, right?
4) George Herriman: Woo, man; like I said before, I relate to Krazy Kat on a level only equal to Nemo. As crazy as it might sound, I feel the whole Ignatz/Krazy Kat/Officer Pup love triangle represents life at its purest. I’m going to stop from going into it too much further as I’ll sound like a nut, but lets just leave it at I tremendously relate to Krazy Kat. Besides this, there’s a music to Herriman’s linework that gets me fired up. Like Tintin, I can’t read a complete volume of Krazy Kat without getting an irresistible urge to draw.
5) Mike Allred: This guy really needs a larger square and I’ll admit I nearly broke my “letting it go” rule when I realized I didn’t give him enough space, but whatever, I’m living with it. Like Crumb, I remember reading Madman #1 (the Tundra issue) at Santa Monica’s Superior Comics (R.I.P) and thinking it was a standard superhero comic. Yet when I saw it was in duo tone with a protagonist who ate someone’s eyeball, then spent the rest of the issue feeling awful about it, my perception on what you could do with comics (specifically superheroes) was forever changed. Plus I’ve discovered a whole bunch of other artists, bands and movies from the letters column. Good times.
6) Hugo Pratt: I’ve had a fondest for Hugo Pratt for a really long time, but my obsession with his stuff really kicked in on this year’s trip to Angouleme. I was looking through a massive tome of his work and developed an addiction for his stuff. Upon my return I tried to get whatever I could in English, only to discover it was pretty much a Quixotic pursuit. That said, I think Corto Maltese is the ultimate human being and we should all hope to end up like him. Take that, Batman!
7) France: Yeah, I know, I know. It’s true, tho. My trip there this past year changed my entire life. It really inspired me to focus on what’s most important in my life: family, friends, drawing and writing. Where I am now to where I was before that trip are entirely different places. In some ways, I’m a very different dude. In others I’m exactly the same, but whatever. Thanks, France.
8) Pablo Picasso: I was always drawn to Picasso’s work almost more than any fine artist and it wasn’t until years later did I discover he was a huge fan of comics. He allegedly even died with only one regret, never pursuing cartooning. His paintings were also the first to make me realize the massive power art has with an ability to change entire countries or alter one person’s perceptions.
9) My Parents: Yes, I realize this is pretty cheesy, but it’s true. If it weren’t for those two, I would never have drawn in the first place. Furthermore, they always encouraged me to pursue it, even when they probably shouldn’t. If I have any success in my artistic pursuits, it’s their fault. So blame them if you don’t like what I draw.
10) Joost Swarte: While I am pretty easy to please by almost anybody who can master the Ligne Claire style, Joost Swarte takes it so much further. The guy has such a brilliant mind for design outside of comics so what he brings is beyond what a lot of people can begin to be capable of. Like Herriman, I feel his work has a certain music to it. Unlike Herriman, I can’t place exactly what it is. All I know is it sings to me and forces me to push a pencil.
11) Erik Larsen: I was on a trip to Montana with my dad and grandfather when I first encountered Larsen’s stuff. There was a magazine stand in the hotel we were staying at and every morning for three days my grandfather gave me a little money to buy a few comics with. I grabbed whatever I could get my hands on, which, as I recall, was an issue of Justice League International, Hot Stuff, Ghost Rider Classics and, most importantly, Amazing Spider-Man #349. That last book blew my mind. I noticed something looked different than usual with Spider-Man. And I knew I dig it. For the first time, I noticed comics were drawn by distinct human beings and not giant computers or robots or whatever you think as a kid. I was hooked. Big time. Whatever this guy did I had to buy. I loved his run on Amazing, couldn’t get enough of his Revenge of the Sinister Six and was completely stunned by his new comic, Savage Dragon. And you know, at first I didn’t even realize Savage Dragon wasn’t a Marvel book. It actually took Spawn #10 to make me figure out what Image meant. Once it all gelled together his run on Savage Dragon changed what I wanted to do with comics. Sure, it would be fun to play with Marvel and DC’s toys, but, man, I wanted to build my own sandbox.
12) Geof Darrow: I remember when I was a kid I couldn’t afford to buy a bunch of comics, so I’d often look at covers and imagine what the comics were like. As time went on, I earned my own money and was - heck, still am - happy to blow them on funnybooks. However, if there’s anyone out there who still keeps that sense of imagination going, it’s Darrow. While his comics body of work isn’t huge, what he has really spins the wheels in my head. He crams so much detail and life into the background of his work, I always wonder what else is going on in the worlds he builds. It inspires me to try to figure it out and, in turn, make something new.
13) Black and White Mickey Mouse Cartoons: We had a video tape of old cartoons growing up, a compilation of a bunch of old Disney stuff, and I wouldn’t stop watching it. In specific, there was a Mickey Mouse cartoon called The Mad Doctor that didn’t look anything like other Disney cartoons I was watching. It was black and white, creepy as Hell and had a pretty sinister villain. If anything, it scared me, but that fear also got me psyched. It was sort of a gateway drug to other old cartoons, most of all the Fleischer Brothers. To this day if I watch the Mad Doctor I get really fired up. I’ll say this, though, if it’s not black & white, I just don’t give a shit. There’s a disconnect there I can’t get over. Bonus points to my favorite Mickey Mouse cartoonist, Floyd Gottfredson. His early strips, collected only in the banned Uncensored Mouse comics, are some of the absolute greatest comics by anybody.
14) Moebius: Oh, man; I do not have the time to get into everything Jean Giraud/Moebius means to me. I really should have made two artistic influence maps - one that’s a giant picture of Moebius and one that’s everyone else on here. The funny thing is if you look at my stuff, it doesn’t resemble him in the slightest. I still feel the guy is The Greatest Artist In Any Medium and way beyond brilliant. He never does the same thing twice and even the characters he revisits, he always approaches in a new way. I also truly feel he’s consistently twenty years ahead of all other comics. The biggest names today are just catching up to stuff he was doing in the 1980s. Along those lines: talk about a motivator, like Herge the guy hasn’t made a boring comic since 1969. He’s in his seventies and producing the best comics of his career. Have you seen the new Arzak? Could YOUR grandpa draw that?! I don’t think so!
15) Yves Chaland: Like Herge and Joost Swarte, Chaland is a guy who has beyond master the Ligne Claire art style I love so damn much. Unlike them, he died at a tragically young age and doesn’t have nearly the body of work either of them does. What he does have is brilliant and criminally not in print in the US. Whether it’s his own Freddy Lombard to reinterpretation of the famous European bellhop, Spirou, Chaland inspires me to work a lot harder than I am. Perhaps more than I’m capable of doing. Yet to think the guy was so young and yet so damn talented, well, it gives one a goal to aspire to, no matter how far from reality it seems.
16) Osamu Tezuka: Talk about prolific. Someone mentioned to me he would have had to do around 12 pages every day of his life since birth to finish all that he did. Now, granted, he did have a load of assistants, but even still Tezuka produced more comics than just about anybody, maybe even Jack Kirby. He also never let himself settle in any one genre. The guy leaped from fun sci-fi adventure to blood-chilling horror to samurai showdowns and noir mystery. My favorite work of his is Black Jack, the long-running story of the world’s greatest, yet unlicensed surgeon. I spoke at length about why I love Black Jack on Neon Monster, so check that out for further reading.
17) Al Columbia: Like I said, those B&W Mickey Mouse cartoons got me obsessed with 20-30s B&W tunes in general. To an extent they’re forever burned in the back of my brain. If said brain portion ever had a mad fever dream, the result would be Al Columbia. His work is equally frightening and inspiring to me. The mystery behind him - the dude’s a major recluse - only goes to further my fascination with his work. Unfortunately, it’s hard to come by, as he’s notorious for destroying his art before it sees print. The only example in print I’m aware of would probably be Fantagraphic’s recent Pim & Francie release. State of his backlist aside, the guy manages to charge up that deeply buried sensation those old cartoons gave and continue to give me in a way no other modern artist is capable of doing.
18) Carl Barks: I first found Carl Barks through his character, Uncle Scrooge, through the Disney Afternoon program, Ducktales. When I got older, I was interested in what came before and I discovered volumes upon volumes of comics that blew away anything Ducktales had to offer. Carl Barks created Uncle Scrooge and the majority of his supporting characters. Yet what I still gleam onto isn’t so much the characters themselves, but the overall experience of the comics. Barks is capable of making even the shortest story feel like a major epic. Each and every Scrooge story he put his hands on feel like it belongs along side the work of Herman Melville or Rudyard Kipling. The guy knows how to tell a tale.
19) Andy Warhol: Like Picasso, Warhol’s work and philosophies showed me a lot of what art is capable of and just what could even be art. The answer to both of those conundrums is everything. I don’t agree with a lot of the things he’s done, said or how he’s treated people, but in the end I’m still fascinated with the guy. People abuse the phrase “larger than life” like its going out of style, but I feel he truly represents it. In a way, he seems more like a character out of a book than someone who actually existed.
20) CC Beck: Yeah, so Captain Marvel is the greatest superhero of all time. I like a lot of superheroes, but seriously, folks; he’s as good as it gets. Specifically in the 1940s run of Captain Marvel Adventures. The funny thing is I barely knew who he was for years. It wasn’t all that long ago a friend lent me his bound copies of said comics and I became completely enamored. For a character coming up in the first half of the twentieth century, it came as a huge surprise he didn’t spent a ton of time punching out villains. He more so dealt with odd situations, like a city being covered in bread yeast or gods repelling the law of gravity because they felt it was dumb. His inherent whimsy keeps him so much more interesting than a lot of his contemporaries and makes me hope he’ll once again get his due. Of course, it’s Beck who executed all this flawlessly. He wrote and drew a character who basically built the Pixar model of stories made for children, yet perfect for adults. It’s a balance incredibly hard to pull of, but Beck made it happen decades before we were thinking of it.