Responsive Comics

The other month I was staring at the Diamonds Previews interface that I hacked up last year. Its main purpose is to allow me (and anybody else) to go through the monthly listings rapidly, without all that clicking and stuff.

I was wondering: Has CSS Flexbox technology progressed to the point where the interface could be transformed “responsively” (i.e., via CSS selectors) from the wide design above to something that fits on a cell phone. It would require a completely different layout; shifting from the three column layout with many sub-boxes into a single column where some of the boxes would move up and some down and some become a line of buttons here and and and…

The answer seems to be: Nope. While googling for this stuff, everybody seemed to be saying “just add a div outside the other div and then div it up and then you can sort of move some bits around. If that div is placed before that div”.

CSS still, after 20 years, sucks at layout.

*sigh*

But once I had started tinkering with this, I couldn’t just give up, so I just wrote a bunch of JS to transform the layout, and presto:

So purdy! So UX!

And so I started wondering whether this might make sense as an app, so I wrapped it up in Cordova and shipped it over to Google…

Who rejected it outright because of copyright violations. “But,” I said, “this is like a sales catalogue and isn’t it fair use to show covers in a sales catalogue, man? Man?” And they said “nope; go away”.

While waiting for them to reject the app, I started thinking about… sharing… “Wouldn’t it be nice to make it possible for people to ‘curate’ lists and share these with others?”, so I read up on Firebase and presto: “Curate” button.

Firebase is surprisingly nice, and has a lot of documentation. The main problem is that Firebase covers so many, many use cases that trying to find the correct approach for Goshenite entailed scratching my head for a few hours.

But when the app rejection arrived I just thought, “eh, whatevs”, so it’s a bit lacking in features that are probably not going to be implemented, so it’s more of a toy than anything.

The source code can be found on Github, as usual.

Bookshelf Porn

I enjoy those shelf porn posts that pop up from time to time (“Ooo! Books! Comics! Avarice!”) so I thought I’d do one, too, since I just got this fabulous bookcase and is just about finished sorting stuff out to put in it.

But first I had to rip out the baseboard so that the shelf could fit neatly to the wall. Look at this awesome wallpaper design I found behind it:

So awesome.

Wall ready.

Shelf installed!

Yes, it’s the same colour as that car down there.

Most of these comics have been living in shortboxes in a cupboard for the last few years, and the problem is, of course, how to select the stuff I want to stare at in the living room. You have to have some kind of system, don’t you? Yes. So I went for…

Japanese comics.

Raw and Raw-associated stuff.

Alternative weeklies.

Pap-pap comics.

And Drawn & Quarterly, Uncivilized, Picturebox and stuff like that. Leaving most Fantagraphics stuff to languish in the bookcase in the office.

And while rooting and sorting, I inevitably found an entire stack of comics that I’ve bought twice (or more). Does everybody do this? I think I’ll drag them over to the used bookstore.

Since I’m re-buying (and the re-reading without knowing) so many comics, perhaps I should just consciously re-read comics more. And since they’re now prominently displayed within arms reach (I have long arms), perhaps that’s going to happen.

Sure.

Gosh

I added some further improvements to my Javascript-based “quick scan” Diamonds Previews catalogue site: Goshenite.The main tweaks is to make it a bit more responsive (with a spinner when the cover images haven’t been preloaded), as well as a way to “favourite” certain publishers.

If you click a publisher name (up to the left), it’ll become green, and all comics from that publisher will be displayed, no matter what the selection settings are.

These publishers will also be sorted first when you visit the site.  So if you’re massively interested in Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics, and mildly interested in everything else, you’d favourite those two, and leave the selection settings to “First Issues” only.  That way you can just use the Right key to go through the catalogue quickly: First all the comics from the publishers you are interested in, and then the first issues from all the rest.

Not the Best Comics of 2017

After spending so much time last year on that Fantagraphics project, I amassed a huge backlog of comics that I just didn’t have time to read. I guess if I were to put that backlog into a stack, it’d be over two meters high.

As usual, some were more interesting than others, and those books migrate to that little shelf over there, and since I finally finished with the backlog today (Comix Inbox Zero!) and that shelf is full, I thought it might be fun to have a little peek at these comics.

Weirdly enough, virtually none of these “comics of interest” were published this year. And it’s not because I haven’t been getting new stuff, I think? Has it been a lighter year than usual? In any case, I’ll just exclude the handful of new comics to have the title of this blog post make more sense.

Right?

Right.

Waterwise by Joel Orff (Alternative)

Alternative had a huge sale earlier this year, and I basically bought everything I didn’t already have. Lots of nice stuff, but like with Top Shelf, most of it just isn’t very interesting. Most of it is a bit on the quotidian side… like Fantagraphics in the 90s, not Fantagraphics in the teens.

This book (from 2004) was a pleasant surprise. The artwork has a slight Richard Sala vibe, although not as accomplished. It’s a simple but somehow mysterious and tense tale.

Utgrävningen by Max Andersson (Kartago)

Readers of the Fantagraphics (there’s that word again) anthology Zero Zero from the 90s will be familiar with some of this material.

Andersson has apparently been working away at this hefty tome for a couple of decades. It consists of his dream imagery stitched together into a kind of cohesive narrative. Well, cohesive if you squint at it.

It’s a very handsome book with larger reproductions of this material than I’ve seen before, and reading the scenes feels very much like dreaming. Some of the scenarios are so much like my own dreams that it can be jarring sometimes.

Since this was published in 2016, I assume that somebody will pick it up for publishing in English soonish. To not do that would be weird.

Kjære Rikard by Lene Ask (No Comprendo)

Speaking of translations, this book was translated and published in the UK last year.

It’s a rare epistolary comic based on (apparently; I haven’t checked) real letters between a missionary and one of his children left back at home in the 1890s. It’s really quite heartbreaking, and it’s easy to see why it was picked up in the UK.

Mutiny Bay by Antoine Cossé (Breakdown)

Speaking of both the UK and olden times, this one is about Magellan and a mutiny, and again, it presents itself as being a true story. And again I’m too lazy to do any research.

In any case, it doesn’t really matter: It’s funny and affecting, and the artwork is deliciously lumpy, which befits this somewhat oddly structured tale. Cossé depicts the events irreverently and manages to provide a non-clichéd look at a theme often depicted before in all kinds of media (mutineers at sea back in the days).  Arr!

The Greatest of Marlys! by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

This is an expanded version of a collection of Barry’s weekly comic strip from the late 80s to the 90s. How expanded is it, though? I’ve got the earlier edition here…

Uhm… let’s see… I went through the first 30 pages, and I couldn’t really see any additional strips. Is it expanded at the end? Hm… Nope, went through the last 20 pages, and it’s all the same.

Well, anyway, re-reading Lynda Barry is always a pleasure.

I remember back in the 90s when I would stumble onto an independent book store and a dusty corner where they’d have collections of alternative weekly comics: Life in Hell by Matt Groening, Sylvia by Nicole Hollands, Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel, and, of course Lynda Barry. It was like stepping into an alternate universe where comics were just better. But these collections seemed to have spottier distribution than comics that were part of the normal comics universe, so I missed out on a lot.

Some years back I finally decided that I must have all Lynda Barry, and I got all the collections from ebay. And three minutes later Drawn & Quarterly announced that they’d republish everything.

*sigh*

The lesson here is: Buy good stuff earlier.

Anyway, anybody writing about Barry mentions that she does a pitch-perfect recollection of what it’s like to grow up, which is true. Her work is funny and touching and it’s all brimming with emotion. It’s almost exhausting to read, because you get so involved. But since everybody already mentions that, I’m just going to skip past all that and note that I find Barry’s artwork to be absolutely beautiful. Her line and the way she depicts expressions and movement is just so engaging.

Which is why I find the strips that are supposedly drawn by the children themselves rather less riveting. The writing is still there, but when confronted by the page to the left there, my eyes can’t wait until they reach the right page there.

It’s not that this is horrible or anything, but it’s a thing. For me, at least.

It’s a wonderful book.

š! edited by David Schilter and various (Grafiskie stasti)

Speaking of “buy good stuff”: I’ve been picking up issues of this A6-size anthology here and there over the years, and I suddenly realised that I could just order them all from Latvia directly. So I did, and here’s as many of them that would fit into my lap.

The thing is, they’re all good, and they’re all interesting.

The artists are mostly from the Baltics, I guess? (I haven’t read the endmatters of any of the issues.) But artists from all over the world are represented, and it’s all fortunately in English.

With such a disparate range of contributors, it’s amazing how cohesive the entire project feels. While there is no specific “š!” style, I there are some tendencies: There’s often some abstraction to the stories; it’s more art focused than text focused; the narratives are often somewhat vague; and there’s an interest in hand-drawn marks: While some of the pieces seem to have been through a computer at some point, most of them have that very “touched by human hands” look.

Lots of pencil work (coloured and otherwise), and seldom even computer lettering (which is a scourge plaguing most comics these days).

Beyond that, these objects are just fun to read. The small format contributes to that, of course: You’re turning pages faster than you would in a larger format book. There’s also no separating pages between each piece.  Those pages sometimes lends a ponderous self-important air to an anthology. “Stop here and think about what you’ve just read.”

And finally, just the thoughtful courtesy to have the artist’s name at the bottom of each and every page: I love that. Every time I go “huh; that’s great, I wonder who…” and then I cast my eyes down and there it is. It’s a small thing, but I absolutely loathe having to go back to the table of contents to get the info: That’s an annoying disruption while reading.

So, like: All thumbs up.

By the way, I though it was slightly amusing to find Berliac’s story here snuggling up to an HTMLFlowers piece (separated only by a one-page strip) because I was reading this exchange the day before. It’s a small comics world.

You can subscribe to Kuš! comics.

Den svarta undulaten by Lars Sjunnesson (Sanatorium)

I picked up quite a lot of Swedish comics at random. I haven’t really been paying much attention to Scandinavian comics.

And quite a lot of the books were on the “well, OK then” side, but this one was really funny. It’s a slight work, but the wild artwork sells it.

I mean, how can you not love that diagram that shows how a male human works? (The solution, as she explains on the right, is to kill all men. Darn tootin’.)

Det är svårt att vara Elvis i Uppsala by Nina Hemmingsson (Kartago)

This is a collection of Hemmingsson’s shorter pieces, and the title means something like “It’s difficult being Elvis in Uppsala” (which is a smallish city). After reading the story of the same name I think everybody’ll agree.

But not only is she an Elvis fan, but she’s also a Kiss fan. Yes.

These are apparently autobiographical stories, mostly about growing up, but also some about being grown-up and depressed. They veer wildly between hilarity and bone-crushing sadness, which makes for an exhausting but very satisfying package.

Her artwork is very distinctive and becomes better and better as time passes. Not that it’s bad at the start, but it’s a bit basic, and becomes richer after a while.

Det finns ingenstans att fly by Ester Eriksson (Kartago)

Apparently Kartago is the major publisher for good comics in Sweden, because here’s yet another book published by them. This one could translate to “There’s No Escape” and is about depression.

The clinical kind, involving numerous visits to the hospital.

Even including slightly redacted facsimiles of admittance paperwork and journals. It’s all quite harrowing, and it’s a very powerful work.

You Don’t Get There From Here by Carrie McNinch (self-published)

And speaking of depression… but of a less debilitating kind: I started reading McNinch’s autobio mini only last year, so I’m a newcomer here, but I went and bought all the back issues, so I’ve been reading her life quite a lot the past few months. No matter how good an author is: I get tired of reading the same voice for a long period of time, so I’ve tried spacing them out. But these comics are kinda addictive.

“Just one more before bedtime” I’ll say to myself and then find myself unable to not grab another one.

Anyway, I’m now all caught up. I find it somewhat difficult to say just why I like reading these so much. There’s generally one strip per day, and they’re mostly somewhat repetitive (cappuccino, jogging, cuddle cats), but I find myself settling in to the rhythm of the strip, and then something (like the above) disrupts the rhythm completely, and it’s shocking.

That her comics are so clear, pretty and easy to read doesn’t hurt. I mean, from a storytelling point of view, they’re kinda perfect.

Beach Boys by Ralf König (Bogfabrikken)

I scored a massive stack of König books from a used bookstore. These were all published in Denmark in the late 80s and early 90s, and they’re about life in gay Germany.

So it’s pages and pages and pages of this where you have people bitching and talking about sex and life and stuff, and while it does tip over into sit-com-land quite a bit, it’s all very amusing. And sometimes when he takes time to do longer stories, he can even be moving. Now I just have to find the couple of books he’s done that wasn’t in this haul…

The Amazing “True” Story of a Teenage Single Mom by Katherine Arnoldi (Graymalkin Media)

This is an oddball book from 1998 (republished in 2015) that feels like it doesn’t fit in any category.

The artwork shifts randomly between quite accomplished scratchboard-like pages and traditionally inked, but more basic pages. This is apparently an autobiography and tells a harrowing story.

The obvious point of comparison for the story is artists like Debbie Drechsler, but while Drechsler is also an interesting, complex artist, while most of the pages here are rather basic. Still, it’s an engaging book and deserves more attention, I think.

Or, looking at the pull quote list, perhaps it’s really well known already, but just not in venues I’m familiar with? Seventeen magazine and Entertainment Weekly.

Get Out Your Hankies by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized)

Hey, this is from December 2016, so it’s not that old…

Anyway, it’s another chunk of Bell’s “diary” comics.

And as usual, it’s wonderful. I love the dialogue and I love the artwork. Endlessly inventive. I could read these forever.

Lake Jehovah by Jillian Fleck (Conundrum)

I seem to remember this book being on a lot of “best of 2016” lists, and it’s difficult to disagree.

It’s a very strange story about the end of the world and prophets and stuff, mostly played for yucks.

But the work has an emotional resonance. I’m not quite sure what it’s really about, but looking at it now, I feel drawn towards re-reading it to find out just what.

Laid Waste by Julia Gförer (Fantagraphics)

I’ve always been intrigued by Gförer’s artwork.

The rendering has an oldee-tymee feeling while the layouts are anything but. It creates an interesting frisson.

The story is apocalyptic and fittingly overwrought. But also funny. The funny bits makes the dramatic parts even more distressing, somehow.

Looking For America’s Dog by Steven Weissman (Fantagraphics)

Is this the same Weissman that did Yikes? If so, that’s a rare huge artistic change: Those comics were absolutely nothing like this one.

Which is about the Obamas (in a different universe, perhaps). There’s a plot of sorts…

… but there’s also a lot of (funny) asides and formal experimentation. I don’t recall seeing this popping up on those “best of” lists last year, which is surprising: It’s got everything.

L’arab de futur by Riad Sattouf (Minuskel)

This is a world-wide success… so I was naturally quite sceptical. But it’s as good as all those other people say it is. Which has to happen sometimes, I guess.

After reading it, I googled the French reception to it, and one common theme was “yes, it’s a good work, but the problem is that everybody who’s read it believe that they now know everything about Arabs”. And I can see why they’re saying that, because it’s such a convincing work. But Sattouf is very careful to depict absolutely everything through the eyes and understanding of his child protagonist, so I think that’s a bit unfair.

Can’t wait to see what happens in the third volume, when Sattouf moves to the French suburbs.

Munch by Steffen Kverneland (SelfMadeHero)

Somehow I ended up buying the English version of this book instead of the Norwegian. I think Internet shopping had something to do with it.

Anyway, the English version is published by SelfMadeHero, who seem to be set on pumping out uninspired biographies about artists these days. (Whenever a genre becomes hot, there’s a bunch of publishers that jump on the bandwagon, and biographical comics are in right now.) So I was expecting a snooze fest, but it’s really engaging.

You get Kverneland’s angular, distressed figures paired with recreations of Munch’s works, and it really works. It’s funny and it’s interesting.

The funniest bits are these discussions between the author and a friend while doing research for the book, and they break up the narrative nicely.

I should be less sceptical.

Nulteliv by Espen Friberg & Fredrik Larsen (No Comprendo)

This unassuming digest-sized book has the look of a Norwegian digest from the 80s, which is part of the joke: It’s yet another book about growing up.

But this one is completely insane and hilarious: They use the schematically basic artwork to their advantage. The cheap look sells the absurd shenanigans. These kinds of “coming of age” books are usually written by the “smart, sensitive nerds”, but these guys are nothing of the kind: Stupid and brash. It’s all so refreshing.

And funny.

Red Eye, Black Eye by K. Thor Jensen (Alternative)

This must have been part of the Alternative sale haul…

It’s yet another (apparent) autobio book. This one is about Jensen getting thrown out of his apartment and deciding to go on the road for a couple of months. So the things you expect to happen happen: This isn’t a very original book, but it’s funny and engaging.

Speaking of being sceptical: This one has a writer/artist team (not a good sign); it’s from Top Shelf (Top Purveyors of Inoffensive Books) and it’s from that sale.

And… it’s just about what you’d expect. A kooky girl going around doing what a kooky girl would in an independent film about a kooky girl. Only on paper instead.

But somehow Colleen Coover’s artwork (sort of) saves it, and it becomes interesting almost despite itself.

Hm. Actually, looking through it now, I can’t really understand why it ended up on that “hey, that’s pretty good” shelf. But I have to trust my judgement that this was, indeed, not bad.

Anna & Froga by Anouk Ricard (Drawn & Quarterly)

But to end this too-long blog post, I have no problem remembering why this one landed on that shelf: It’s so darn cute.

It’s got these weird, weird interstitial pages…

… and then the comics themselves that are just so darn cute. Very childlike and sometimes moving. And way too few pages, but fortunately there are more books in this series.

And that’s it! The comics backlog is empty! I’m now not going to read any comics for a few years, because I’m comicsed out.

Well, except that there’s a new shipment arriving on Monday… Oy vey.

BD Junk

Some months back I got a new record player, and this prodded me into finally re-sampling my old records (that I had originally converted to MP3 back in 1997-ish) so that I could have better-sounding old records. And in FLAC.

IT MAKES SENSE!!!1!

A lot of the old vinyl are 7″ singles and 12″ EPs, so while recording this stuff I have to be in the proximity of the record player. I mean, I have to flip the records approx. every four minutes. So what could I do to keep me entertained while working hard, so hard? It had to be something that allows scatter-brainedness (so not reading a novel), but not so boring that the whole thing becomes arduous (so not watching TV).

Then I remembered: I had shipped lots of old comics from home last year. And among these was a box of albums so bad that my 13-year-old self had put them in a box at the very back of the storage closet, never to be seen again.

Until now.

Behold! The stack of horrors!

I vaguely remember sorting these out from my comics for storage reasons: The shelves in my room had grown too full, so I picked out the stuff that was so bad that I was never ever going to read it again. Looking at the publication dates of these albums, that happened in 1982, so these are European comics from the 70s.

Let’s have a look at them and figure out whether I had great taste as a 13-year-old or what. (Spoiler: Yes.)

Les Gentlemen by Alfredo Castelli and Ferdinando Tacconi.

(I guess they thought “Aristokratene” was a good Norwegian translation of “Les Gentlemen”.)

This is a humorous Italian Bond rip-off mainly distinguished by a peculiar tick od the artist’s. See if you can spot it.

Yes…

You’re getting it…

That’s right.

Virtually everybody is drawn from exactly the same angle.

In most panels, everybody is placed in a horizontal tableau with their faces drawn in a three-quarter angle facing the audience.

And everybody also looks traced from stills of various actors. Perhaps the artist only had a single photo of each actor?

It’s unnerving.

The storylines are pure stupidity, of course, but it does have its amusing moments.

Here they are making their three-quarter-view way down a mountain side using roller skates on a railway track. It’s mostly like that until they run out of pages.

Archie Cash by Brouyère and Malik.

(I guess they thought “Charlie” was a good Norwegian translation of “Archie”.)

Hm… doesn’t that remind you of an actor… But who?

Who could it be!?

Yes.

It’s rambling and incoherent and tries very very hard to be tough and violent.

Dani Futuro by Carlos Gimenez and Victor Mora.

(I guess they thought “Danny” was a good Norwegian translation for “Dani”.)

Gimenez is probably best known these days for the insanely over-rated Paracuellos. “needle-sharp characterizations and knack for narrative make Paracuellos comparable to Maus and Persepolis. His artwork may surpass them.” I mean, there’s some good stuff in Paracuellos, but it is repetitive and somewhat shallow.

Dani Futuro, on the other hand, rips off pretty much everything it can think off, like Lost in Space and Valerian…

Even David Bowie doesn’t escape unscathed.

But there’s an undeniable charm to some of Gimenez’ pages…

… veering off into psychedelia every so often.

Since I bought four of these, that may mean that I did enjoy them when I was, like, six, but by 13 the bloom was off.

There’s some fun critique of Capitalism in the later albums, though.

Il fanciullo rapito by Gattia and Zanotto.

(I guess they though “Kidnapped” was a good Norwegian translation of… Hey! It is!)

It’s a Classics Illustrated thing.

And it’s deathly dull. Another score for my 1982 self.

Moby Dick by Ollivier and Gillon.

Another Classics Illustrated. This one’s more French.

And it’s not that bad. I mean, it has a big whale. That’s got to count for something.

Andrax/Kronan by … er… There’s absolutely no credits anywhere to be found. Google seems to say that Kronan is by Spaniard Jaime Brocal Remohí while Andrax is by Jordi Bernet? Huh?

Is this Bernet? I guess it could be, but it doesn’t look much like his work in, for instance, Torpedo.

So we’ve got a post-apocalyptic thing going on with savage swords of Conan, I mean Andrax, and it’s all printed on toiled paper.

Very absorbent paper which makes thin lines disappear into the paper, I guess.

It’s pretty much unreadable drek.

Morgan Kane by… again, no credits.

And you can see why. Even as schlocky western comics go, it’s dire. The copyright seems to indicate that it may have originated in Switzerland.

Mystiska 2:an by Rolf Gohs.

It’s a Swedish comic, which may be stretching the “BD” designation a bit much…

“A comic about violence”. So why did this comic end up in the Box of Crap? I remembered nothing at all about it, but I was immediately struck by Gohs’ really sharp artwork. So very black blackness.

But the comic itself is pretty much a complete mess. It’s about these two boys cavorting around in too short shorts and trying to intervene when another boy gets roughed up by his father. Much social realist. And then the artist himself enters into the story and they have a sleepover in the treehouse.

That was so head-scratchingly weird that I had to google Gohs, and it turns out that the last entry (a few years after this landed in The Box) in this series featured one of these boys as the boyfriend of a grown-up man, which caused such a scandal that the magazine it appeared in was shut down.

“The Men of Adventure” by Various.

This is a series of presumably edumacational comics about historical settings and the men who had adventures in them. So we get a Zulu war, the Boxer rebellion and Lawrence of Arabia.

The latter is by Tacconi… isn’t that the guy who did Les Gentlemen?

It could be.

I do see a certain resemblance!

But then the artist goes and mixes it up by doing some of these faces mirrored, so I guess it’ll have to remain a mystery.

These albums aren’t very good.

A von Daniken series by I CAN”T BE BOTHERED TO LOOK IT UP.

Yes, there are aliens…

… and Native Americans, and it’s unreadable drek. Apparently German.

El Baron de Munchhausen by de la Fuente and Cornejo.

(Apparently they thought “Münchhausen” was a good Norwegian translation of “El Baron de Munchhausen”.)

I’ll go out on a limb here and guess that this is Spanish. It’s a series of short vignettes of typical Munchhausian nonsense, and it’s well-drawn and kinda amusing.

Éric Castel by Reding and Hugues.

(I guess they thought that “Eric” was a good Norwegian translation of “Éric”.)

Yes, it’s a football comic.

There’s some drama on the fields…

… but also pages and pages and pages of people footballing.

There was so much of this stuff back in the 70s: An endless number of sports-related comics, but most of them were published more cheaply than this series.

It’s not all football games, though: There’s also a storyline of sorts where Castel befriends a poor boy…

… and sponsors him to become a professional football player. (Phew!) So it’s both a wish fulfilment thing for the audience (the demographic is presumably pictured above) in addition to offering the thrill of reading about football matches in comics form.

Dracurella by Julio Ribera.

This is a really inventive series about Dracula’s kind-hearted adopted daughter Dracurella.

She lives with a tail-less dragon in a domestic cave, and it’s all kinda amusing.

Pictured above the Dragon stealing appliances for Dracurella.

It’s very Spanish.

Very Spanish.

Gigantik by Victor Mora and J. Cardona

(I guess they thought that “Gigantic” was a good Norwegian translation of “Gigantik”.)

You remember Mora from Dani Futuro up there? Right? Right. This is more Spanish sci-fi nonsense, but with a different artist. So you have lots of robots…

… a gigantic space station…

… and more robots. And fighting.

It’s not without charms, but it’s … what’s the word I’m looking for… Oh, yeah. “Bad.”

Al et Brock: Les Casseurs by Denayer and Duchateau.

Finally! A Franco-Belgian comic in this Box of Sadness.

It’s about two comically mismatched special agents.

One is fat, one is thin. One is messy, one is tidy. You know the drill. Hup hup hup.

It’s drawn in the Standard French Boys Adventure Comics style, and it’s not displeasing to the eye, but it’s all so incredibly derivative. Even as a 13-year-old this was too boring for me, and I say that as somebody who didn’t put his Ric Hochet comics into the Box of Forgetfulness. And Ric Hochet is unbelievably boring.

Which makes this believably boring?

Is that how this works?

Anyway! You made it to the end! I made it to the end!

And I finished re-sampling all my old vinyl.

So thank you, Box of Horrors. You’re going to the used book store now, I think, because I don’t have room for you here, either.

BD80: Tendre Violette

Tendre Violette by Servais & Dewamme (1981)

Both Jean-Claude Servais (the artist) and Gérard Dewamme (the writer) are Belgian, which makes a first for this week’s little trip through Franco-Belgian comics, I think? All the other ones have been French. Very French.

These stories were originally serialised in the Belgian (À suivre) magazine.

I’m not sure whether I’d term this a very Belgian comic (after all, no big noses), but it’s certainly a pastoral series. The forest is a tangible presence throughout, as well as the seasons, foraging for food and hunting for bunny rabbits. (As well as catching leeches in this very efficient manner, later to be sold to the apothecary. (When did they stop using leeching in Belgium, anyway?))

Our heroine throughout the three albums is Felicia, who we can see wandering through the forest: A woman of nature. The Danish name for this album is “Felicia and Liberty”, or something. Freedom is what’s important for her, and she shuns convention and all those nasty things that follow from being tied down.

The vast majority of women who appear throughout the pages are like the sour-faced biddies to the left, while the men are mostly gregarious and fun-loving.

And then things shift suddenly without… much reason, other than melodrama. Servais’ artwork can sometimes be difficult to read: It’s not clear why she’s suddenly on the ground, and it’s not clear why the villagers then decide to throw this very pregnant woman into a lake. (Spoilers: She survives, the baby doesn’t.)

The first book is a series of short stories, one more melodramatic than the other. The above is from when she tried to join a coven, but then she… stumbled while offering the blood to Satan… which made them angry… and the cat attacks her… but her own cat comes to her rescue…

I know.

In another story, she loses her memory (after getting hit over the head and then gets raped) and is then sold by the police (?) to an abbey (!?) to work as a slave (!?!).

I KNOW!

But still, you can’t deny the power of some of these pages. Servais’ detailed artwork with these almost traditional layouts: He has a tendency to make Felicia stick out of the panels, and going “full bleed” out into the margins of the book. (Quite unusual for its time.)

Felicia is constantly breaking through the confines of these, frankly, extremely silly and somewhat tedious stories.

Malmaison by Servais & Dewamme (1984)

I only bought the first of these albums as a teenager (presumably because I didn’t think Servais made interesting comics), but I got the next two albums now, because I was curious as to whether there’s be any development.

Indeed, the artwork seems to get even richer than in the first one. But using a “love montage”? It’s so cinematic, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

As for the story… Instead of being a bunch of (literally literally) unbelievable stories, there’s just one story that’s so monumentally moronic that I’m not going to bother writing anything about it.

Guess whether the dwarf up there is evil or not.

As in the first album, the pleasures here are from Servais’ artwork. As usual, Felicia is poking out of the panels all the time, but it’s especially effective in panels like this to emphasise their difference in heights.

Other pages look a bit like Servais has been studying Milo Manara’s layouts a bit too closely.

L’Alsacien by Servais & Dewamme (1986)

And then the Huns attack!

I read this book an hour ago, and I’ve already suppressed what it’s about… Uhm… Let’s see… While I’m thinking, just ponder the cosy scene in the forest above.

Oh, yeah, there was treason and revolt and stuff. Yeah. Nothing important, but note the excellent binding technique the French resistance uses for this traitor. And since they apparently had him tied up for several weeks, they presumably had to untie and tie him up again several times a day.

That’s dedication.

This series was republished in the naughts in an expanded version (in France), and in colour. These three albums became tomes 2-4, and new tomes 1 and 5-7 were added. Fortunately, these haven’t been translated to any language I read, so I’m able to resist the compulsion to get them, too.

Servais has published a large number of works over the years, and about half a dozen more have been translated to Danish. I wonder whether they have less groan-worthy plots than these Dewamme-written ones…

This post is part of the BD80 series.

BD80: Gotlib

Rhââ Lovely 1 by Gotlib (1976)

Gotlib was a prolific cartoonist, working from the mid-sixties until his recent death. He started out doing comics for the French Pilote magazine before co-founding two magazines, l’Echo des savanes and Fluide Glacial. Out of his dozens of albums, c. nothing has been translated to other languages.

Runepress made a go at it in the early 80s with these four albums, which collect work originally published at l’Echo (the first and third); the second was serialised in the music magazine Rock et Folk; and the fourth in Fluide. And it’s not difficult to see what attracted those weird Danes to this, er, corpus: It’s relentlessly scatological and weird.

But it’s not just poop and semen jokes for the fun of it. Gotlib, in these strips (originally published in 1973) makes fun of people trying to present a bourgeoisie front by showing that they, too, pick their noses and wipe their asses. (But do all French stand while wiping? Tardi draws it that way too…)

Oh, geez. Is this 9gag or something? This is a serious blog!

Or… perhaps not. Yes, I didn’t mention it in the introduction, but there’s a lot of phalluses, figurative or actual, in these comics.

Hm, the first few pages quotes here might leave the impression that it’s all pantomime, but it’s not. About half the pieces are these extremely wordy and very witty skits. At least the Danish versions are very funny, but I’m guessing the original Greek is also a bunch of laffs.

Hamster Jovial et ses louveteaux by Gotlib (1974)

OK, so we have poop jokes and silly word play: It sounds like wholesome fun that you’d see translated to all languages in the world and kept in print indefinitely, instead of Runepress making a go at it for two years and then Gotlib would never be seen again?

There’s a lot of sex jokes in these books, and I’m not going to excerpt the ruder ones. This is a family oriented blog! As Lambiek says, “Already risqué back in the 1970s many gags are nowadays perhaps even more disturbing to those who are easily offended.”

In this album, all the jokes are about a Scout leader and his flock, and if a Scouting/sex joke comic sounds like a major seller to you…

But, in general, it’s really, really silly and absurd.

Rhââ Lovely 2 by Gotlib (1977)

Things reach the apex of things-that-shouldn’t-be-posted-on-wordpress.com-ness in the third album. Here’s the least rude page:

And there’s a trip featuring Allah, Jehovah and the rest yukking it up and watching porn flicks.

The funniest strip is the Excorcist parody that features a possessed boy instead of a girl, but since the boy has a hard-on through the entire strip, I’ll just excerpt this gag instead. Yes, the possessed boy poured ink out the window onto the priest.  Did Mad Magazine do the same joke?

Pervers Pépère by Gotlib (1981)

After all this depravity, you might expect Gotlib to take it a notch up with something called “Pervers Pépère”, but it’s innocent in comparison.

There’s a lot of convoluted fart jokes. But by this time, it’s the 80s, and perhaps Gotlib felt the need to step back from the outrage.

Instead most of the jokes here are about the reader or the characters thinking that something involving genitalia is going to happen, but then it doesn’t. And that gives Pervers Pépère a laugh. So his perversity is that he doesn’t go for the sex…

But as with the un-hilarity of the implied rape threat above, most of these strips seem to be looking for a punchline without finding it. Instead we’re just presented with an absurd thing that Pervers Pépère does and then… nothing.

So, to recap: When Gotlib is virtually unpublishably obscene, he’s really funny, but when he’s not, he’s just not that funny. If this is the general gist of his career (and I’ve just read these four books, so this is a very uninformed assumption), then it’s not surprising that he remains unknown outside of France.

This post is part of the BD80 series.