Bastille Day

Published On July 14, 2010 | By Joe Gordon | Comics

Since today is the 14th of July (le quatorze Juillet), which marks the Fête Nationale – more commonly known as Bastille Day in the Anglophone world – we thought that was a perfect excuse (not that we need one, usually) to celebrate some of the great comics work which comes out of the French language bande dessinee publishing houses. Our own resident Continental Correspondent Wim has already selected (appropriately enough for the date) 14 recommended French comics titles to start us off yesterday and this morning. Now a few of us have settled back munching our croissants and picked out some Francophone comics which have particularly appealed to us over the years. Some went for original language work – even if they didn’t actually read much French (an advantage of reading a visual medium, you always have the art, regardless of your linguistic level of ability) – some of us for works by French creators we’ve read in translation (and as we’ve said before, we’d love to see more being translated for the English language market), on which note we again offer kudos to those fine publishers (folks like Fantagraphics, D&Q, Cinebook we’re looking at you here) who have been translating and bringing us some wonderful European comics work, may more follow your example.

Kenny Penman, FPI director & publisher of Blank Slate Books: I love the three volumes in this series, Peggy Adams’ Plus ou moins.  I freely admit I love it for the art – I can’t read a word! (on which note Peggy has some lovely art to browse on her website here)

(cover artwork for Plus ou moins…: L’Automne by and (c) Peggy Adams, published Les Éditions Atrabile)

And another I loved purely for the artwork is Sergent Laterreur by Touïs and Frydman, published by the famous L’Association:

Ian Rankin, bestselling author and long-time comics fan: My French was never really up to BD! I used to get Echo des Savane, which had BD and features. My son got into a kids’ BD called Kid Paddle, about a kid who lives his life as though in a video game. A lot of the jokes were visual and I became a fan. (Ian’s latest novel, Doors Open, is published by Orion and you can read a special Inspector Rebus short story here)

(cover to L’Echo des Savanes: Le Strip-Tease de Douze, from August 1989, cover by Wolinski, borrowed from the BD oubliées website)

Alex Fitch, broadcaster & reviewer of films & comics: The original Incal series first printed in the UK by Titan Books in the late 1980s was probably my first introduction to bande dessinée and to this day is still one of my favourites. I have to admit I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I didn’t have some strange desire to buy all of Titan’s Graphic Novels in the 80s, but I absolutely loved it when it came out – the heady mix of Science-Fiction, Fantasy and a quest for identity in an alien world. Moebius’ work on the title is some of the finest of his career, no doubt inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s rich and enigmatic scripts. It was probably the first time I saw nudity in comics, which combined with the intelligent story telling made me realise I was reading SF for adults, something that would go on to inform my enjoyment of Warren Ellis’ comics work but something I’ve rarely found in moving pictures. It’s no surprise that the creators tried to sue Luc Besson for similarities between The Incal and The Fifth Element; at least William Gibson and Ridley Scott admitted Moebius influence on the birth of cyberpunk…

(cover to L’Incal 1: L’Incal Noir, by Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky, published Humanoïdes Associés)

The original Incal’s 6 volumes tell an amazing adventure of mind altering experiences, strange characters and creatures and have a dreamlike quality I’ve rarely seen in other comics. I hope some English language publisher picks up the rights to the sequels, as I’d love to see how the series ends. I didn’t search out the prequel as The Metabarons never struck me as the most interesting parts of the story, particularly without Moebius’ involvement, but now Ladronn is drawing the final volumes, I’m looking forward to diving into the ‘Jodoverse’ once again… (Alex’s recent pieces are available as podcasts now, including theincluding the Gerald Scarfe special, Oscar Trillo and a Doctor Who celebration)

Pat Mills, writer, editor, Brit comics icon: Conquering Armies – Jean-Claude Gal and Jean-Pierre Dionnet . It came out in the 1970s from Metal Hurlant. There’s probably a collected edition out there of this massive book. I love it for all the reasons some Brit comic fans dislike it. It’s very detailed black and white with fabulous fantasy backgrounds that take me to the movies. There’s no main character, but this is compensated for by the stories and the tone which have a unique and magical ambience of their own.

(beautifully detailed interior art from Conquering Armies by Jean-Claude Gal and Jean-Pierre Dionnet, published Metal Hurlant and  later in English by Heavy Metal)

No super heroes here, no “McDonalds” quick black and white style and minimal backgrounds – this is a true labour of love. I recall Brit fans particularly disliked it because they thought it was “stiff”. They’re probably right and it matters not a jot to my appreciation of this brilliant work. It was my bible for art style on the early Slaines and a key source of inspiration for it . It still inspires me on my current French series – Requiem Vampire Knight.(the first two volumes of Pat’s Requiem Vampire Knight have been translated and published in English, with two more due this autumn. The Savage Critics has a good article on Conquering Armies, which appears to be out of print at the moment)

Matthew Badham, freelance writer and reviewer: I don’t really know that much about French comics. What I’ve seen, I like a lot.  One that I did pick up a few years ago is Maybe Later by (the Angoulême winning) Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian. They normally collaborate on a series called Monsieur Jean, but in Maybe Later, they’re working separately. It’s supposedly a journal of their experience of crafting a Monsieur Jean book, but it’s actually much more than that. It takes in their everyday lives, working processes and their doubts and insecurities about their respective places in the world. It also gives a glimpse ‘behind the scenes’ of the French comics industry, which I found fascinating. A cracking book, thoroughly recommended; Drawn and Quarterly translated it a few years ago into English and you can read a preview on the D&Q site.

Joe Gordon, editor FP blog: I was pondering which French comic to pick for my choice for today – Asterix seemed like an obvious choice, being the first French comic I (and I suspect many others) read, picked up alongisde the Tintin albums in the local library (they were also the first comics I tried to read actually in the French language as they were sometimes used in school classes too). I also thought about the excellent Guy Delisle (yes, I know, French Canadian, but still counts, surely?) for his excellent travel lit comics. But in the end I settled on Jacques Tardi, partly because I have long admired his work, partly because he is able to tackle different subject matters very well (from the action-adventure of Adele Blanc-Sec to hard boiled crime like West Coast Blues) and because with the always fine folks at Fantagraphics translating and publishing Tardi’s work in English several of his works are now easily accessible even to anyone who doesn’t read a word of French. A long-standing interest in the history of World War One and his own family history lead to his It Was the War of the Trenches, recently published in English and one of the most interesting comics on the period since Charley’s War in my book (reviewed here).

Garen Ewing, creator of the delightful Rainbow Orchid (a solid FP blog fave): Asterix was my introduction to comics and has remained with me ever since I first read it in the early 70s. My first book was ‘Asterix and the Roman Agent’ and I still think it is one of the very best of the series that Goscinny and Uderzo produced. Recently I’ve been looking again at Yves Chaland’s Freddy Lombard. My introduction to this character was via the pages of Heavy Metal in the 80s, and was probably the first time I was aware of a clear-line style beyond Hergé.

Just looking at his pages makes my heart beat faster! My third pick would be the work of Lewis Trondheim, which I didn’t come to until the early 2000s after I was sent a little sample collection of his work by NBM. I’ve become slightly obsessed by the Dungeon series but also really like the adventure of McConey the rabbit. I must also mention Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec – I picked up the Beast/Eiffel Tower books on a trip to New York in the late 90s and am full of anticipation for the new film from Luc Besson. Thank heavens for bande dessinée! Salut!

(Josette salutes the French Tricolor in this lovely sketch by Garen Ewing)

Andy Diggle, writer extraordinaire and one man who doesn’t mind being called a Loser: My bande dessinée pick for Bastille Day is Colin Wilson’s Dans L’Ombre Du Soleil trilogy from Glenat.

And in an extra Gallic-themed treat we’ve got Les Deux Robs – that’s Robs Davis and Jackson – who have very kindly sketched a couple of their favourite characters from French comics. Rob Jackson offers us up this cool depiction of an attacking Marvin from the popular Dungeon series:

(attacking Marvin from the Dungeon series, art by and (c) Rob Jackson)

And Rob Davis whips up a fab cover for an imaginary Tintin adventure, with something of a Mignola influence added to the Herge magic, methinks (suddenly I have an urge for a Hellboy/Tintin team-up!):

(art by and (c) Rob Davis, Tintin created by Herge and (c) Moulinsart)

And back to Garen Ewing once again (and why not?) for this cracking sketch of one of my favourite French comics creators’ characters, Jacques Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec (we can’t wait for the UK release of the film version and Fanta’s new printed editions):

(Adele Blanc-Sec sketch by Garen Ewing, Blanc-Sec created by and (c) Tardi)

And Geraint Ford takes a play on Major Grubert by the legendary Moebius, filtered via the cover design for Darwyn Cooke’s Parker (now that’s quite a mash-up combo!):

And a nice treat from Faz Choudhury –  PI Bob Fish and his assistant Le Jeune Albert, created by the great Yves Chaland:

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About The Author

Joe Gordon
Joe Gordon is ForbiddenPlanet.co.uk's chief blogger, which he set up in 2005. Previously, he was professional bookseller for over 12 years as well as a lifelong reader and reviewer, especially of comics and science fiction works.

6 Responses to Bastille Day

  1. Great list(s)! I have done a partial translation (maybe a third?) of Sergent Laterreur on Comix Influx: http://comixinflux.com/influx/show/7. Like militarily based, Krazy Kat Sundays drawn by Charles Schulz using draughtsmans tools, a vivid palette and copious amounts of LSD. Some great stuff in there.