Welcome to the January episode of The Comics Alternative‘s monthly Euro Comics series. That’s right, the January episode. As Derek explains during the opening of this show, he and Edward had planned on covering IDW Publishing works in translation that had been released in the last half of 2017, and doing so for their January episode. However, life got in the way again, and they had to delay the recording. Derek then sought out Dean Mullaney (editor of IDW’s EuroComics series) and Justin Eisinger (senior editor at IDW) to assist him with this show, but neither were available. So Derek decided to do the episode solo, something that he’s never done on the podcast before. And he hopes the results aren’t unlistenable.
After having to readjust for a few major life changes — including a new baby for first-time parents! — Edward and Derek are back with the monthly Euro Comics series. For November they discuss two graphic biographies devoted to early twentieth-century artists as well as a collection of surreal and experimental fiction. They start with Carlos Sampayo and Jose Muñoz’s Billie Holiday (NBM Publishing), a text that fully utilizes the somber, even noir uses of black-and-white (Muñoz’s art was an inspiration for Frank Miller’s Sin City, after all). Originally published by Fantagraphics in 1993, this work provides a skeletal overview of Holiday’s life and career, both its artistic highs and its drug-filled lows.
A much more detailed graphic biography is Jose-Luis Bocquet and Catel Muller’s Josephine Baker. Published by SelfMadeHero, this is an extensive look at Baker’s life and includes encyclopedic back matter that supplements the narrative. This is a more conventional biography than the one on Billie Holiday, a chronological accounting from a more objective, detached point of view. Perhaps most notable is the fact that Edward, himself, did the translation of this text (although not the back matter). As such, he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information about the preparation of this album, its editorial handling of sensitive racial issues, and the dynamics involved in the art of translation.
Finally, Derek and Edward wrap up with very different kind of work, Nicole Claveloux’s The Green Hand and Other Stories (New York Review Comics). In addition to its longer titular story, the collection includes seven other Claveloux short comics that vary in style and narrative conventionality. All of the pieces are dreamlike, even psychedelic in nature, originally appearing in Métal Hurlant or through Les Humanoïdes Associés between 1979 and 1980. With an introduction by Daniel Clowes and an interview with “Green Hand” co-creator Edith Zha, this is collection that serves as a great introduction to the often-overlooked Claveloux.
This month on The Comics Alternative‘s Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek devote the entire episode to Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières’s Valerian and Laureline series. They do this within the context of Luc Besson’s new film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. As the guys point out, the series’ English publisher, Cinebook, has begun to release new hardbound two-volume editions of title, but Derek and Edward are reviewing from the paperback single-story editions that have been available previously. In all, they discuss volumes 1-4, 6, 9-13, and 15, published through Cinebook between October 2010 and December 2016.
Among the many elements of Valerian and Laureline that they discuss are the evolution of Christin’s style over the course of the series, the ways in which the stories both adhere to and deviate from common science-fiction tropes, the strong (and non-objectifying) representations of Laureline, the title’s colorful cast of secondary or supporting figures, the series’ all-age quality, and the subtle ways in which the creators embed current (at the time of creation) socio-political contexts within the narrative. Even the guys only focus on one title this month, there’s more than enough to cover on this episode.
This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss two black-and-white narratives, one an adaptation of a classic text and another an offbeat tale of aliens and relationships. They begin with Christophe Chabouté’s rendering of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (note the lack of hyphen in the title), released earlier this year from Dark Horse Books. After mentioning many of the earlier comics adaptations of the great American novel — and there are a lot — they plunge into Chabouté’s handling, highlighting some of the differences from the earlier versions. Both cohosts come from two very different perspectives in their analyses, since Derek is very familiar with the original novel and Edward has not yet read it. As such, their approaches are varied and multifaceted.
Next, they turn to the latest translation of Manuele Fior, The Interview(Fantagraphics). This is a markedly different kind of story from 5,000 km Per Second, a book that Gwen and Derek reviewed last year. As Edward points out, the draw of The Interview isn’t so much the story, but its tone or the affect generated by the text. This is a tale about relationships, and Fior’s art deftly expresses the subtitles and complications that underlie all of our interactions. You may come away from this book with a feeling of uncertainly and irresolution, but that seems to be a part of Fior’s project.
Edward and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode. This month, they focus on recent translations of the work of Jean-Pierre Gibrat, Flight of the Raven (IDW/EuroComics) and both volumes of The Reprieve (Europe Comics). Edward is very familiar with Gibrat’s work, as he was the translator of The Reprieve, and so he provides his insights within that context. Throughout their discussion of these narratives, the guys highlight what they see as the thematic links between the two, all of which springs from the books’ settings: WW II France during German occupation. Indeed, the two stories are companion pieces with the character Cécile appearing in both. The Reprieve takes place before the Normandy invasion with Julien Sarlat, escaping from mandatory German labor, hiding out in his small hometown with the help of Cécile and one of her acquaintances in the French Resistance. The action in Flight of the Raven begins around the time of the Allied landing, with Cécile’s sister, Jeanne, being jailed for unlawful weapons possession. She is a communist and active member of the Resistance, and her story is interlinked with that of François, a roguish thief who appears apolitical. As both Edward and Derek point out, Gibrat uses both tales to explore ideas concerning commitment, responsibility, and collaboration, and each of the characters his stories illustrates facets of engagé. The art in both works is lush and beautiful, and Gibrat’s pacing is aptly handled given the contextual action, and sometimes the lack thereof, embedded in each narrative.
On this month’s Euro Comics episode, Edward and Derek check out to recent publications, both from publishers that they’ve yet to discuss on the series. They begin with Boulet’s Notes 1: Born to Be a Larve, just out from Soaring Penguin Press. This is the first collection of the comics Boulet created specifically for his blog, and this initial volume includes the entries published between July 2004 and July 2005. While the guys enjoy Boulet’s work, they feel that the strips may not work as well in book form as they had originally on the blog. The episodic nature of the comics could probably be better appreciated as online updates than as a bound collection.
Next, the guys turn to Pénélope Bagieu’s latest English translation California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot before The Mamas and the Papas (First Second). Derek and Andy W. had discussed Bagieu’s earlier book, Exquisite Corpse, on an episode about two years ago, and the latest work certainly follows up on that promise. In fact, Edward is bowled away by this graphic biography. As the subtitle suggests, it covers the life of Cass Elliot — born Ellen Cohen — up to the breakout of the famous 1960s quartet. The guys appreciate Bagieu’s art, but they are particularly impressed by her choices of narration and her structuring of the story.
For the month of March, Edward and Derek look at two very different European titles. They begin with Dominique Goblet’s Pretending Is Lying, released last month from New York Review Comics. This is a creator whom Edward has read in the original French, and so some of their conversation centers on matters of translation. But more significant is the guys’ discussion of Goblet’s handling of time and memory, as well as the book’s expressive and experimental style. And, as Derek is keen to point out, there are key passages that allude to the work of Brian Wilson!
Next, the Euro Comics Guys discuss the latest English-language release from Paco Roca, The Lighthouse (NBM Publishing). They’ve twice discussed Roca’s comics before — Wrinklesduring their interview with Erica Mena, and his contribution to the Spanish Feveranthology on last year’s September episode — and this one is markedly different. Edward comments on the story’s simplicity, even it’s pat qualities, while Derek is charmed by the novella-like qualities of this early work from Roca. And ever the sound effects aficionado, Edward nitpicks (but in a good way) over some of the translator’s choices.
This month on the Euro Comics series Edward and Derek look at four BD, all written by Jerome Charyn and all released by Dover Publications. First they discuss three collaborations with François Boucq: Little Tulip, Billy Budd, KGB, and The Magician’s Wife. These were originally published in French between 1987 and 2014, but they’ve been available in English translations over the past seventeen months (the most recent, Little Tulip, coming out this past December). They also explore The Boys of Sheriff Street, Charyn’s project with Jacques de Loustal that was translated and published by Dover in July 2016. Over the course of their conversation Derek and Edward investigate Charyn’s methods of storytelling, finding similarities and thematic links among the four titles, and they discuss the different ways in which Boucq’s and Loustal’s styles bring different resonances to their respective narratives.
It’s the first Euro Comics episode of the new year, and Edward and Derek use the occasion to focus on the work of two contemporary French creators, using their latest books as springboards into their larger bodies of work. They begin with Cyril Pedrosa’s Equinoxes (NBM Publishing), a novelistic examination of life purpose and the uses we make of art in creating meaning. The text comprises four alternating storylines that become more enmeshed as the narrative progresses, combining comics with prose passages in establishing its contemplative tone. But Edward and Derek also bring in discussions of Pedrosa’s earlier works in translation, including Three Shadows (First Second), Hearts at Sea (Dupuis/Europe Comics) and Portugal (Dupuis/Europe Comics).
Next, the Two Guys examine Clear Blue Tomorrows, written by Fabien Vehlmann with art by Ralph Meyer and Bruno Gazzotti (Cinebook). This book is basically a series of science-fiction or fantastic stories brought together by a broader narrative frame: a time traveler from a dystopian future tasked with ghost writing stories for the would-be tyrant in hopes of changing the man’s occupational trajectory. It’s a curious spin on the “killing Hitler” sci-fi trope, though narratively reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights. The guys also discuss several of Vehlmann’s other works, including Last Days of an Immortal (Archaia), Beautiful Darkness (Drawn and Quarterly), and the all-age series Alone (Cinebook). There’s a lot packed into this episode…and so many reading ideas!
This month’s Euro Comics episode is later than usual, due to scheduling conflicts and accessibility issues. But Edward and Derek are back just in time to wish their listeners a happy holiday season and to present their first theme-based show of the monthly series. For December the Two Guys (almost) with PhDs discuss three works in the Western genre. They begin with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq’s Bouncer (Humanoids). This new edition collects the first seven volumes of the Jodorowsky’s series, comprising three intricate and involved storylines. The guys focus a lot on Jodorowsky’s spaghetti western style of storytelling and the unconventional twists therein, including physical grotesques and dominatrix executioners. They also spend time discussing some of the cultural and racial stereotypes found in the narratives, a topic to which they will return later in the episode.
Next, Edward and Derek look at two releases from a publisher that’s not yet been discussed on The Comics Alternative…an unfortunate oversight, up until now. The UK publisher of Franco-Beligan albums, Cinebook, provides the guys with Jean Van Hamme and Grzegorz Rosinski’s Western and the latest release in René Goscinny and Morris’s Lucky Luke series, The Ballad of the Daltons and Other Stories. In the former, Rosinski’s beautiful sepia-toned water colors creates a gritty postbellum world that is not unlike Boucq’s efforts in Bouncer — and both revolve around antiheroes with a missing arm. Both guys enjoyed Western, although Derek plays Monday morning quarterback in his thoughts on the book’s abrupt shift in narration during the last two pages. With Lucky Luke, Edward begins by focusing on the popularity of the series, but then he mentions the need for more socio-historical context in way of an introduction. The ethnoracial representations in these stories may leave some readers uncomfortable, but they speak to both the time in which they were written and the cultural positioning of the creators.
For the November episode in the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek take a look at two new releases of older titles. They begin with Hariton Pushwagner’s Soft City (New York Review Comics). Began in 1969 and completed in 1975, the book was lost for a number of years but then rediscovered in 2002. Since then, the original art from Soft City hasbeenexhibited in the Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art and the Sydney Biennial, both in 2008. In fact, part of the guys’ coverage of the book revolves around the topic of comic art as exhibition. But most of their discussion involves the text’s symmetrical construction, its poetic imagery, and its mixed futuristic tone.
After that, Edward and Derek turn to a new collected edition work from one of comics’ legends. The World of Edena is the first in Dark Horse Book’s new Moebius Library, and it brings together Jean Giraud’s (or Moebius’s) five-volume series. The guys discuss the book’s origins, beginning as promotional comic for the French car manufacturer Citroën in 1983 and then ending as a full-fledged, philosophical, and very trippy series in 2001. There is a lot to explore of the book’s many narrative facets, and the Two Guys spend much of their time looking at the themes of exploration and sexuality, the dream-infused nature of the story, its comedic undertones, and the clean-line style and lush colors that define its art.
For the October Euro Comics episode, Edward and Derek look at two works written by Fabien Nury. They begin with I Am Legion, recently out from Humanoids and featuring the art of John Cassaday. The story takes place in 1942, and the Nazis are experimenting with a force that could spell the quick end of the war. But this isn’t just any military operation. It’s one infused with vampiric lore. The guys explore this supernatural, gothic take on the Second World War, discussing along the way the faint presence of the Holocaust as well as the continued fertile ground of Nazi Germany as a narrative bedrock for European albums.
Next, they look at another work by Nury, this one illustrated by Brüno. Tyler Cross: Black Rock was originally published by Dargaud in 2013 but offered last year digitally in an English translation from Europe Comics. In terms of of both genre and art, this book is strikingly different from the first one Edward and Derek discuss. Tyler Cross is a gritty crime noir narrative set in the American Southwest, with Brüno’s stylized illustrations bringing out its bleak and violent tone. Set alongside Cassaday’s realistic art, the book demonstrates the versatility of Nury’s collaborative storytelling abilities. The guys also allude to the second book in this series, Tyler Cross: Angola, and speculate on future installments.
This month on the Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss three works translated from Spanish, and all published by Fantagraphics. They begin with the anthology Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists, edited by Santiago García. This is a collection of contemporary comics coming out of Spain, bringing together works by over thirty creators including Paco Roca, Max, Miguel Gallardo, David Rubín and Miguel Ángel Martín, as well as newcomers such as José Domingo, Anna Galvañ, Álvaro Ortiz and Sergi Puyol. As the guys point out, the styles, genres, and themes are diverse, making this not only a valuable introduction to new Spanish artists, but a well-rounded comics collection by any standard.
Next, the Two Guys turn to two creators from Argentina. The first is Lucas Varela and his The Longest Day of the Future. This is a mostly wordless narrative satirizing hegemonic corporate culture. There’s an almost cinematic quality to Varela’s storytelling, and Derek and Edward liken it to a Pixar film infused with a darker Cohen brothers’ sensibility.
Finally, the two wrap up with Ezequiel Garcia’s Growing Up in Public. His is a memoir, but one that wanders loosely without any discernible endpoint…and with a curious injection of Moby-Dick thrown in, to boot. Indeed, both Edward and Derek appreciate Garcia’s different take on graphic autobiography, and they look forward to more from this Argentine artist.
On this, the second episode of the new Euro Comics series, Edward and Derek discuss two recent publications that involve journeys, but in vastly different ways. They begin with the latest translation from IDW’s EuroComics imprint, The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen. Written by Jorge Zentner and with art by Rubén Pellejero (and translated by Carlos Guzman and Dean Mullaney), this volume collects all of the Dieter Lumpen stories the two originally published between 1985 and 1994. The eleven tales contained within are standalone adventures of the titular protagonist. And his travels take him all over the globe. In fact, the guys spend a good deal of time discussing the adventure genre and how The Adventures of Dieter Lumpen taps into the rich tradition of this kind of comic by Franco-Belgian creators. But what distinguishes these stories from those of Hergé’s Tintin — and even from the kind of American adventures found in the Indiana Jones movies — is the inadvertent, reluctant, and even unheroic nature of Dieter Lumpen’s encounters. The Two Guys first talk about the eight narratives that open the book, all short stories and tightly interconnected, and then turn to the three longer pieces that close out the volume. Edward particularly appreciates the more complicating or less-than-heroic tales of Lumpen found in “Games of Chance” and “The Bad Guy,” and Derek is drawn to the fantastical and even surreal quality of “Caribbean” and especially the final story, “The Reaper’s Price.” Indeed, both believe that the latter is Zentner and Pellejero most ambitious collaboration.
After that, the guys turn to Come Prima, recently translated into English by the Delcourt (and offered through ComiXology). Written and drawn by Alfred (the pen name of Lionel Papagalli), the book won the Angoulême International Comics Festival Prize for Best Album in 2013. It’s the story of two brothers, Fabio and Giovanni, as they journey from France to their childhood home in Italy. The older Fabio is estranged from his family and has a bad track record with relationships, and Giovanni arrives unexpectedly to help suture the emotional wounds his brother may have caused. The travel they undergo in their Fiat 500 is just an outward manifestation of the much deeper inner journeys both brothers make both separately and together. This is a powerful narrative showcased, first and foremost, by Alfred’s art, although Edward finds the translation of this album, by Studio Charon, to be uneven in places. Nonetheless, this is an award-winning book that should be on the reading list of anyone interested in contemporary European comics.