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.
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, 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.
This week on the podcast, Gwen and Derek look at three very different recent titles. They begin with Carlos Giménez’s Paracuellos. The original first two volumes of this comic, published in Spain in 1977 and 1982, have now been collected into a single-volume English translation (by Sonya Jones) and published by IDW’s EuroComics imprint. The Paracuellos strips are Giménez’s autobiographical look at his time in several of the Social Aid “homes” that were a part of Francisco Franco’s fascist Spain. As Gwen and Derek reveal, the stories are stark and heartbreaking, and Giménez presents a difficult environment where oppression and apathy (at least in the context of the adults) shape young and vulnerable lives. They discuss not only the socio-political atmosphere of Paracuellos, but also Giménez’s stylistic strategies for rendering this world. Next, the Guy and Gal with PhDs Talking about Comics look at two #1 issues just released this month: Roger Langridge and Andy Hirsch’s The Baker Street Peculiars(KaBOOM! Studios) and Jimmie Robinson’s Power Lines (Image Comics). The former is of particular interest to them, since Andy Hirsch is a friend of the show. This is the first of a four-issue series about a group of young outsiders who team up with whom appears to be Sherlock Holmes in 1930s London. The setup to this story is action-packed and exudes adventure, and Hirsch’s art brings out both the dynamism and the fun that this narrative has to offer. Power Lines is a different take on race relations in the United States, and, in many ways, it’s a very timely premise. A young African American male goes with his tagger friends into a white middle-class neighborhood, only to find himself a embroiled in some mysterious centuries-old power from which he cannot extricate himself. (Sort of like race in America?) Both Gwen and Derek like where Robinson seems to be going with the story, but they nonetheless wonder if he may be unexpectedly stepping into some ethnically tinged traps. However, the ambition is clearly there, and both cohosts are curious where Robinson’s story will eventually lead.
Also, the guys announce that The Comics Alternative is now available through Spotify! So if you consume your audio through that service, then definitely listen to the podcast that way!