For the May Euro Comics episode, Pascal and Derek discuss three very different works in translation…but all of which are primarily in black-and-white. They begin with Esteban Maroto’s Lovecraft: The Myth of Cthulhu(IDW Publishing), an adaptation of three of H. P. Lovecraft’s short stories: “The Nameless City,” “The Festival,” and “The Call of Cthulhu.” All three are part of the writer’s Cthulhu mythos, and the guys comment on Maroto’s illustrative style and how it reflects that found in 1970s Warren publications, to which Maroto actually contributed (although not these stories).
Next, they discuss Olivia Burton and Mahi Grand’s Algeria Is Beautiful Like America(Lion Forge). This is a memoir of Burton’s journey to Algeria, particularly Algiers and the Aurès Mountains, to visit the land of her mother and grandparents. In many ways, this is a narrative all about identity, in that the author attempts to understand the land of her forebears in order to better understand herself. This is a striking autobiographical work, but as the Two Guys point out, it’s unusual that a memoir such as this is written and illustrated by different creators.
The guys wrap up this month’s episode by visiting a book that is close to Pascal’s heart, André Franquin’s Die Laughing (Fantagraphics Books). This is a collection of Franquin’s Idées noires strips, which are strikingly different from his earlier work in Spirou or his Gaston and Marsupilami comics. As Derek and Pascal point out, these are more serious and foreboding pieces that reflect a dark peri0d in Franquin’s life. And while many of these strips are politically poignant, they are nonetheless timeless and are just as fresh today as when they were first created during the 1970s and 1980s.
This month Pascal and Derek look at two recent books that, while strikingly different in their storytelling approaches, are both insightful examinations of the socio-historical forces that shape individuals’ lives. They begin with Pénélope Bagieu’s Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World (First Second), a collection of 29 short biographies profiling women throughout history who have pushed back and defined themselves on their own terms. This book began as a series of webcomics that appeared on Le Monde‘s blog between January and October 2016. There was actually one original entry, a biographical look at Phulan Devi, that didn’t make it into the American text, and the guys speculate as to why this might have been.
After that they discuss Yvan Alagbé’s Yellow Negroes and Other Imaginary Creatures, just released from New York Review Comics. This is a much less conventional collection, at least in terms of its narrative and visual styles. The book includes seven short pieces that were originally created between 1995 and 2017. The title story is the longest, and most sophisticated, of the bunch, but Pascal and Derek also spend some time focusing on “The Suitcase” and “Postcard from Montreuil.” What almost all of the stories in this book focus on, in one way or another, is France’s colonialist past and its ramifications to this day.
For the March episode of the Euro Comics series, Pascal Hamon joins Derek to discuss two recent books from NBM Graphic Novels. They begin with Étienne Davodeau’s The Initiates: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan ExchangeJobs, an autobiographical account of the artist and his friend’s mutual education on what the other does. As Pascal points out, the majority of this narrative concerns Davodeau learning about winemaking and literally getting his hands dirty during the process. Not as much space is given to his friend, Richard Leroy, as he is initiated into the comics industry in France, but this makes sense, given the fact that Davodeau is the author of this account and spends a lot of time revealing what he has learned.
After that, Pascal and Derek discuss Satania,the most recent collaboration between Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoët. Their earlier book, Beautiful Darkness, was actually something discussed on the Euro Comics episode in January of last year. This is a similarly fantastical narrative and is, in fact, quite a bit wilder than the earlier book. On the literal level, this is a journey underground, but the guys read this text as more of a psychological narrative. Its young protagonist, Charlotte, while searching for her lost older brother is nonetheless coming to terms with her own issues as she becomes a grown woman. And, of course, Kerascoët’s art is mesmerizing.
This marks the debut of Pascal as the new cohost for the Euro Comics series, taking over from Edward while he is on hiatus. Please be sure to contact the Two Guys and welcome Pascal to the podcast!
For the February Euro Comics episode, Edward and Derek discuss two works from Christophe Chabouté, Alone and Park Bench, both published by Gallery 13, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. The first is a largely quiet meditation on solicitude, exile, and imagination. Because of physical deformities, the protagonist lives isolated in a lighthouse, with only a couple of fishermen to bring him supplies and serve as his link to the outside world. By contrast, Park Bench is a completely silent narrative that is all about community. The titular object functions as a simple focal point that brings together, inadvertently, a variety of diverse individuals, demonstrating an interconnectedness that is not readily apparent. While Derek appreciates Chabouté’s uncomplicated style and thematic approach, Edward is more critical, preferring more visual difference and ambiguous messaging.
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.
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.
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!
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.