For their December Euro Comics show, Pascal and Derek discuss two recent French titles in translation. They begin with Thierry Smolderen and Jean-Philippe Bramanti’s McCay(Titan Comics), a surreal narrative surrounding the life of comics legend Windsor McCay. But this work is not a biography. Smolderen takes historical moments in McCay’s life and from those weaves a fantastical tale that includes noir intrigue, metafictional elements, and the fourth dimension. After that the guys turn to the three volumes of Yann and Alain Henriet’s Bear’s Tooth (Cinebook). Each of the three works — Max, Hanna, and Werner— is based on one of the three protagonists in this World War II tale. As Pascal reveals, Yann and Henriet’s follow up to this series (not yet translated) continues the storyline, but with strange alternate history twist.
Pascal and Derek are back with the latest Euro Comics episode…the very late November show. They begin with Edmond Baudoin’s Piero (New York Review Comics). This is a fascinating and moving memoir — or better yet, a series of remembrances — from Baudoin and his relationship with his younger brother Pierre, or Piero. While the title and the story itself would lead one to believe that this is the story of Edmond’s younger brother, it’s actually a narrative that focuses on the author himself. Edmond, or Momon, as he’s called in the book, is at the center of this text, and he’s explored and defined within the context of his brother and their relationship, especially as it concerns art and illustration.
After that, the Two Guys turn to Jacques Ferrandez’s adaptation of Albert Camus’s The First Man (Pegasus Books). This isn’t the first time the guys have discussed Ferrandez’s adaptation. In July 2016, Derek and Gene looked at his graphic version of Camus’s The Stranger. This book is similarly moving, but in many ways denser and more pensive than the earlier adaptation. The First Man was the manuscript that Camus was working on at the time of his death, dying in a car accident. The unfinished work, and intended masterpiece, was finally published in the 1990s, but Ferrandez’s text doesn’t really feel like an uncompleted manuscript. This is quite a prose-heavy book, and philosophical in the way that Camus’s essays and fiction were thought-provoking. Derek and Pascal didn’t plan this when they chose these two books, but The First Man and Piero have a lot in common: thoughtful, pensive, and narratives scaffolded around memories and the past.
On this episode of the Euro Comics series, Pascal and Derek look at the first three books of Riad Sattouf’s series, The Arab of the Future. Each of these volumes is thick in content, giving the guys a lot to discuss. And while they do a bit of close reading in their discussion, much of what Pascal and Derek do is provide larger overviews, focusing on themes, narrative structures, aesthetic choices, and cultural contexts. In fact, Pascal had read each of these books originally in French — indeed, he is now in the middle of reading the fourth volume that is already available in France — so he provides some of the context that might escape American readers. Both of the guys are bowled away by this series, and they eagerly await the continuation of this graphic memoir…and other translated works by Sattouf.
For their August show, Pascal and Derek look at two works whose creators may be largely unknown here in the states. They begin with Carole Maurel’s Luisa, Now and Then, one of the first books published as part of Humanoids’ new Life Drawn imprint. As the guys point out, this is a time-travel narrative where an individual confronts herself from another time. While this is a popular trope, Maurel gives it a different spin. Instead of time-traveling backwards, as found in most such narratives (e.g., Peggy Sue Got Married), in Luisa, Now and Then the movement is forward in time. This story is filled with intriguing scenarios, given the premise, and also a lot of humor. One could argue that it’s one of the best introductions to the Life Drawn imprint.
Next, Derek and Pascal check out Green Almonds: Letters from Palestine, written and drawn by the sisters Anaële and Delphine Hermans (Lion Forge). This is an epistolary travelogue, the story of Anaële’s 10-month stay in Bethlehem volunteering for a youth organization. She and Delphine corresponded during the Anaële’s sojourn, and then Delphine used her sister’s letters as a basis for her art. It’s an intriguing concept, but as Pascal points out, there are potential problems in the visual representation, given the fact that the artist wasn’t the one experiencing the time in Palestine and Israel. As a result, there are several unanswered questions imbedded in the narrative. There are various contexts that weren’t addressed (apparently) in Anaële’s original letters, so those are absent in the text.
On the July episode of the Euro Comics series — actually being released in early August — Pascal and Derek discuss two beautiful texts. They begin with David B.’s Hasib and the Queen of Serpents: A Tale of a Thousand and One Nights(NBM Publishing), an incredible adaptation of one of the tales in the classic work. The guys point out the attention-gragging handling of Scheherazade “Queen of Serpents” story, but what stands out in this text is David B.’s illustrations, colors, and design. The creator is able both to translate the story into comics with much fidelity and to give the tale his own spin that is recognizable to any fan of David B.’s work (Epilepticis a case in point).
Next, Derek and Pascal jump into Alejandro Jodorowsky and Francois Boucq’s Moon Face (Humanoids). This isn’t the first time that this creative team has been discussed on the podcast, the first time being the December 2016 show with Bouncer(and, with Boucq, his work with Jerome Charyn). The guys spend a lot of time discussing the wild ride of Jodorowsky’s story — and this as a defining characteristic throughout much of his oeuvre. It is all over the place, yet compelling. But one of the things that marks Moon Face is Boucq’s art. While readers can appreciate Jodorowsky’s writing, it is Boucq who stands out, arguably as the biggest strength in this text.
On this month’s Euro Comics episode, Pascal and Derek discuss two recent French-language translations. They begin with Zep’s A Strange and Beautiful Sound, the second of his books released through IDW Publishing. This is a story of a Carthusian monk who, because of a dead relative’s last will and testament, reenters the everyday world after 26 years of seclusion. The art and colors of this narrative are quite striking, and while the subject matter is significantly different from his previous A Story of Men, both Pascal and Derek find a common style between these two texts.
Next, they check out the latest work in Dark Horse’s Moebius Library, Inside Moebius, Part 2. The guys begin by contextualizing the first part of this improvisational journal, released earlier this year, and then go into detail about Part 2. This second book is much more metafiction and self-referential than Part 1, but like the first installment, it includes multiple representations of the author himself, along with encounters with his most notable creations, Arzach, Major Grubert and Malvina, Stel and Atan, and of course Lieutenant Blueberry. The text is free-flowing and surreal, but this is what makes Moebius’s self-investigation so notable. Both guys eagerly await the third and final part of Inside Moebius later this fall.
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.
Thanksgiving is tomorrow, and the folks at The Comics Alternative all gather around the virtual table to share what they are thankful for in terms of comics and comics culture. Pulling up a seat this year are Gwen, Paul, Sean, Gene, Edward, and Derek. Among the many things that they’re thankful for are
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.
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.
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.
Giving Thanks in a Dark Time; Or, Steve Ditko’s Impending Death
For this year’s Thanksgiving show, there are seven seats at the table, making this the most populated episode in the podcast’s history. Andy K. and Derek are joined by their fellow cohosts Gwen, Andy W., Gene, Sean, and Edward to discuss what they are thankful for in the world of comics. (Shea and Paul couldn’t join in on the fun, unfortunately, but they were there in spirit.) Among the various things they’re thankful for are