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
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.