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The International Bande Dessinée Society: February 2014 by Lisa Tannahill and Chris O’Neill

The International Bande Dessinée Society (IBDS) was founded in 1999, aiming to encourage scholarly discussion of the French-language comic or bande dessinée, in all its forms. Their journal, European Comic Art, (ECA), is published twice-yearly, with previous issues focusing on national identity, caricature, narration, 19th-century comic art, adaptation and other diverse themes in the European comic medium. IBDS conferences have taken place bi-annually since 1999; the most recent conference was held at the Universities of Glasgow and Dundee in June 2013.

However, English-language bande dessinée scholarship is still in relative infancy, and French-language works are seldom translated. The purpose of this new, twice-yearly column is to draw attention to both recent English-language work on bande dessinée and francophone scholarship which may otherwise go unnoticed in anglophone countries. We do not aim to cover all relevant work; the popularity of bande dessinée in the francophone world means many books on the subject are published every year. Instead we will highlight a selection of the most notable or interesting works which appear throughout the year. In this first edition we will look back at books published in 2013.

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Woodcut Novels: Cutting a Path to the Graphic Novel by David A. Beronä

Jason Lutes’ stunning graphic novel, Berlin: City of Stones, captures a response to the woodcut novel that represents a common reaction by many readers who first open one of these books. In this case, the book Mein Stundenbuch (Passionate Journey) by Frans Masereel is targeted by the character Erich, who is having a heated discussion about objectivity and emotion with his friends. The panels display Erich as he pulls the book from his friend’s coat pocket. In a manner of disgust, Erich presents the book as an example of emotionalism. His attitude changes when he opens the pages and becomes engrossed in the pictures.

Fig. 1. Berlin: City of Stones. Book One. © Jason Lutes. Used by permission.

Fig. 1. Berlin: City of Stones. Book One. © Jason Lutes. Used by permission.

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Posted by on 2013/05/23 in Guest Writers

 

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On Rewriting Hemingway: Inside Joann Sfar’s Intertextual Web by Fabrice Leroy

Within Joann Sfar’s extremely diverse and prolific comics production, intertextuality constitutes a recurrent device by which an unusually erudite cartoonist weaves in, recycles, and reworks a multitude of literary, philosophical, and pictorial references inside his own whimsical creations. This essay focuses on a micro-sequence from one of Sfar’s early works, his imaginary biography of the Franco-Bulgarian modernist painter Pascin (written between 1997 and 1999, and initially published by L’Association in six short fascicles between 2000 and 2002), in an attempt to explore the various dimensions of Sfar’s habitual borrowing from external sources and integration thereof into his idiosyncratic universe.

A two-page passage of Pascin [1] (181-182) rewrites Ernest Hemingway’s ‘With Pascin at the Dôme,’ the famous description of his encounter with the painter in A Moveable Feast (81-86), Hemingway’s diary account of his experiences as a young expatriate writer in 1920s Paris. Unlike Hemingway’s chronicle of the event, the scene depicted by Sfar is told from Pascin’s point of view, and the extent to which Sfar takes liberties with the intertextual material and reverses not only its perspective, but also the portrayal of the two protagonists, is striking. Contrary to Hemingway’s account, in which Pascin waves to invite him to his table [2], in this version, it is Hemingway who initiates the encounter and intrudes upon the scene, as he ‘stops by to say hello’ to the painter, who is having drinks with two beautiful models at the Café du Dôme, a frequent Montparnasse hangout for 1920s bohemian artists who often referred to themselves as ‘Les Dômiers.’ The young American writer, initially anonymous, then identified parenthetically as Ernest Hemingway, is presented as a sweaty, overweight man with red ears and a mustache, a far cry from the ‘tall, handsome, muscular, broad-shouldered, brown-eyed, rosy-cheeked, square-jawed, soft-voiced young man’ described by his biographer Jeffrey Meyers (Meyers 70). In a sequence of four frames, Sfar summarizes the interaction among Hemingway, Pascin, and the two models in a manner that efficiently synthesizes the writer’s original account, but also distorts it considerably.

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Posted by on 2013/02/28 in Guest Writers

 

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Rabbit Stew by Ann Miller

Accounts of in-fighting at the French small comics press L’Association, prime mover in revolutionising the face of French comic art as from 1990, have circulated in the press and on the web for some time now, extending and amplifying the often inventively vituperative clashes amongst the immediate participants. There follows an attempt to track through some of the issues.

Attrition set in some time ago amongst the original members of the collective: David B., Killoffer, Mattt Konture, Jean-Christophe Menu, Stanislas and Lewis Trondheim.[1] David B. left in 2005, and Trondheim a year later, alleging, according to the weekly news magazine L’Express, ‘editorial disagreements’, in particular the desire of Menu to take the press in a more experimental and radical direction.[2] Star artist Joann Sfar announced at the same time that he would no longer publish with the Association. Bande dessinée websites abounded with rumours of conflict and acrimony.[3] By 2007, Menu was effectively in sole charge of the organisation. He is a complex character. Fellow artist Fabrice Neaud’s reference to Menu’s ‘sérieux et noblesse’ [serious-mindedness and nobility] [4] and theoretician and publisher Thierry Groensteen’s description of him as ‘la personnalité la plus emblématique de tout le renouveau créatif des années quatre-vingt-dix’ [the most emblematic figure of the whole creative renewal of the nineties] [5], as well as his declaration that ‘Menu EST la bande dessinée faite homme’ [Menu IS comic art made flesh] [6] can be set alongside a few less complimentary characterisations of Menu’s behaviour towards fellow members of the collective and towards employees. David B., who, in the final volume of L’Ascension du haut mal [Epileptic] [7], had portrayed Menu as the supportive figure who had first encouraged him to publish his work in the early 1990s, issued a communiqué earlier this year accusing his former colleague of ‘arrogance’.[8] More hyperbolically, Sfar has compared Menu to the dictators Ben Ali and Laurent Gbagbo.[9] At all events, even Menu’s most ardent admirers would probably hesitate to put him forward as a candidate for ‘employer of the year’. If Menu himself has proclaimed ‘Patron, je ne l’ai jamais été, et je ne le serai jamais’ [I have never been a boss, and never will be] [10], his detractors cast his managerial shortcomings in a less romantic light.[11]

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Posted by on 2011/09/12 in Guest Writers

 

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