Tag Archives: Thierry Groensteen

Comics and/as Co-presence: Multi-directional Reading in ‘Tick Tock’ by John Cei Douglas

by Neal Curtis




Definitions of comics are numerous and yet no single version can quite capture the fecundity, variety and experimental profusion of the medium as it continues to evolve. I would therefore agree with Joseph Witek who suggests that arguments over what defines or qualifies as a comic often “devolve into analytical cul-de-sacs and hair splitting debates over an apparently endless profusion of disputed boundary cases and contradictory counter-examples” (149). Witek continues that in light of this, “‘comicness’ might usefully be reconceptualized from being an immutable attribute of texts to being considered as a historically contingent and evolving set of reading protocols that are applied to texts, that to be a comic text means to be read as a comic” (149). Although this suggests a cultural relativist approach to the medium it does still enact some boundary policing in the sense that the graphic information sheet placed in the pockets of airplane seats, while sharing certain features with the comics medium—panels and a combination of word and image—is not a comic because it is not read as such.

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Posted by on 2020/06/04 in Guest Writers


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Conference Report: International Conference “Tintin au XXIe siècle” [Tintin In The 21st Century]

17 – 20 May 2017 – Louvain-la-Neuve – Musée Hergé – Collège Érasme, Université Catholique de Louvain

by Olivier Roche

Translated by Annick Pellegrin

Edited by Lise Tannahill


In Europe, the Belgian author Hergé, whose real name was Georges Remi, is considered to be one of the greatest bande dessinée artists of the 20th century, just like Winsor McCay (Little Nemo in Slumberland), Charles Schulz (Peanuts) or Jirō Taniguchi (A Distant Neighborhood). His body of work—mostly The Adventures of Tintin and Quick and Flupke—has become mythical, and the subject of collections, of speculation, of exhibitions, of hundreds of scholarly studies, of thousands of articles and all kinds of artistic and cultural tributes. In France or in Belgium, universities have had a lot of trouble embracing bande dessinée. However, in the last few years, there has been a notable and growing interest for the ninth art, and in particular for Hergé’s work, in higher education and research. From 17 to 20 May 2017, an international conference was held in Louvain-la-Neuve, at Université catholique de Louvain and at Musée Hergé [Hergé Museum], to mark Hergé’s 110th birthday. The conference, organised by a scientific committee representing six universities in Belgium, France and Switzerland, brought together 20 speakers from 8 countries over 4 days, a first, and it was a great success.
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Posted by on 2017/12/11 in Conference reports


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The International Bande Dessinée Society: February 2015 by Lisa Tannahill and Chris O’Neill

Welcome to the second edition of the International Bande Dessinée Society column, a look back at developments in the world of bande dessinée (francophone comics) scholarship and research.

No retrospective examination of the year in bande dessinée can overlook the tragic events of January 2015: the shooting at the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The events and their ramifications have been discussed endlessly in the press, and discussion of the political or wider global effects of the attack is far beyond the remit of this column. However, the deaths of Stéphane Charbonnier (Charb), Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (Tignous) and Philippe Honoré represent a huge loss for not only Charlie Hebdo but the wider world of bande dessinée. Several of them were key figures in the development of post-war bande dessinée and wider visual culture in France. For example, Cabu and Wolinski’s work appeared in Charlie Hebdo from its beginnings in 1969 as well as its predecessor Hara-Kiri. Cabu and Charb, along with economist Bernard Maris, who was also killed, were instrumental in the resurrection of Charlie Hebdo in 1992 (publication had ceased in 1981). It is this incarnation which continues to the present day. Charlie Hebdo represents a particularly French tradition of satirical cartooning which lost many of its most important figures in the attacks. If you would like to know more about Charlie Hebdo and its place in French culture, Berghahn has published an informative blog post by Mark McKinney (University of Miami, Ohio) at their site, as well as making available two articles from European Comic Art: a history of the journal and its politics, as well as an interview with Cabu.


This year, as every year, the biggest event in the bande dessinée calendar was the Angoulême festival, with 2015 marking its 42nd outing. Japanese artist Katsuhiro Otomo won the festival’s Grand Prix, the first manga cartoonist to win a lifetime achievement award, and prizes were also awarded to works by Riad Sattouf, Bastien Vivès and Chris Ware, amongst others. In remembrance of the attacks in Paris, the festival created a special award, the Prix Charlie Hebdo de la Liberté D’Expression. This special Grand Prix was given to Stéphane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut, Bernard Verlhac and Philippe Honoré to commemorate their achievements in the field of bande dessinée.

There are so many bande dessinée fairs, conventions and festivals in France and Belgium that it becomes impossible to keep track of all of them. One interesting example is SoBD (Salon des Ouvrages sur la Bande Dessinée), a 3-day festival that has been organised for the past four years by the bande dessinée website and the eponymous Association SoBD.

The main focus of SoBD is not works of bande dessinée, but rather literature about bande dessinée: theoretical works, monographs, technical manuals, books on the history of the medium, etc. Attendees are able to buy many bande dessinées and much associated literature, and also attend various exhibitions and talks by those involved in bande dessinée publication, conservation and analysis. The guest of honour for this latest event was David B., author of Epileptic. There were also exhibitions on the work of bande dessinée creators Vincent Pompetti (La Guerre des Gaulles) and Christian Maucler (Les Enquêtes du Commissaire Raffini).


For the first time, the Archives Nationales in Paris are holding an exhibition on collaboration in France during the Second World War. The exhibition, which runs from the 26th November 2014 until the 5th April 2015, looks at the various economic, political, military and cultural aspects of Vichy France, the German Occupation and collaboration. This includes a focus upon the cartoonists producing work during the Occupation, particularly Ralph Soupault and Enem. The exhibition of cartoonists’ work published in the form of newspaper comics, leaflets and posters produced during les années noires is the first of its kind, and an excellent opportunity to understand how the medium survived and thrived during the period, as a tool for propaganda. The exhibition explores the authorised comics and bande dessinée published in France between 1940 and 1944, providing an important counterweight to the more prevalent examinations of resistance comics in the same period.

Research and Conferences

This summer will see the Sixth International Graphic Novel and Comics Conference and the Ninth International Bande Dessinée Society Conference held at the University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP). The conference theme is Voyages, analysing the link between sequential art and the voyage, as well as the broader notion of voyage, moving past the geographical definition into the metaphysical. The conference welcomes papers covering all forms of comics, the graphic novel, and bande dessinée. Fittingly, the conference extended its deadline for the submission of proposals in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, in order to incorporate papers addressing these recent events and facilitate greater academic discussion of this difficult yet important event in French and bande dessinée history.

The second half of 2014 saw a number of new books published on various aspects of bande dessinée. Of particular interest is Leuven University Press’s new series, Studies in European Comics and Graphic Novels. Two books from the series have been published so far: The French Comic Theory Reader, edited by Ann Miller and Bart Beaty, and Sfar So Far: Identity, History, Fantasy and Mimesis in Joann Sfar’s Graphic Novels by Fabrice Leroy. The series, whose titles are to be published in English, will investigate comics within a variety of national and historical contexts: future publications include works on 19th Century graphic narratives and British girls’ comics. The two titles already published present an important step forward for bande dessinée scholarship in English. The French Comics Theory Reader gathers together several French texts on bande dessinée and translates them into English for the first time. Many major figures in bande dessinée scholarship are represented (including Thierry Groensteen, Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle, Jan Baetens, Pascal Lefèvre, and Francis Lacassin, amongst others). Some texts are ‘classics’, key texts in the study of French comics, while some are brand new and published here for the first time. The Reader is particularly valuable as an English-language resource on the francophone comic. It opens up the field of bande dessinée to those who do not speak French, presenting a wealth of information on graphic narratives and scholarship which remain obscure in the English-speaking world.

Sfar So Far is also an important work, as it is the first scholarly book published (in French or in English) on the work of Joann Sfar ( The Rabbi’s Cat, Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life). It includes sections on Sfar’s portrayal of Jewish identity, his representations of history and memory, intertextuality and the use of archetypal figures (the devil, the wizard, etc), as well as an interview with the creator himself.

In terms of francophone scholarship, in 2014 Les Impressions Nouvelles published M. Töpffer invente la bande dessinée by Thierry Groensteen. The new book is an updated reworking of Groensteen’s work with Benoit Peeters, Töpffer: L’Invention de la Bande Dessinée (1994), with Peeters’ contribution replaced by a section on those influenced by Topffer’s work. Topffer has widely been argued to be the father of bande dessinée, so this examination of later works helps to explore the development of the bande dessineé medium from his work through the nineteenth and twentieth century.

In the 30 years since the death of Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, the secondary literature on his most famous creation, Tintin, has become mountainous. With both the amateur and the experienced tintinophile in mind, August 2014 witnessed the publication of Tintin, Bibliographie d’un Mythe by Dominique Cerbelaud and Olivier Roche. This work aims to categorise all the existing secondary literature surrounding Tintin, as well as studies into the author himself. The Bibliographie covers 400 individual works, chronicling their content, significance, strengths and weaknesses. This important bibliographical work is an excellent tool for academics new to the field as well as those looking to further explore the existing Tintin literature to date.

Until our next column in August, we would like to suggest ways of keeping on top of upcoming publications. Comicalité is an online journal which contains academic articles on francophone comics, exploring the medium in general as well as the links between anglophone and francophone sequential art. The journal includes important articles from luminaries like Thierry Crépin and Pascal Lefèvre.

Lisa Tannahill is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on representations of the peripheral French regions in francophone bande dessinée, particularly Brittany, Corsica, their respective regional identities, and France’s historical attitude towards its periphery. Other interests include gender and postcolonial issues in the bande dessinée and graphic representations of the World Wars.

Chris O’Neill is a PhD student at Aston University, Birmingham. His research focuses on the development of newspaper cartooning in France between 1920 and 1944, particularly the impact of Candide and Gringoire during this period. Other areas of interest include representations of political figures and conflict in bande dessinée, and right-wing French politics in the inter-war period.


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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.

Tintin and Hergé

Daubert, Michel. Musée Hergé  Paris: Editions de La Martinière – Editions Moulinsart, 2013. Print. 39€

Maricq, Dominique. Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin. Paris: Editions de Noyelles – Editions Moulinsart, 2013. Print. £30/29.95€

As one of the most famous examples of bande dessinée, Tintin predictably inspired many books of analysis in 2013, with two works covering the history and legacy of Tintin and his creator Georges Remi, known to the world as Hergé, as well as a first translation into Scots of an old Tintin adventure, The Black Island. This year also marked the third anniversary of the Musée Hergé, and to honour this fact Michel Daubert, who interviewed Hergé in the 70s, has produced his own guide to the creator of Tintin. This almost 500 page book explores the world of Tintin, his adventures, and also the inspirations for his creator. In the foreword, Fanny Rodwell described this work as a museum on paper, which echoes the true Hergé museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, providing an overview of the well-known series.

The other important Tintin work from 2013 was Hergé and the Treasures of Tintin. Produced in both English and French, and following on from Maricq’s excellent Hergé côté Jardin, this work offers new insight from the Moulinsart archives. While it offers insight and anecdotes relating to each adventure and album, the originality of this work comes from the 22 unedited rare facsimile reproductions from the archives, including a copy of the first Petit Vingtième, to interest even the strongest Tintinophile as well as a broader public audience.


Picaud, Caroline (ed). Astérix de A à Z. Paris: Editions de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2013. Print. 35€.

Bande dessinée’s other international success story also aroused much interest this year, due at least in part to the publication of a new album in the series, Asterix and the Picts. Asterix, Obelix and friends were also the subject of a major new exhibition at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French national library), entitled Astérix à la BNF! and featuring 120 pages from the series, donated by Albert Uderzo in 2011. Editions de la Bibiliothèque Nationale de France have published an exhibition catalogue under the title Astérix de A à Z [Astérix from A to Z], an alphabetical guide to the Asterix phenonenon. The book also features various interviews with, amongst others, Albert Uderzo, Anne Goscinny, and Anthea Bell – one of the series’ English translators – as well as analysis from notable Asterix and bande dessinée experts including Nicolas Rouvière, Gilles Ciment and Jean-Pierre Mercier.

Spirou & Franquin

Pissavy-Yvernault, Christelle, and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault. Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, Tome 1 (1937-46). Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 55€.

Rob-Vel. Spirou par Rob-Vel, l’intégrale 1938-1943. Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 24€.

Renouil, Elisa (ed). Franquin et les fanzines. Marcinelle: Dupuis, 2013. Print. 28€

Although not well known in English (with English translations only consistently released in India, by publisher Euro Books) Spirou is Belgian bande dessinée’s other superstar alongside Tintin. First appearing in 1938 and published by Dupuis, Spirou is a young hotel bellboy who finds himself in the midst of various adventures. Many authors have written Spirou stories over the years, including Jijé and André Franquin, with the latter revolutionising the Spirou series with longer stories and more complex plots. The series’ current authors are Fabien Vehlmann and Yoann Chivard.

2013 marked the 75th anniversary of Spirou and to commemorate the occasion Dupuis published a number of retrospective works.

Two of these concentrate on Spirou’s earlier incarnations. Christelle and Bertrand Pissavy-Yvernault’s Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, Tome 1 (1937-46) examines the circumstances surrounding the creation of the character and his eponymous magazine in pre-war Belgium, as well as the early stories created by Rob-Vel and Jije, before authorship passed to André Franquin and the series was transformed. The two authors are closely involved with Dupuis and were given access to many private documents held by the Dupuis family; the book includes some of these documents, interviews and previously unreleased images of one of Belgium’s most important bande dessinée characters.

Also reissued in one volume was every Spirou story by the character’s first author, Rob-Vel (Robert Velter). Spirou par Rob-Vel, l’intégrale 1938-1943 works as a companion to Le Véritable Histoire de Spirou, showing Velter’s “American-style” artwork and storytelling. The volume also includes a detailed introduction to the Spirou series.

Although he was only one of many authors to work on Spirou, André Franquin became the most famous and most influential, working on the series for many years, from 1946-1967. Franquin also worked on other series and characters, including his own creation Gaston Lagaffe. Part of Dupuis’ Patrimoine [heritage] collection, along with the two Spirou volumes, Franquin et les fanzines is a collection of twenty interviews given by Franquin to, as the title suggests, fanzines- but in this sense also including independent magazines of bande dessinée analysis and criticism. Franquin was unusual among major bande dessinée creators in granting interviews to these magazines in addition to more traditional press. The book includes several interviews previously unpublished in French.

Joann Sfar

Groensteen, Thierry. Entretiens avec Joann Sfar. Brussels: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2013. Print. 22€.

Joann Sfar is one of the most important bande dessinée authors of recent times, as well as a film director (e.g. 2010’s Serge Gainsbourg biopic Gainsbourg (vie héroïque)). He is a prolific comic writer and creator, with most of his work published by well-regarded independent publisher L’Association. Several of his books and series have been published in English, including Dungeon (with Lewis Trondheim), The Rabbi’s Cat and Klezmer. These last two series are inspired by Sfar’s Jewish ancestry, an important element in his work.

Leading bande dessinée critic and theorist Thierry Groensteen conducted a series of wide-ranging interviews with Joann Sfar, collected in this illustrated volume from Belgian publisher- Les Impressions Nouvelles. Subjects are varied, and include Sfar’s artistic style, personal life and childhood.

World War Two

Lambeau, Frans. Dictionnaire Illustré de la bande dessinée belge sous l’Occupation. Waterloo:André Versailles, 2013. Print. 34.50€.

Capart, Philippe (ed.) Crypte Tonique: Occupés! No. 10 (2013). Print. 12€.

Two interesting works on the Nazi occupation of Belgium and bande dessinée appeared in 2013. The first, Frans Lambeau’s Dictionnaire Illustré de la bande dessinée belge sous l’Occupation (The Illustrated Dictionary of Belgian Bande Dessinée during the Occupation) is a comprehensive, encyclopaedia-like survey of the bande dessinée industry in Belgium between 1940 and 1945, with 270 entries and 240 illustrations covering authors, series, characters and publishers, as well as the political and social context of the Occupation. Both the French-language and Flemish industries are examined, including famous figures such as Hergé and Jijé alongside their less well-known counterparts, in this exhaustive, detailed work.

Issue 10 of Crypte Tonique, a magazine published by the Brussels bookshop and publishing house of the same name, also focuses on the Belgian bande dessinée industry from 1940-1945. Described as a “micro-companion” to Lambeau’s Dictionnaire, it shares much common ground with the larger work, but focuses particularly on issues of collaboration, the political leanings of different industry figures and the consequences of those political decisions.

Bande Dessinée Scholarship in English

Grove, Laurence. Comics in French: The European Bande Dessinée in Context. Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books, 2013. Print. £25

McKinney, Mark. Redrawing French Empire in Comics. Ohio: The Ohio State University Press, 2013.

2013 saw the paperback reprint of 2010’s Comics in French by Laurence Grove. An ambitious work, the result is a text which successfully situates most of the major works of bande dessinée during the twentieth century, offering historical and cultural analysis on the Franco-Belgian tradition. He offers up interesting insight into the field, and a theoretical underpinning of the medium through the work of cultural studies scholars such as Bourdieu and Hall. His chronological approach is justified within the text, offering his own defence of the medium as worthy of academic study, while targeting his work to an English speaking audience. This work acts as an excellent introductory study of bande dessinée, a strong follow-up to The Francophone Bande Dessinée (2005).

Mark McKinney’s Redrawing French Empire in Comics examines the representations of the French colonial experience in Algeria and Indochina on both sides of these still politically sensitive conflicts. McKinney examines in detail the French colonisation of Algeria (1830s onwards), the French war in Indochina (1946-1954) and the Algerian war (1954 – 1962), using francophone comics as lenses through which to look at these already well-trodden areas of study. His work offers valuable insight into areas perhaps overlooked, such as the perspective of the pied noirs in Algeria during the conflict, and is a good companion to his earlier work, 2011’s The Colonial Heritage of French Comics.

Looking Forward

January 2014 saw the annual Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême in France, which annually receives over 200,000 visitors. With concerts, exhibitions and activities, it has become a must-visit event for bédéphiles. This is coupled with the ongoing Astérix exhibition at the BNF in Paris.

We look forward in 2014 to a number of exciting works in the field of bande dessinée scholarship, particularly in light of the centenary of the First World War, and will keep you informed in July of all the current affairs in the field.

European Comic Art

Table of contents for the latest edition of European Comic Art:

Volume 6, Issue 2, 2013

Editorial: Comics in Dialogue with Other Arts The Editors


Impolite Interventions? English Satirical Prints in the Presence of the Academy, c. 1750–1780 Danielle Thom

Comic Art in Museums and Museums in Comic Art Michael D. Picone

High Comics Art: The Louvre and the Bande Dessinée Margaret C. Flinn

Reframing European Diasporas in Contemporary France: ‘Second Generation’

Subjectivity and the Road ‘Home’ in Portugal (2011) and La Commedia des ratés (2011) Michael Gott

Festival and Conference Reviews

Book Reviews

Lisa Tannahill is a PhD student at the University of Glasgow. Her research focuses on representations of the peripheral French regions in francophone bande dessinée, particularly Brittany, Corsica, their respective regional identities, and France’s historical attitude towards its periphery. Other interests include gender and postcolonial issues in the bande dessinée and graphic representations of the World Wars.

Chris O’Neill is a PhD student at Aston University, Birmingham. His research focuses on the development of newspaper cartooning in France between 1920 and 1944, particularly the impact of Candide and Gringoire during this period. Other areas of interest include representations of political figures and conflict in bande dessinée, and right-wing French politics in the inter-war period.


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Vertigo’s Archival Impulse as Memorious Discourse by Christophe Dony

Vertigo, DC’s adult-oriented imprint, has been repeatedly praised for having ‘fully joined the fight for adult readers’ in the early 1990s (Weiner 2010: 10). It has been noted that this “fight” coincided with the imprint’s ‘adoption of the graphic novel format’ as well as ‘a new self-awareness and literary style’ which ‘brought the scope and structure of the Vertigo comics closer to the notion of literary text’ (Round 2010: 22). However, little attention has been devoted to the very cultural identity of the imprint, even if Vertigo has since its early days engaged in an intro- and retrospective discourse on the American comics form, its history, and the power relations inherent to its industry. This short essay intends to start filling that gap by investigating Vertigo’s archival impulse. It argues that in deploying various rewriting strategies which engage with specific past (comics) traditions, the label has activated a unique memorious discourse that provides a self-reflexive and critical commentary on the structuring forces of the American comics field, its politics of domination and exclusion, and hence its canons.

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Posted by on 2013/10/18 in Guest Writers


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