The webcomics blog about webcomics

Webcomics Before The Web

From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin:

I have a lot of memories in relation to Claire Bretécher’s work; I first knew her through Aggripine, the teenager whose adventures she created during the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Then, I later discovered her earlier works: Cellulite, Les Frustrés, but also some lesser-known ones. Her work was so groundbreaking in every way: the style, the themes, the language, but also everything that does not appear on the page (more on that in a minute) that I still can’t believe Angoulême never awarded her the Grand Prix. It’s a disgrace.

But I’m going to leave a proper overview of her work to people more competent than I am; rather, we at Fleen will focus here on how she has preceded French webcartoonists in their quest for independence.

Bretécher had traditionally worked with publishers, many of them in fact, in the 60s; but in the 70s for Les Frustrés she was working with Le Nouvel Obs, a weekly magazine publisher. And once enough pages had run there, she sought to have them collected. While some publishers showed interest, they also offered her conditions that she was not happy with, so she said Screw it. (not an exact quote)

She went ahead and took a loan, hired a printer, sought bookshops, etc: she self-published Les Frustrés. The 70s were a time of upheaval in Euro comics, but the contemporary initiatives¹ to break free of traditional publishers aimed at creating editorial structures pooling the publication of multiple creators; Bretécher, by herself, showed that it was possible to go at it alone, and remain independent: she kept self-publishing for the remainder of her career.

She never published on the web (she did feature the sociological impact of the Internet in the later Aggripine books, lest you think she ignored it), but nevertheless she has directly or indirectly inspired the current crop of French-language webcartoonists who are self-publishing today, the same way she did so many years ago.

For those interested in furthering their knowledge of Bretécher, a large portion of her body of work has been translated in English, with Les Frustrés being easiest to find; however, in some cases you might have to hit the second-hand market.

¹ The Hara-Kiri crew had founded Charlie Mensuel to publish Al Capp, Charles Shultz, and a few others; Moebius, Dionnet, and Druillet founded Métal Hurlant (Heavy Metal); Gotlib had founded Fluide Glacial so grown-up comics (his and other’s) could see the light of day; Bretécher herself had been part of such an initiative, with Mandryka and Gotlib, called l’Echo des Savanes, before they ran out of money, etc.

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