The webcomics blog about webcomics

In Memoriam Samuel Paty

From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, cartoons and the aftermath of the power they hold.

__________

In the French equivalents of Junior High and High School, history, geography, and civics are taught under the same hours in the timetable by the same teachers. For historical reasons, they are known as history and geography teachers.

Samuel Paty was one of them.

So while I don’t know what he was like, I know about his discipline from other teachers I know better. The ones I had in Junior High and High School, of course. Fabrice Erre, too. But the first one in my mind has and always will be my own father (who is retired by now).

For instance, when Emmanuel Macron in his eulogy (Samuel Paty was honored with a national funeral, as well as the Légion d’Honneur in the academics section, and his son was made a ward of the state) told us his home was filled with books, I don’t know if they included comics, but I otherwise couldn’t help but think of my own childhood home, filled with all kinds of books. And among them, comics were not necessarily the least relevant ones for history and geography, even if that was not always to their credit: infamously, the various editions of Tintin au Congo are often used to illustrate the attitude from Europeans of the time towards colonization.

But we did not need that eulogy, or knowledge of the curriculum, to know that Samuel Paty knew the power of a cartoon. We do know that because, while I don’t want to get too much into the ongoing inquiry¹, a few days earlier he was sued by a parent who objected to Samuel Paty using Muhammad caricatures as an illustration of free speech as part of his civics class, and as a a result police had deposed Samuel Paty, who defended his use of the caricatures; not as part of a state mandate (the teachers wouldn’t stand for it, and shouldn’t), but as part of his academic freedom. In fact, while the wording is in dispute, we know he warned of the content and excused students who were unwilling to view it.

In the hours following the murder, it was thought to be a random terror attack. We know now it was anything but random.

As Emmanuel Macron said, we will keep discovering, we will keep inquiring, and we will keep fighting for freedom and reason. #JeSuisSamuel too.

__________

As always, our thanks to FSFCPL for his thoughts. Take care of each other.


Spam of the day:
Spammers don’t get to share this day.

_______________
¹ To give you an idea, the trial for the Charlie Hebdo and related terrorist murders of January 2015 has only recently opened and is still ongoing.

Bigger Shares Of Cake Vs Making Bigger Cakes

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin is back with a fresh translation of an oldish webcomic, and what it means for Comics Today on both sides of the Atlantic.

_______________

Maliki has (finally) translated into English their announcement for going independent¹ (previous coverage), and after rereading it, it deserves additional commentary.

It is interesting to contrast it with Scott McCloud’s own assessment of the state of the US comic book industry in Reinventing Comics. When it comes to business, the dominant thinking in the US is that there is room to grow, and there is space for everyone, you just have to look and work for it. Whereas in France, the dominant vision is rather that of of the body of available work as a fixed cake, that must be shared by everyone; it’s almost Malthusian (I tend to think the dominant French vision is wrong, but that the US vision can be taken too far).

What’s interesting is that, for their respective comics industries, the common wisdom has been the reverse. At the time of Reinventing Comics at least, the US comics industry had lived so much on extracting more and more value out of the most faithful in their existing customer base, without really working on expanding the readership to new audiences to compensate for attrition, that it was in danger of losing its cultural relevance. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a shift away from that, with a focus on diversity both for characters and readers.

By contrast, comics of the French-Belgian tradition have for some time worked on expanding their audience, whether it is through covering more themes (such as journalism comics), through additional formats, in a demographic sense, etc. And that is very commendable, don’t get me wrong, not to mention there are dimensions such as variety of demographics where we are still far from Japan, where there are manga for grandparents, manga for young women, manga for office workers, etc. But …

But it appears that after outcompeting each other in that regard, publishers have gotten carried away and now only know how to compete through expansion; and at some point, there are diminishing returns.

And what happens then?

Well, while they drown booksellers in new releases, they simultaneously squeeze creators (who are not exactly in a position of power): reducing their royalties, increasing their output demands, shifting responsibilities to them, etc.

There are many elements in Maliki’s comic that I agree with, but where I’m most aligned is that it’s pointless to find a culprit who started it: you could be looking for a long time. And so the problem is rather with the process the industry is engaged in, and sometimes the best way to fix such a system … is to leave it.

We again thank Maliki for their expose, and for the courage it must have taken them to go this route.

_______________

Editor’s note: I entirely agree with FSFCPL’s interpretation that the difference between French and US attitudes at the moment is a function of saturation. In the US, comics are still niche, and there’s plenty of cultural mindspace for them to grow before they’re societally ubiquitous like in France.

The thing is, different artforms can find themselves at different places on the spectrum of Zero-Sum Game to Expansionary Space; the average TV showrunner in the age of peak TV is pretty likely to regard their audience as whoever they can peel off from another show instead of entire swathes of society who’ve been entirely ignored by the makers of TV for decades, and are now watching their first show ever.

And, as always, we at the Fleen Home Office thank FSFCPL for his insights and analysis.


Spam of the day:

I like MojoHeadz.

Is that some kind of manly macho version of Bratz, but for dudes? Because if it’s not, it sure sounds like it is and you might be leaving money on the table.

_______________
¹ Gary here. Reading through Maliki’s (now dated) announcement, I can’t help but think how much it echoes Howard Tayler’s comments on who gets what in publishing from the Webcomics 103 session back in Aught-Six. To quote:

Imagine you’ve got a book on sale at Borders [Editor’s note: Yeah, yeah.] for $10 — pretty sweet, right? Hang on a minute, because you aren’t going to get $10 a copy. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • The store sells it for $10, keeps $4, and pays $6 to the distributor
  • The distributor keeps $3, and pays $3 to the publisher
  • The publisher keeps $1, pays $1 to the printer, and $1 to the author
  • You’re the author
  • There’s a lot of hands in the pie, and you want as many of them as possible to be yours. If you can contract with printers directly, you can get the $1 that the publisher would keep. If you can bypass distributors like Diamond and shop the books around yourself, you can keep $3 more (although this is likely to severely cut into the number of retail locations you can place the book in, which will depress sales). If you have the garage space, a postal meter, and help from friends and family, you could do mail-order fulfillment yourself and keep the store’s cut ($4) along with the distributor’s.

    Or, as the point has been made by Messers Guigar, Kellett, Kurtz, and Straub ever since How To Make Webcomics came out a dozen years back: you can be in a high volume business, or you can be in a high margin business; the trick is to make the larger share of a smaller pot of money exceed what you’d get from a smaller share of a larger pot of money.

    Also, do you suppose there’s any significance that FSFCPL and Maliki talk about a share of cake, but Americans generally talk about a share of pie?

    Is It Fair If I Guess? On Account Of I Already Know The Answer

    On what is shaping up to be a challenging day¹, there’s nothing like the small ray of sunshine that is an unanticipated post from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. Let hear what’s happening on the European side of the Atlantic.

    _______________

    Guess who’s got two thumbs and forgot his keyboard at home last week?

    • Quai des Bulles announced they would not hold the festival this year; I can only commend them not only for a decision that was tough to make, but also for giving all stakeholders a full 4 months heads up.

      That leads me to my own announcement: I will not be making any preparations to go to Angoulême in January 2021. Given the characteristics of this epidemic, which has been shown to progress best in closed spaces — you can’t exactly hold a trade show around paper without protecting it against moisture, not in most of France — where people speak or shout a lot, given that summoning thousands of people from the whole French-speaking world (and beyond!) would be an epidemiological management nightmare even if the setting was favorable, and given that I can’t see any validated vaccine production, distribution, and deliverance having been scaled enough to reach herd immunity by that time, might as well declare the whole year starting from March 15th, at least, as a loss for such activities.

      Ouest-France, however, reassures us they will award their prize, to be announced when Quai des Bulles should have taken place.

    • Also via Ouest-France (in their print edition), I learned of Nicoby’s latest crowdfunding project, titled C’est la guerre (a reference to how Emmanuel Macron framed the lockdown announcement).

      The contents, his lockdown autobio journal, are interesting, but also interesting is how a publisher is managing the project. We have seen that last year with with tiny and Tall’s campaign, managed by publisher Lapin, and it seems to be gaining traction among indie publishers. We can see for instance the publisher taking advantage of the campaign for some (reasonable) cross-promotion.

      Also interesting is the framing for the campaign: it is presented as an end-run around the glut in bookshop releases that is already occurring as books that should have been released during the lockdown are rescheduled, end-run itself justified by the timeliness of the content. It seems like more and more actors are trying to free themselves from the constraints of fitting in the system of wide bookshop distribution and going direct instead.

    • Finally, Maliki’s latest campaign ended with 12,608 copies (10,532 for book 3 proper), or 16647 booksecc, breaking their own previous crowdfunding record. Never bet against Team Maliki.

    _______________

    As always, Fleen thanks FSFCPL for his reportage from the lands of BD².


    Spam of the day:

    This new self-defense tool looks innocent… but it will drop a ripped 260-lb. thug in 2 seconds or less and turn him into a whimpering pile.

    Big deal. Randy Milholland’s version of Olive Oyl in his Popeye’s Cartoon Club offerings (which, sadly, may be seeing their last update today — write to King Features Syndicate and tell them we want more Uncle Randy strips!) can lay a much bigger brute out by making them feel unloved and alone. Top that, spammers!

    _______________
    ¹ Without going into it too much, a member of my family who’s been declining for years and has been in hospice for the past week is about to die. I will most likely have more to say later.

    ² That’s bandes dessinées.

    Pervs.

    For The Record, He Sent All This Along On Friday, I Just Didn’t Get To It Until Today

    First of all, I need to apologize if you posted a comment since Friday’s post went up … a miscreant engaged in a little Grand Spamming¹ and I found 120 pending comments as I opened up the editor and wasn’t too careful with my mass delete. Mea culpa, if you got caught up.

    Second of all, we’re starting out the week with a little cross-oceanic news, as Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, who is always on top of what’s happening in the world of bandes dessinées [web].

    __________

    No real focus today:
    [Editor’s note: been there.]

    • Maliki has launched their latest crowdfunding campaign; the start, helped by Team Maliki spreading the link in advance, was too explosive (4000 copies in 24 hours) to allow the FFF to be reliable since it would have predicted more than a twofold increase from their previous campaign, but there was little doubt anyway it would be at least as successful as their campaigns always are.
    • LyonBD has launched their non-festival, with plenty of non-programming [PDF] all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
    • At the end of an enjoyable live stream hosted by Natalie Nourigat (part 1, part 2), Boulet dropped that Donjon, the series created by Lewis Trondheim and Joann Sfar for which he has drawn the latest installments would be translated in English and come to the U.S. of A.

      [Editor’s note: !!!]

      We at Fleen will be sure to keep you informed.

    • Speaking of Sfar, he is being sued by the SGDL, a French society of writers, for defamation; yes, the very same society of writers responsible for dispatching aid meant for creators, with Cy wondering at the time why such a private entity would be entrusted with public money. Sfar, as the honorary president of the Professional Creators League was interviewed by Alexandra Bensaid Saturday May the 23rd (replay available here), Sfar segment starting at 1:19:30, if you can understand French), and as we at Fleen understand it the SGDL objects to Sfar denouncing these organisms, such as the SGDL, […] which occasionally get a hold of enormous amounts of money which do not end up going to the creators (all the caveats about both transcribing an audio interview and translating the meaning from French apply).

      The suit has led to quite a backslash, with the Professional Creators League publicly reacting in support of Sfar, and many creators loudly surrendering their SGDL memberships for the same reason. We at Fleen are not in a position to either assess Sfar’s claims nor analyze his legal position, but we regret the use of such tactics by the SGDL, and we think Sfar ought to be able to express himself with few if any restrictions on such a matter of public interest.

    • Finally, we at Fleen think you should be following Kéké for his amazing animations. There is no particular reason for why today we would make this suggestion.

    __________

    As always, we at Fleen (US division) thank FSFCPL for his contributions.


    Spam of the day:
    Anyone Can Learn Piano or Keyboard
    I seem to recall a claim along these lines from Planet Of The Apes: The Musical. I love you, Dr Zaius!

    _______________
    ¹ Coincidentally, Grand Spamming is a crime in the universe of Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary, which was the topic of Friday’s post.

    In A Functional World, There Would Be A Book Review Today

    Specifically, of the second :01 Second collection of Check, Please (subtitled Stick & Scones). This wraps up Bitty’s four years at Samwell, and presumably resolves the cliffhanger that Year Four, Chapter 22 (posted at noon today) has left us on. Unfortunately, the incompetent, malicious grifter in the White House has ensured that this is not a functional world, everything is disorganized, and review copies haven’t made it out to everybody on :01’s list because — and let me clear, this is important — people not dying is more important that me having an ARC to write about today.

    So when I’m able to get a copy of Ngozi Ukazu’s sure-to-be triumphant conclusion, I’ll let you know. Until then, you can read very nearly the entire story online, and as a special treat we have Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin here to tell you about what’s going on Europe-ways.

    _______________

    I have news from the civilian zone, and news from the front.

    On the civilian zone, the #coronamaison has become really big. How big, you ask?

    And now for the front lines. I mentioned Solange Baudo, aka Soskuld, a few times here. She is a nurse’s aide but also chronicles her work in a comics blog, starting way back from her studies. However, about five years ago she quit the hospital to get a formal training in illustration and comics with the aim to work on that full time, which she has now been doing for the past year.

    Until last week. Now it’s part time.

    Because last week, she has again donned the safety gear and started working in a clinic for 12 hours shifts after volunteering on MedGo, as she relates in a riveting testimonial (French-only, sorry). Yes, in a COVID service near Paris, an area hard hit at the time of this writing.

    Solange, we at Fleen salute you, and you can be assured that, the next time we meet, I’ll have something for you. I’m thinking a cake. A big one. But the best support I can give you right now is for me to stay at home.

    _______________

    As always, we at Fleen are grateful for FSFCPL’s observations from the heart of Europe. Rester en sécurité, mon ami.


    Spam of the day:

    Doctors can’t explain why this insane method passes every lab test …

    Let me stop you right there. It’s because you’re full of shit and there are no lab tests. Fuck off.

    Heh. “Coronavirus”.

    As promised, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has a remembrance of Alberto Uderzo, co-creator and artist of Astérix.

    _______________

    I am still reeling. Astérix, like Tintin and the Smurfs, were the ubiquitous comics of my childhood, I literally grew up with them; but by the time I was born René Goscinny and Hergé were gone already, I could never mourn them, and once Peyo left us too, I had grown out of the Smurfs. But you never grow out of Astérix.

    Uderzo was born in France but named Alberto, since his parents immigrated from Italy, and in that his origins parallel Goscinny’s (born in Paris of a Jewish family from Poland). Indeed, Uderzo is commonly associated with Astérix, with reason, but even more characteristic of his career is his association with Goscinny: their meeting was clearly decisive for both their careers, and from then on they never stopped collaborating. Beginning with a first iteration of Umpah-Pah, which they solicited in the US, without success, but the techniques of the time had them put the English lettering directly on the original plates, where it still remains, including in reprints of that pilot: they can only be read in English. Then various other series with uneven success, among which Luc Junior or Jehan Pistolet. Then a retooled Umpah-Pah, probably his second best-known work (5 books).

    And then the pair, with a few other friends, founded Pilote, with Obélix quickly settling on the cover masthead. Imagine if Stan Lee has left Marvel in 1959 along with Jack Kirby to found Dark Horse, and succeeded in making it bigger than the Big Two? This is what Goscinny and his friends did, and much the same way that Hergé was Tintin magazine’s star artist, and Franquin was Spirou magazine’s, Uderzo was Pilote‘s.

    And as such, while Astérix was born in the first issue of Pilote, in there Uderzo also worked on Tanguy et Laverdure, this time on a scenario from Jean-Michel Charlier and in a more realistic style for which he is less known, and that’s too bad, because his work is just as remarkable there than it is in Astérix. But the success of Pilote, and then of Astérix within Pilote, led the pair to drop Umpah-Pah (which they were creating for Tintin magazine), and led Uderzo to relinquish drawing duties on Tanguy et Laverdure to Jijé. From then on, Uderzo would work on Astérix and only Astérix, with the success for which he is now known worldwide.

    I have never seen his work prior to his collaboration with Goscinny, but even after they started working together his style was still evolving: at the beginning of Jehan Pistolet for instance he drew scenes and characters with dense strokes, but later on in Jehan Pistolet he evolved to a very cartoonish style, reminiscent of Disney. While far from Hergé’s ligne claire, the style he settled on can’t really be tied to the Marcinelle school either: while he reported being influenced by US artists, in many ways he cleared his own path.

    A style which appears deceivingly simple. It is exceedingly readable and thus instrumental to Astérix’ all-ages appeal: even if you barely understand what is going on you can easily follow along, which better allows you to read them again later, where Goscinny’s writing picks up the slack and reveals additional layers of meaning. And yet when looking more closely you can see how he adds emphasis lines, varies lines width, suggests volumes, etc. without it being salient.

    But it wasn’t just the style. When Asterix chez les Pictes, the first book drawn by Didier Conrad, was about to come out Le Monde ran a feature telling how Uderzo initially looked only for a writer for resuming the series without him, as he thought he already had the drawing talent in house: Frédéric Mébarki, who was already punctually filling in for the aging master, seamlessly so. But when it came time to create a full book, no one was satisfied with his “graphical narration”, Mébarki most of all: he had to drop the project, and another search had to be made, this time for an artist.

    He was also the last of his generation, of those comics creators of the French-Belgian tradition who broke out in the 50s. Goscinny, Charlier, Delporte, Jijé, Franquin, Peyo, Greg, Morris, Roba, Giraud, are all gone, and so with Uderzo died the last witness to a lot of the history of comics.

    It is clear the success of Astérix owes a lot to the work of Albert Uderzo. In the last Tintin book that Hergé completed, Tintin and the Picaros, the last pages occur during a carnival, and while most of the costumes are of public domain characters (harlequin, giant heads, etc.), you can find a Mickey, a Donald … and an Asterix costume. A passing of the guard, in a way.

    What to read of Uderzo?

    • Umpah-pah the Redskin (remember it was the 50s, and is best thought as alternate history anyway): the first part of the Umpah-pah series; most of what will be in Astérix is there already.
    • Tanguy et Laverdure: any of the books he drew in this series, just so you can see what he is capable of in a more realistic style as well.
    • Asterix and Cleopatra: clearly inspired by/spoofing the Mankiewicz movie (the original cover boasted of the 67 liters of beer, among other resources, necessary for the book’s creation), the sense of scale is impressive.
    • Asterix the Legionary: How many kinds of Roman legionaries do you think he can draw? More than you think.
    • Asterix in Britain: A crazy rugby game? Of course he can do that.
    • Asterix and the Roman Agent: The strained friendships in this one are incredibly represented.
      (note that Uderzo was at his best when Goscinny wrote for him. In particular, everyone would rather forget the last book he created alone)

    Finally, Augie De Blieck Jr of Pipeline Comics has a nice roundup of tributes, but my favorite has to be Eudes’:

    Halt Gauls! On order of Coronavirus, prefect of Gaul, you are to provide me your travel certificate.
    A certificate … These Romans are crazy.

    Mashing news events is a dicey proposition, doubly so when trying to pay tribute to a departed person, but here it works perfectly. Especially as the lockdown in France restricts attendance of funeral services to … 20 people. And obviously forbids any other tribute event or ceremony from taking place, as there doubtlessly would have been for such a celebrity death. My thoughts go to Uderzo’s family who have to mourn him in these constrained times.


    Spam of the day:
    Spammers don’t get to share the day with Uderzo.

    Really Only One Story Today

    And we’ll get to that in a moment. In the meantime, I trust you’ve seen that MICE has postponed its exhibitor registration, to be re-evaluated in June, that BOOM! Studios has made Hope Larson’s first Goldie Vance graphic novel free to read, and Diamond (a blight on comics in general) has announced it’s not going to be doing anything for a while. Having a monopoly on distribution in the comics direct market is an awesome idea, you guys.

    That one story today, thought? We lost a giant in the world of comics. Albert Uderzo, illustrator and co-creator (with René Goscinny¹) of Astérix, died at the age of 92. It was unrelated to the current global crisis, not that there’s a good time or way to die, but reports are that he died in his sleep of a heart attack after feeling tired for a couple weeks. In the grand scheme of things, I’d be happy to have that one. Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeapin is working on a suitable remembrance, which we will have in the next day or two.

    But while Uderzo’s death was unexpected, the ongoing effects of the novel coronavirus are not, and FSFCPL has some words from our European desk about how the [web]comics scene over there is reacting.

    _______________

    In these times of lockdown it seems that publishers left and right are dropping digital comics to read for free, but in that they are merely following in the footsteps of webcartoonists, who have already moved on from that to the next thing: creating works where you can contribute. Yes, you.

    • Many creators have posted the inked layer for comics plates or illustrations, for everyone to color; not particularly unexpected, but this is a classic exercise and is worth a mention. We can report that Riad Sattouf, Pénélope Bagieu, Marie Boiseau, Norbert, Thorn (twice), Fabien Lambert, Marion Barraud, Timothy Hannem (where you can also look for the hidden 20 cats), Alice Des where you can also look for some objects — instructions only in French, sorry), Marion Poinsot, Julie Gore et Eric Wantiez, Aurélien Fernandez, and Sandrine Deloffre are doing so (careful, some of these links may expire shortly).
    • Let us stay with Deloffre a bit longer: those are taken from her book called Les Cartes de Désavoeux, which I will roughly translate as Ill-Wishing Cards. Kind of a mirror universe Hallmark or American Greetings, though omitting any IP, thankfully. And she has posted the instructions on how you can do your own, which I will translate as best as I can manage:
      1. Trace a round shape with a round object (e.g. glass, soccer ball, the cap of a Pringles can, swimming pool, …)
      2. Define a goal: to whom? Why? How much do you care about this person? Do you have means of defense in the event of an aggression?
      3. Settle on a pattern an apply it on the outer surface of the previously traced round shape (e.g. flowers, stars, golden statues representing Vercingétorix, penis wearing a sombrero …)
      4. Settle on a message combining subtlety and realism and inscribe it upon the center of the circle while applying yourself. Don’t hesitate to overdo it.
      5. Gift the ill-wishing card to someone who deserves it. (e.g. nobody, because nobody deserves this card, because everyone walks in isolation in this long putrid and foul-smelling sewer we call life, we walk alone and we will die alone, eaten up by our cats, except if we’re allergic).
    • On the initiative of Bagieu, an idea by Oscar Barda, critical contributions by Deloffre, and a template by Hannem, the Coronamaison (translated hastag #coronahome was suggested by Moemai, should you need one) was born. The prompt: you draw the house floor along with its decoration/companions/pets/food/windows where you would want to be locked down, ideally.

      It kind of exploded, with #coronamaison having now thousands of hits on Instagram, though I think they are best seen on Twitter, where they remain (mostly) uncropped; alternately, Hammen is retweeting pretty much all of them. Of particular notice to your correspondent are Obion’s), Boulet’s, Luppi’s, Moemai’s, Maitre et Talons’, Jakuboy’s, Margaux Saltel’s, and of course Bagieu’s, Deloffre’s, Hannem’s, and Barda’s.

    • Meanwhile, Maliki offers a dialogue-free version of her latest strip, for you to represent what your timeline is looking like in these days of lockdown (and yes, Animal Crossing vs Doom has already been done).
    • Every day, Lewis Trondheim proposes a challenge where he posts the first three panels of a strip he just created, to see if you can guess the punchline in the fourth panel; the challenge being that your response must be in the form of a drawn panel, even badly. Be sure to follow him closely, as some have managed to find the solution in 10 mere minutes.
    • Meanwhile, Boulet proposes a game he co-created with his goddaughter Maya, where the game is mostly a pretext to draw hybrids; many creations can be seen in response to his tweet. Note that they need not be as elaborate as his barbarian Slowbro.
    • And Erwann Surcouf, on his side, proposes the randomized comic story generator he created for Spirou magazine a while back; no English version of the instructions appears to be available, unfortunately.
    • We complete by a digression though French law Twitter, where Solinette proposes we liven up the form where we French must attest for ourselves the business we have for going outside our home (e.g. buy basic necessity goods or bring out the pet), and that many of us (your correspondent included) have to fully copy by hand, for lack of a printer at home. Every day: they’re dated. Yes, it’s France, of course we have to have bureaucracy even between one and oneself.
    • Still in French law Twitter, Maitre et Talons encourages children to draw in support of healthcare professionals to thank them like she or Deloffre do. She also wants you to send her photos so she can draw herself in them.

    And remember: wash your hands, sneeze and cough in your elbow pit, practice social distancing, and for the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s sake, stay at home. You have more than enough to keep yourself busy now.

    ______________

    Fleen, as always, thanks M Lebeapin for his reportage.


    Spam of the day:

    It looks like you’ve misspelled the word “remeniscences” on your website. I thought you would like to know :)

    Nobody tell her.

    _______________
    ¹ Who died more than 40 years ago. For that matter, Uderzo retired nearly a decade ago, turning over writing and art to Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, respectively.

    From The Bunker

    Hey, gang. How’s everybody holding up? Good? Good. It’s like I told my EMS crews last night: this isn’t what we signed up for, but we stay safe and do the job right, and after we’re done we can go back to life being somewhat more boring again. To the end of keeping my head in the game where it’s needed, I am vastly cutting back on my social media reading; if there’s something you think I should know, email or DM me.

    Now let’s check in on other people who are dealing with the pandemic in constructive ways:

    • Joining just about every other institution, the Cartoon Art Museum announced over the weekend that they were closing their galleries and cancelling programs until the 29th; any return dates that are announced for the next while should probably be seen as on the cautiously optimistic side of the scale. Similarly, all of the public-facing events around the Month O’ Scott C at Gallery 1988 are off. This is a good and responsible pair of decisions, and we at Fleen thank the management of both venues.
    • Not just here, either. From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebaupin:

      I come as the bearer of good news, of an evangelion if you will. Fëanor, our envoy of the Religion of the Invisible, has vanquished Death and come back to us.

      Readers will no doubt remember Fëanor, Who was cursed early in life by a tragic slipper. But blessed as well, since that gave Him the gift of seeing the invisible, and soon afterward He adopted Maliki as His caretaker. And lo, the years passed, and Maliki started a webcomic, where He made many appearances, inspired many artefacts, current and past, becoming a general symbol) of Maliki. And lo, the years passed, with Maliki spreading the image of our beloved prophet. But resentment was rising with rumors being spread against Fëanor.

      This week, Fëanor showed all detractors wrong by revealing through His caretaker that He had vanquished Death and come back to us, ascending to godhood in the process. And yet He is content to keep a presence for His Earthly caretakers, rather than fully ascend after 40 days. All praise the eternal Fëanor.

      Fanart is accepted as proof of adoration, and to be directed to His Earthly caretakers through the keyword #PetitDieuFeanor.

      In other news, the French government as announced banning all events involving more than 100 participants, which implies pretty much all cultural events, so Fëanor kindly requests that no public celebration be made of His new status.

      Guess no more Smurf festivals for a while, then.

    • For those stuck at home with time on their hands, the invaluable Jim Zub (who, to my recollection, was one of the first to cancel his appearance at EmCity, a good week before the ball really started rolling; you don’t get much appreciation for being the first at a good decision of this nature so allow us to say Good choice, Zub) has decided to make the time away from everything a little more enjoyable:

      Click the attachment links over on my public Patreon post for two full volume PDFs of two of my creator-owned comics, free of charge and with no strings attached:

      https://www.patreon.com/posts/34846589

      Enjoy, share, and be good to each other.

      One may recall that Zub, via his extensive series of guides to making a living self-publishing, makes a good chunk of his living not from individual floppy sales, but via trades, particularly in digital. This is going to cost him some money. If you find you like the stories, maybe purchase the subsequent volumes or some of his other work? He’s doing the world a solid, you can do him one back.

    • For those stuck at home with offspring on their hands, Joe Wos (once the head of Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum, which sadly is no more) is offering a free online cartooning course for kids:

      Beginning on Weds March 18th Joe will be offering free live cartooning classes online for all ages.
      The live classes will take place on YouTube channel HowToToon at 1pm, 3 days a week (Tuesdays-Thursdays). Students can access the channel by visiting www.Howtotoon.com

      Joe has been teaching cartooning for over three decades! He currently teaches a daily cartooning class at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA and is has also been the visiting resident cartoonist of the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa California for the past 18 years. Joe has been a staple of comic cons, school assemblies and library programs for the past thirty years touring worldwide.

      Same deal as with Zub: solid, buy stuff, etc.

    • Finally, let us not forget that — global pandemic or no — plans get made and must be followed up on lest opportunities be lost forever. C Spike Trotman had plans to announce a major Kickstarter today, the largest and most ambitious in Iron Circus history, and about two and a half hours ago she delivered:

      Lackadaisy Cats has been running online since 2006, immersing its readership in a world of sepia-toned crime, adventure, action, and comedy. And now, it’s ready for its next big move … to a screen near you.

      It’s an art book, to fund the 10-minute short (digital download of which is available at tiers US$80+). As of this writing, funding is north of US$60K of the US$80K goal, with stretch goals going all the way up to a mind-bending US$225K (post-credits scene featuring fan-favorite character Mordecai Heller). It’s a new realm for ICC, a big ask, and a lot of logistics, but Lackadaisy Cats has a deep and ferociously invested fanbase, so I think those wacky kids might just pull this one off. Not sure if you’d be into it? You got time in isolation, start reading.


    Spam of the day:

    United Steel Industries is a new Rolling Mill in Fujairah. USI is incorporated in 140,000 square meters of land.

    Sorry, I require all my steel to be cast, not rolled.

    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.

    Almost Live From Nouvelle-Aquitaine

    Editor’s note: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin attended the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in the midsized city of Angoulême in the southwest of France. The third largest comics event in the world (eclipsed only by Lucca Comics & Games in Tuscany, and the twice-yearly Comiket in Tokyo), Angoulême is the center of the Franco-Belgian comics style, with a healthy representation of work from around the world. He’s here to tell you all about it.

    _______________

    I had never been to Angoulême before, whether for the FIBD or any other purpose. The town of Angoulême has a few claims to fame, notably that it was the domain for a junior branch of the French royal family, up until the senior branch became extinct and its lord ended up becoming king under the name François Premier (the first), thus starting the Valois-Angoulême subdynasty. But regardless of its historical role, I had never needed to go there, until this week-end for the 47th edition of its world-renowned comics festival.

    There are a few reasons why I decided to (finally) start covering the festival this year, but the main one is clearly the Grand Prix having been awarded to Rumiko Takahashi in 2019 as a definite proof of the FIBD sincerely correcting its course (unfortunately, neither Takahashi-san nor any showcase of her works could be seen at the festival¹ besides her poster, but as predicted the Grand Prix resulted in new releases of her classic works). Even then, the festival was the occasion for protest and other such activities, whether they were in relation to the impoverishment of creators², like creators taking to the streets or taking advantage of the awards ceremony to raise their concerns, or in relation to more general opposition, such as when president Emmanuel Macron posed along a t-shirt denouncing police violence during his visit, or the placards in town denouncing the same, using comics characters.

    However, I do not feel comfortable reporting on such events since I did not get to witness them first hand. I much prefer, inspired by fellow Angoulême first-timers Spike Trotman³ and Deb Aoki to give you my impressions and advice for attending the FIBD, coming from someone more used to regular Euro comics festivals. Indeed, Angoulême from its sheer scale has to or can afford to act differently from the former, and may not be representative of them.

    • It feels like Disneyland: the lines The legends did not mislead me: you must pad your schedule to account for the lines everywhere. Waiting for a signing is done in a line, of course, but as is waiting to enter a tent, waiting to enter an expo, sometimes for eating, etc. Fortunately, none of those were of the “one-off hard limit” variety: all of the spaces I waited in line for, I was able to enter, the worst being the Claveloux expo, set up in an old townhouse where I was told only about 25 people could be allowed in the ground floor at any one time, and only about 20 allowed in the first elevation. Yup, once you were done with the ground floor you had to again get in line for the first elevation …
    • It feels like Disneyland: the marketing This is the main event of the year for comics publishers, and it shows, with the booths in the mainstream publishers tent seemingly trying to outdo each other. For instance, just like you can spot children coming out of Disneyland, everywhere in town you could see children holding balloons, except here the balloons were shaped like Titeuf’s hairdo.

      As for Editions Dupuis, they went as far as to feature performers wearing oversized costumes of some of their characters in their booth, Disneyland-style. At least the marketing is focused on comics, and possibly comics-related works (for instance, there were a few advance showings of the latest Ducobu movie).

    • It feels like Disneyland: the scope Not only do the festival activities take over the town center with five tents, plus some buildings such as the Espace Franquin, resulting in an area that requires about 5 minutes to walk across, but an additional tent and a library were set up about a 15 minutes walk away from that, next to the train station, to which you have to add a cluster around the Musée de la Bande Dessinée, about a 20 minutes walk away from either of the other centers.

      And the center is on an elevation, so a bike might not be that helpful. Take good shoes, and one pair of socks for each day you’ll be there. Finally, they had a townwide PA system to remind of upcoming events and announce cancellations and the like.

    • It feels like Disneyland: the price Okay, it still does not compare to Disneyland, but at 19€ for a regular day, 25€ for Sunday, or 45€ for all 4 days, this is 5 times as expensive as, say, Lyon BD.
    • Plan in advance, or else The lodging situation is absolutely crazy, with every hotel room in the vicinity being booked months in advance; this is owed not just to the festival scale, but also to the fact Angoulême is not a big city like Lyon, and is not a beach resort like Saint Malo which finds itself with plenty of vacancies when the festival occurs, outside peak touristic season. I was able to get away with booking a B&B about 25km away a few days before and get there by train from Angoulême, but first I’ve been told I lucked out on being able to book so late, second this requires some faith in the reliability of the train service4, and lastly ties you to the train schedule even when everything goes well, which is an issue because:
    • Expect long days Regular festival activities only end at 8:00pm; this is in contrast with other such festivals, which generally close at 6:00pm. As a result, I had to bail out of an interesting exposé on how a new wave of superhero-style comics are too using crowdfunding and other such techniques to fund themselves outside Diamond distribution, since the last train for my B&B was departing at about 7:00pm. Moreover, I can’t help but think of the ordeal this must be for creators, since the festival lasts 4 days, with the other festivals lasting at most 3 days.
    • The footbridge does not give access to platform 3 This one is rather specific. There is a new footbridge over the train tracks, which is very practical to get to the side of the train tracks opposite the station, where the library and manga city cluster was, and to get directly to your platform, wherever you come from. However, you cannot go directly to platform 3 from it: it turns out you first have to get off the footbridge as if you wanted to get to the station building, walk the entire length of the building alongside it, and finally you will get to platform 3. No, I did not miss my train, but I had seriously started to worry at some point.

    I also brought back a few more pictures:

    _______________

    We at Fleen thank FSFCPL for his efforts, and look forward to his next dispatch from the world of BD.


    Spam of the day:

    “gary.tyrrell“ WelcomeTo “ProvideAuto“

    Those are the most terrifying scarequotes I’ve ever seen.

    _______________
    ¹ Here is a translation of the relevant part:

    On May 30th the Fauve of the Grand Prix was given to Rumiko Takahashi at the French embassy in Tokyo. Upon deliberation and exchanges over the last months, and in coordination with her publisher, she eventually declined the traditional proposals from the Festival, such as a retrospective exhibition and a public appearance, which would have entailed a workload and availability incompatible with her ongoing workload and commitments. Furthermore, she deems her work to be best discovered through her books, rather than her original plates. The Festival is naturally understanding and respectful of her decision. Sincerely moved by the honor, she wished to create a poster symbolically and concretely representing the richness of her world-appreciated body of work. The Festival will honor the creator through a program of meetups and tributes.

    “I once again thank the creators who voted for me and I was particularly moved by the professional recognition I was bestowed. It is particularly moving to realize how European creators have grown in contact with my works and how much they love them. I have particularly enjoyed and put my heart into the illustration for the Festival poster. It showcases the manga I admired with a lot of respect in my childhood. I hope you will like it.”
    — Rumiko Takahashi, Tokyo, 2019/09/20

    ² Who had reasons to be upset, for instance a newly-released report on their situation contained a few bombshells on their pensions situation.

    ³ All of her impressions from her time there are worthwhile, but don’t miss her considerations on French food, which are relevant since the duck-based products she procured are typical of southwestern France where Angoulême is located.

    4 I again lucked out on train issues, but my fellow first-timers were not so lucky; and before you think “strikes”, those issues can occasionally happen outside of any strike.