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Saint Malo 2019.3

We return again to the 2019 Quai des Bulles festival of bandes dessinées and Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin; today he’s bringing us a report of a meetup featuring Imbattable colorist Laurence Croix.

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The meetup took place Saturday at 10 AM at the Saint Malo library. Questions, unless otherwise noted, were asked by Sarah Bresson, from the Saint Malo library. Unfortunately, while I was able to take photos, they were systematically plagued with coloration artifacts, making them unfit for publication given the subject matter. [Editor’s note: No worries, FSFPL, I gotcha covered.]

The meetup began by an introduction of Laurence Croix: she has been coloring comics for 20 years, and her work on Imbattable is featured in the exhibition on the series, but she has worked for varied targets, all the way from youth magazines to all kinds of traditional comics publishers, working on series such as Blake et Mortimer but also more realistic universes.

Bresson: Can she tell us about growing up in Loire-Atlantique?
Croix: Her parents taught history and geography, and they had many classic comics at home, such as issues of the Tintin and Spirou periodicals starting in 1968.

Bresson: So was it an early dream for her to work in comics?
Croix: Not early, but she did dream of it, though her studies, in Rennes, were initially intended to get her to a job as an art teacher.

Bresson: But she did do a master on color in comics.
Croix: Indeed, because at that point she was able to choose the subject matter. Back then academia did not recognise comics as a matter of study, but it changed at just about that time, due to a whole generation of local creators, such as Brüno, and she contributed from afar. Her mémoire was on coloring and color printing techniques for comics.

Back then Brüno was already creating black and white comics with small press techniques, however for Nemo he was to meet with a publisher for a color publication, and he wasn’t feeling like coloring it by himself, so he asked her if she wanted the task, and she did since it was to be a small run, with limited risk; since then he has been successful, with Nemo and other works. That put her on the saddle, and she hasn’t been stopping since about 2002. She was at the right time at the right place.

Bresson: Coloring happens after a long process.
Croix: Indeed, coloring happens downstream from writing and drawing, but ahead of book layout and prepress, printing, distribution, etc. It is the final part of the creative process, which means she sometimes has to catch up for a late artist. This matters particularly for big runs, as those have a longer printing phase. Meeting a deadline is like running a sprint for her.

Bresson: Is she able to ponder the necessary work ahead of it starting?
Croix: It depends, for a 200 page book she can certainly work on the long run, but youth magazine work has to be done within the week.

Bresson: Does she get directives from the upstream creators?
Croix: Having the text is a good start, which she does not necessarily have, beyond that mostly whether it is day or night, sometimes the time of day. Sometimes if the inking is heavy the artist is unable to tell whether it was supposed to be morning or the afternoon, she has to get back to the writer.

Bresson: What kind of tools does she use?
Croix: She works with Photoshop. She showed a quick movie capture of her process; she explained that for that page the colors had already been validated from the previous ones, so she was mostly running through the process, using the color palette that could be seen on the side. However, it was necessary for her to add filters so that the same characters (with the same skin colors, etc.) could be integrated to the various ambiences.

Finally, she saves in a way that imitates the traditional system: one layer corresponding to the blacks on Rhodoïd, and one for the colors that would have been put on drawing paper, the whole thing that would have been going to the printer for the photo engraving process, traditionally. She explains the role of CMYK here: inks and lettering become 100% black (Key) so as to have sharp edges even in case of slight misregistration, and traditionally colors were 0% black so as not to be “dirtied”. Now she can put some black component in her colors thanks to improved processes, that allows her to obtain additional depth in come cases, such as for the khaki in uniforms.

Before it goes to the printing press, the printer sends her a chromalin of her work to make sure the colors are what she intended: displays are not necessarily reliable. In one occasion she realized the requirements used were obsolete: color printing is based on European norms that are updated regularly, with as a result the outcome being redder than expected, so corrections were necessary to match her intent, reflected from what the display shows.

Her past works end up becoming out of date: for the Spirou by Schwartz and Yann omnibus, collecting books published between 2009 and 2018, one of them at least will have to be corrected. For another book reprint the publisher had lost the original files, prior to the CMYK used for printing, and if she hadn’t been able to supply them again they were getting ready to rescan a book from the original run …

Bresson: Does she work on multiple projects at the same time?
Croix: Indeed, it allows her to switch projects if she is unable to progress on one, with renewed inspiration when going back to it, but it can potentially be a trap: she must be careful to keep each project thematically consistent.

Bresson: What does color bring to comics, and how did that even get started, historically speaking?
Croix: That goes back at least to the Yellow Kid, a Sunday comic strip in the New York World: color was used as a tool to sell papers, and to an extent it keep being a way to move books even if some colleagues might not like hearing that. For her, color must bring something to the work and elevate it. The symbolism associated with colors has varied in eras and cultures, and that aspect is not to be neglected: for instance in the middle ages wedding dresses were red rather than the current white; similarly colors associated with mourning have varied.

Bresson: What about orange?
Croix: That is indeed her favorite color: similar to red, but less aggressive. But she does not necessarily have free reign, sometimes an artist will veto a beautifully colored page solely because he does not like the color. Intensity can be challenging, as well: for a cover that had to have a matte finish she made sure to adapt the colors in compensation, and then a printing mistake ending up giving a glossy finish resulting in too intense shades; that can happen.

Bresson: Can you tell us some examples of ambience work?
Croix: One classic is to have sepia tones for a flashback sequence, and here we have a cover for a book collecting interviews with EP Jacobs¹: in this slideshow you can see in sequence the covers she proposed, with varying indoor ambiences, each file name ending in a different letter of the alphabet to manage versioning. For this kind of classic series such as Blake et Mortimer, but also Spirou, she must respect what has been done before her, but it is an interesting constraint.

Bresson: Does she always work digitally?
Croix: For her professional output, yes, but before going pro she did build up a portfolio using traditional techniques, on Tardi pages, in order to solicit publishers.

Bresson: Do colorists have any sort of specific style?
Croix: It’s hard for her to say, she tends not to reopen her published books once printed.

Bresson: Are there other colorists that she looks up to?
Croix: Yes, Isabelle Merlet among others.

Bresson: And what are the criteria for her admiration?
Croix: It’s hard for her to tell.

Bresson: Does she use tone gradations and other such techniques?
Croix: Not much; contrary to some colleagues she does not draw, and is aware to her limitations in that regard. For some works such as art prints she has to limit the number of shades used.

Bresson: What are her comics references?
Croix: La Langouste ne Passera pas, by Jean Yanne and Tito Topin; the latter has mostly worked as a writer for detective series on TV. She has looked at it a lot though without necessarily reading it. Then The Rivals of Painful Gulch: the colors may appear simplistic, such as in the blaze sequence, but they are very efficient. Finally Le Réducteur de Vitesse by Blain. Colors have always been tied to the printing techniques, and in the 90s allowed for direct color printing and comics started using that, but that book taught her it was OK to use flashy colors out of the 50s.

Bresson: Why are there such limitations? Are there codes to follow?
Croix: Many aspects in comics come and go out of fashion, so maybe her work will become dated in a few years. In the case of one book she had to ask for an extension from working so far out of her comfort zone. Codes do exist, she read a color theorist who divided possible color contrasts between seven kinds, and she realized she was doing very little of one, the light and shadow.

Bresson: Who decides, in the end?
Croix: The artist has final say (except for the cover, where marketing and such are directly involved), he delegates the work to her and that means she need to watch what she’s doing, not to mention it is the artist who then goes to publicly defend the work, at signings for instance. She can raise a veto for technical matters, when printing would be impossible for instance. So she has to be humble, even if sometimes she is given free reign: its has recently been the case for two painter biographies, one of Gauguin, which she found easy to handle, and one of George de la Tour, which she found hard.

At this point questions were opened to the public.

Question: What does she refer to regarding these Euro norms?
Bresson: To the color space contained with each iteration of these norms, which requires her to change from the Photoshop default, which corresponds to a US norm. Paper can affect colors as well, but it is chosen at the last moment and she has no control over that; worse, in some cases the French edition may be printed on one paper but the foreign one printed simultaneously with another.

Question: Are colors created on screen?
Bresson: Indeed, initially she relied on a regular display she manually calibrated by herself, and on occasion the chromalin sent for proofing would be all wrong; she also had to learn to send her calibration profile to the artist for him to be able to validate the colors. Now she uses precalibrated professional displays, and is much more comfortable when sending the colors for proofing.

Question: What kind of directives does she get?
Bresson: She is given the location of characters or elements to highlight, when in a crowd for instance, also on occasion photographic documentation for settings.

Question: Is she attracted to watercolors?
Bresson: She is; given how long it takes, and how mistakes can’t be corrected, she needs to build up more confidence before trying it out.

Question: Can it be a trap to have unlimited ability to correct?
Bresson: It can be frustrating, in one case she found herself with a lot of time to dedicate to one book, and ended up finding a better solution to represent a nightclub ambience from what she did in the previous book, but it was too late to apply to that one.

In another case, she settled by default on orange spacesuits for the astronauts in book one, given she had no idea what was going to be ahead for them; then in the second book they ended up in a forest, which implies green tones, so she was lucky she picked orange and not green in the first place, or they would have ended up blending with the forest environment.

Question: What kind of training does she have on the cultural aspects of color?
Bresson: She has read many books on color: color physics, color optics, color linguistics, etc; she has read Pastoureau for the historical aspects. She once attended a instrumental colorimetry class with BTS³ students and realized they were pretty much dealing with different things, with them discussion color temperature, color curves, etc.

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Thanks as always to FSFCPL for his work bringing us the goings-on at this year’s Saint Malo festival. We look forward to hearing what QdB 2020 is like.


Spam of the day:

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¹ Jacobs is the creator of Blake et Mortimer.
[Editor’s note: Speaking of Blake et Mortimer, I took the photo at the top of this post while on vacation in Brussels in August of 1999. Seeing their sixth adventure cover three stories high on the side of a building near our guesthouse made me realize both how deep the the Franco-Belgian comics tradition is, but also how thoroughly my kind of place Brussels is.]

² A Lucky Luke book by Morris and Goscinny.

³ Roughly the equivalent of a specialized BTech.
[Editor’s note: Thanks to K-pop, it is impossible to search for BTS.]

Saint Malo 2019.2

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his report from Quai des Bulles 2019, with a report from the meetup featuring Imbattable creator Pascal Jousselin, interviewed by Arnaud Wassmer. Please enjoy his summary, which is more descriptive than transcriptive, because sheesh you people have no idea how hard it is to transcribe people in real time.

Also, please note the distinction between Imbattable, the BD in question and Imbattable, the character therein.

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The meetup took place Friday at 1:30 PM. Fun fact: the event started a bit late, and while waiting for it to start my neighbor, a child who was no more than ten, asked me what I was doing, and I genuinely explained my role as accredited media, with my setup and how it allowed me to pseudojournalize: an iPhone on a table tripod to take photos, and an iPad on a stand with a keyboard to take notes. I may have omitted the pseudo part. I was able to finish my explanations, and the event started shortly thereafter.

The meetup began by an introduction of Imbattable, the only genuine comic book superhero.

Wassmer: Jousselin has two showcases of his work: one exhibition on how comics are created, and one story to follow in town, which can only be seen on location, of which we see the beginning here. What was the process for that story?
Jousselin: He created it with the help of Régis Thomas, and wanted to create something that could only be done on this particular location. It starts in the hall of the building La Grande Passerelle, near the library entrance. He started by spotting the location in June to see how the city space could be used.

Wassmer: To play with the volumes, in a fashion.
Jousselin: He did not necessarily saw it that way, but indeed. One constraint was the need to introduce the series to unfamiliar readers, so the focus was on the main two characters, for instance eschewing Toudi¹.

Wassmer: Jousselin is local, being based in Rennes, and has worked with co-creators as well as by himself, how does he see his 20 years career in comics?
Jousselin: He’s very happy of it, he feels lucky Dupuis is trusting him with this character of him.

Wassmer: Is there any kind of thematic continuity between his stories?
Jousselin: In a way; he works quite slowly, so he focuses on what really interests him, rather than spreading himself too thin.

Wassmer: Here we have his first published work, a collaboration with Brüno.
Jousselin: It came up between them: What if we collaborated on something?, but they weren’t living in the same town, so what if they did an exquisite corpse? They stuck to the constraint in that they did not even mention the project when they would happen to meet. But he made sure that the reader wouldn’t get lost, which was more important than these creative constraints.

Wassmer: So would he say all his works have some sort of constraint? Any relationship with the OULIPO?
Jousselin: It depends, sometimes there is such a constraint from the start, sometimes it is added as he goes. Sequential art is a constraint: since the reader can see every panel at a glance, he must make sure to compartimentalize to preserve the suspense, for instance.

Wassmer: Now we have another book; what was the constraint here?
Jousselin: It was the kind of comic book where the constraint was implicit, here being that all four stories were around music, with each one being named for a standard. Furthermore, the stories interact, with characters from one making a cameo in the background of another for instance.

Wassmer: Another work, the Atelier Mastodonte; were the constraints any different here?
Jousselin: Mostly telling stories together, and friendly competition between colleagues. It tells the daily work of creators as if they were working together in a single studio.

Wassmer: A collective project, then, rather than teamwork; does it feel any different?
Jousselin: Trondheim invited him, and he gladly accepted as he already appreciated the work as a reader, and he’s always up for making books.

Wassmer: And now we get to Colt Bingers.
Jousselin: For this one he paired with a studiomate with which he wanted to work. For this story in particular he needed a style different from his own.

Wassmer: Was it hard to let go of the drawing part?
Jousselin: Even though the main reason for this delegation being the artist being able to draw in a way he isn’t able to, it was indeed difficult for him. He strived when writing the script to avoid restricting his artist, for instance by avoiding any composition indication, with only limited exceptions.

Wassmer: Now here this strip is also the opportunity to pay an homage, it seems.
Jousselin: Indeed, here to Alfred, since he can do both humor and gravitas². Jousselin admits Alfred is also the only creator contributing the Atelier Mastodonte he personally knew.

Wassmer: What process does Jousselin follow for telling stories?
Jousselin: He has always read comics, first classics such as Tintin, Spirou, Astérix, then as a teenager Fred and Gotlib.

Wassmer: Were those his inspirations for innovative narration?
Jousselin: In this regard, Fred and Marc-Antoine Mathieu have influenced him in particular, then Windsor McCay, and even Hergé, with for instance a Quick and Flupke gag having a character practicing winter sports and ending up running into a panel border. Sequential art is its own language, and as opposed to projects could be created elsewhere such as as a movie, he want to create works relying on the specific language of sequential art.

Wassmer: We can now see another strip of him.
Jousselin: He needs his character to easily be drawn consistently, mostly visible here with his outfit³, in case he needs to be draw by another. Already we can see the timing would not work as well in animation, here the waffle iron layout, i.e. the regular spacing of panels, allows the importance to be equally given to all panels, it would be harder to express in animation especially if movement was involved.

Wassmer: And now we get to Imbattable, with this cover of the Spirou weekly anthology.
Jousselin: He was born without even planning for it, Jousselin created the first two pages by himself, and thought that Spirou could be interested even if he did not know anyone there. He sent the pages, they answered, he then quickly added that such a minimal concept wouldn’t last longer than ten pages … but as it went he quickly realized the concept was wider and also allowed for multipage stories, and he ended up being able to set the pace of publishing.

Wassmer: Then it was collected in a book, with the cover visible here.
Jousselin: The Spirou anthologies are not reprinted, so it’s better for his work to end up in books, but he hesitated for fear of it drying up after 60 pages or so, which would have made it hard to justify starting a book series, so he hesitated but it ended up happening.

Wassmer: Are there any particular influences in Imbattable?
Jousselin: He instinctively mixed what he likes as a creator: Chris Ware for instance, but he never gave up on Hergé, Spirou, etc. The mix happens unconsciously. Then there is the need to maintain a slightly dated Fench-Belgian-style decorum, by influence of being published in Spirou.

Wassmer: Superman watches over the world, Spider-Man his neighborhood, but what about Imbattable?
Jousselin: There is no feat too small for Imbattable, whether it be helping a neighborhood, the world, or a granny, he does it.

Wassmer: How did Jousselin come up with his costume and physical appearance?
Jousselin: He can’t easily recall; he’d probably have done differently if he’d intended it to be a series from the start. Instead the first pages were created as a distraction, so he went by instinct when designing the costume. The only indication that was given to the colorist was to use yellow and black to maximize contrast: given the mundane setting it was necessary to dynamize the hero’s look.

Wassmer: Then what is the deal with the characters here?
Jousselin: So that was the fourth created page, and we’re still in the phase of exposing his powers and opening up the concept. It is important to have a kind of everyday tone, with a very understated humor. Now as to the matter of writing that, given the visual nature of the constraint: once the concept for the page is set, the layout follows without issue, since there are not 50 ways to place it, even shifting by one panel wouldn’t be possible.

Wassmer: But legibility does not necessarily follow, how can it be ensured?
Jousselin: For instance in this page the hero always keeps the same height to avoid any break and make the reader’s work easier. So in general staging must be kept simple.

Wassmer: Only Imbattable and the reader understand what happens, everyone else in the setting is awestruck.
Jousselin: And even Imbattable is sometimes not in on the phenomenon, as is the case for Pépé Cochonnet: no character can see that the bubbles are responsible for affecting the surroundings. In Colt Binger as well he hid the explanation from the characters, only giving it to the reader through a flashback.

Wassmer: These other characters also have powers, or means to set aside regular narration, different from those of Imbattable, how did they come to be?
Jousselin: After a few pages, he needed to imagine other stories, and he thought Imbattable meeting phenomenons similar to him would widen the concept: it’s not only panels Jousselin can play with.

When playing with time there are two options: the Back to the Future one, where going back influences the past and creates a parallel timeline, or the Terminator or Twelve Monkeys one, with a single self-fulfilling continuous timeline.

Here comics mandate the second option, so sometimes character reactions (in the story of the cat being picked up from the tree) are somewhat his as well: how come there can be two cats in the same panel, or (in another story, not shown), how come we cannot help something that will happen in the future from occurring?

Wassmer: Now this strip needs to be read aloud (where a pompous literary critic describes comics as being inferior culture, before rhetorically asking what they can do that literature cannot).
Jousselin: It was taken almost word for word from a declaration of some intellectual; he notes this was done before he even came up with Imbattable.

Questions were opened to the public at this point.

Question: When is the third book set to be released?
Jousselin: In August 2020.

Question: Are there stories that are not in the books?
Jousselin: Yes, in a few cases for stories created specifically for out-of-sequence and other special issues of the Spirou anthology weekly.

Question: And conversely, were there stories that weren’t prepublished in the weekly and directly made it to the books?
Jousselin: So far, no, in particular they have always been able to reproduce the gimmick in the weekly periodical4. He would rather avoid punishing the readers who faithfully follow the weekly by dangling in front of them a book containing stories you haven’t been able to read.

Question: How did the publisher and printer react to the gimmicks?
Jousselin: He works with Frédéric Niffle as his editor, and they wondered what could be done out of the ordinary that would not cost to much, so he asked first for the possibilities, and took that into account as a constraint.

Question: Are there things that are too difficult to do with Imbattable?
Jousselin: He did write one story which ended up being impossible to understand, with too many backs and forths, he was able to make it internally consistent despite the interactions but even then it was illegible and he discarded it. In Imbattable the universe forces everything to be offbeat, so what fits ended up settling naturally. In fact right now he’s ending up having to make all the remaining pages of book three involve new characters and powers in order to keep it interesting.

Question: Is it still possible to solicit him for coming to schools to explain his job, etc?
Jousselin: In the past he allowed himself to be overloaded, so he’s finishing book three first, and even then he may not be available; but he’s leaving the door open to the possibility.

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Thanks to FSFCPL, especially for getting so many photos in one interview. It’s not easy!


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¹ Imbattable’s sidekick, whose name is a phonetic spelling of 2D.

² With the gag here being that Alfred is told in the last panel to be working on a book about two brothers mourning their father.

³ In this wider photo we can see Jousselin is wearing the same outfit as his character.

4 With Wassmer showing the public what they consist of in the books; I will not be spoiling them here.

Saint Malo 2019.1

Editor’s note: Please enjoy the first part of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin’s con report from the 2019 Saint Malo Comics Festival. Take ‘er away, FSFCPL!

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It would be an exaggeration to say that Saint Malo is lovely at the end of October, but the weather was pretty agreeable, as it has tended to be for my previous visits. For instance, while there was rain, most of it happened outside opening hours: when this happens, it makes the inside of the tents, where signings take place, rather noisy. This was the ideal backdrop for a new edition of Quai des Bulles and for me to cover it, and I was able to cover a broad cross-section of interests for sharing with Fleen readers.

  • The first discovery of note was the redone Palais du Grand Large, the convention center in which most of the activities take place (exhibitions, meetups, concerts, etc). The most notable change was the improved entrance and atrium, resolving some of the overflow at the entrance, but most significant was, as I learned, the fact that Quai des Bulles was the first event to take place in the redone center, and that they had only been able to access it one week earlier.

    This was simultaneously testament to the significance of the festival that renovations were scheduled so the festival would be able to benefit from them, and a sign of the willingness of the festival to field test the improved infrastructure. While there was some unfinished business (for instance, I saw a sticker on a wall reading Reprise peinture, i.e. “Paint to be redone”), the festival activities did not seem to suffer from it and the center was fully functional (restrooms, in particular, withstood the load gracefully).

  • Friday already had fantastic programming with a meetup with Pascal Jousselin, interviewed by Arnaud Wassmer, to talk about his creation Imbattable but also his career. You may remember Jousselin from previous coverage, and this time I was able to transcribe the talk and take photos since it took place in the Amphithéâtre Maupertuis; I expect that to take its own post. Many children were in attendance, as Friday tends to be children’s day (we were in a school holiday break).
  • In between two events I was able to look at the exhibition they called indie americans, centered on small press creators. I must admit the only names I recognized were Derf Backderf (who was on site, though I was not able to attend the meetup) and Liz Prince, and there was no one associated with webcomics, but this shows a willingness from the festival to look outside the beaten path for talents and phenomenons to showcase.
  • In the signing area, my first visit was to the Ulule booth, featuring Maliki, Laurel, and Yatuu, the heavyweights of French online self-publishing: they total more than 50,000 bookscce preorders from their Ulule campaigns between them. Furthermore, such a concentration can only happen in Brittany, as Laurel has expressed she would only sign there (which has been the case so far), such a location is also preferred by Maliki, as they also live in Brittany, and logistics favor it, as they now have three young children and six cats between them three (Maliki and Laurel have been known to watch each other’s children and cats when only one of them signs, but that can’t be the case here). It was also the first time in many years that Souillon (Malikis representative for such events) would booth in a traditional French comics festival (he often signs at Angoulême, but hosted by a bookshop).

    In short, this was not a sight to miss, and throughout the weekend I saw all three sign books while their respective partners would handle merch, transactions, etc. (or at least two of them; the partners team tended to rotate). In particular, Souillon’s line was packed for all three days, from opening to closing; at no point was I able get a clean shot of the booth.

  • Saturday began with a meetup with Laurence Croix, listed in the programming as Imbattable’s colorist, but the talk went way beyond that small part of her activities to cover what it means to color a comic book, so it was transcribed, as well, and will be its own post. In particular, while Laurence Croix does not draw, a number of female French webcartoonists, such as Thorn or Maëla Cosson, make a living by coloring published books, so it is interesting to see their place in the publishing flow.
  • Later in the day, I was able to visit the Lapin booth, their first at Saint-Malo in three years. Not that I had a particular need to see them, for instance I saw most of them for Lyon BD, but it was good to catch up with the creators and the books that had become available in the meantime, which allowed me to get ahead with some of my Christmas shopping.
  • On Sunday I was able to take some time to attend a fairy tale performance, with Olivier Supiot drawing live. This time it was a number of short tales in quick sequence, and the experience was just as enjoyable as the last time; it’s fair to say the festival does not merely keep children occupied with cheap entertainment.
  • Immediately after that I attended a meetup with Mark Waid where he introduced his new project at Humanoids, Ignited. While his process, including for these books, is firmly rooted in mainstream US comics traditions (he mentioned making them superpower-based so as to avoid stories perceived as boring, and when asked about the lead time he confirmed he was able and willing to adapt to current events with a lead time between writing and floppy publication of three months) such that his work is not necessarily what we are most focused on at Fleen, I appreciated his willingness to create bridges between US and French-speaking audiences (he mentioned the books, at least the TPBs, publishing simultaneously) and the process by which he tackles these difficult subjects, for instance he mentioned making sure he was paired with a non-white co-writer, and consulting shooting survivors early in the writing process.
  • I was able to chat with creators Charlie Genmor and Holly Rectum, who you may remember from my Lyon BD report, since each of them was now published by Delcourt, and we were able to chat about their non-binary coming-out zine and Charlies delightful LGBTI+ mermaids: besides the Delcourt signing they also had their own booth under the Bande de Déchets (Garbage Gang) collective where they were able to sell prints of their mermaids, so of course I bought one.
  • Finally, I was able to experience an unreleased story of Imbattable that was designed specifically for the location, the building La Grande Passerelle, with the panels, and sometimes just the characters, being printed at macro size and being plastered on the walls, but also the ground, and many other situations such as on the side of a parked car (purposefully put there, of course). In the end you had to go outside and make a full rotation around the building to be able to follow the story, which as a result would be hard to publish elsewhere, though photos can be shared.

    At the same location Imbattable was the subject of its own exhibition, though it was cleverly used as a way to illustrate comics concepts; and they took it very far, as the concepts included comic bubble shapes or lettering effects. Régis Thomas put in effort to make the exhibition follow a narrative of how a story is created, from conception to colored page through intermediate stages such as layouts, inking, etc, going as far as to imagine the kind of script that would be created for a page if it had been necessary to hand it off between the writing and drawing steps (in practice, Jousselin does not need to formalize in such a way given he both writes and draws).

    The last part, centered on coloring, shows not only the usual coloring work but also how colorist Croix had to get involved in the magic of comics: her work had to be tightly coordinated with the plot in a story in tome 2 that involves color-based powers; I won’t say more. The examples are well-chosen, resulting in a very didactic exhibition where I managed to learn a thing or two, so kudos for Régis Thomas for setting it up.¹

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As always, we at Fleen are grateful for the contributions of our BD desk and the comprehensive reporting it offers. Many thanks to FSFCPL for this, and the additional reports in the coming days.


Spam of the day:

Moskinator is a portable, solar insect zapper that removes troublesome insects in a quick, effective and hygienic manner.

You say it’s solar, but later on you say it’s USB powered. Are you implying that the Sun is compliant with USB-C? Neat trick if true.

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¹ I also learned on the occasion of the festival that Imbattable had been translated in English and published on Comixology [Editor’s note: The translated title is Invincible.], but I cannot recommend that edition: besides the general issue of DRM-laden digital books such that you may lose access to your copy without you being able to do anything about it, there is the fact Comixology can only emulate, at best, the additional printing pass applied to book 1 (with words instead to point at the phenomenon), and more seriously some of the creative choices, such as some precisely highlighted in the exhibition as part of lettering, have not been reproduced in the English-language version.

This is all the more problematic when the choices not carried over are remarked upon by the characters! (It’s complicated. Let’s just say that, in Imbattable, the fourth wall may be closer to you than it appears.)

Lyon BD 2019: Day Three

[Editor’s note: Today, Fleen concludes the recap of last week’s bandes dessinées festival in Lyon, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin.

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Lyon BD has always been an international festival, but it was particularly visible this year with the presence, hot off their appearance in NCSFest, of Charlie Adlard, Bill Morrison, and Steve and Luke McGarry, the latter of which was responsible for this edition’s poster. Their lines were packed whenever they were signing, unfortunately precluding me from meeting these big names, but I was able to meet other international creators such as Ariel Vittori and Natalie Nourigat on Sunday; I was especially interested in the latter’s I Moved To Los Angeles To Work In Animation (which I ate up on the trip back, very interesting even though I has little relationship with my trade of software engineering, you should check it out), and we were able to chat and discuss differences between the Euro and North American comics signing systems, since she has experience with both. I also had Jim Jourdane sign his Fieldwork Fail: while not an international creator, his book is available in English, though it seems you’ll have to catch him to get a copy after his online store had to close.

Another Sunday highlight was the Badass (sic) exhibition: Sandrine Garage, who has been helping organize Lyon BD for some time already, took it upon herself to see whether there were now enough comic book heroines to be worth showcasing, 6 years after the first Héro-ïne-s exhibition, and there were. Rather than commission imaginary covers, she was able to showcase 10 actual, published comic book heroines that have in common that they don’t conform to stereotypes, including that of the strong female character: instead, they do what they want to do; one may be bold, while also being empathetic (and they made sure to display the pages showing that), while another heroine may be friendly to everyone while having a tendency to take responsibility to solve every single problem in the valley. Akissi and Aster were featured, but also Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl and Cece Bell’s El Deafo, giving it a worldwide scope. In between the various heroines, pages of Miron Malle’s comic book on feminism concepts, The League Of Super Feminists, were featured. However, they did solicit visitors in creating their own badass heroines, and they obliged.

But Sunday was most interesting for its interviews, beginning with that of Pénélope Bagieu. Of particular interest were these bits:

  • While she has to focus on one project at a time, she likes to alternate between personal projects and boring ones, the latter of which to allow her to recharge and remind her why she sets out to plunge on multi-year personal projects. In fact, at the end of a project she tends to be unable to work on much, trying to start new stories but failing, though by no mean remaining unoccupied as she devolves some time to the promotion of the just completed project (book tours, etc.), until such time as the sparks strikes again and she dives back in a new project.
  • No one has so far managed to publish Brazen in Arabic; the only publisher who was interested started demanding a long list of absurd changes which she gave up on reading halfway through, such as not showing women who smoke, at which point she told them she might as well remove all women and avoiding them the trouble of publishing the book. She did mention breasts having to be covered and the story of Phulan Devi having to be removed from the U.S. edition, explaining to the audience the particularity of the young adult positioning of the book in the U.S., in no small reason because comics books are still thought as being for children there and are hard to sell to adults, relating feedback such as I bought it for my daughter, and couldn’t believe I was enjoying it myself. But she was proud to mention she successfully fought back more meaningful censorship, such as when the Polish publisher wanted to remove any mention of abortion, while she refused, and she won as it ended up being published there without any cut in that regard. Ironically even when censorship happens there is no mention of it: the only disclaimer that was added to the U.S. version was a warning that elements in the books should not all be taken literally, due to the duality in the U.S. market of fiction/non-fiction and Brazen being sold as non-fiction, and the fear of fact-checkers coming e.g. for the campus restaurant background gag in Agnodice’s story. On the other hand while there was less censorship there Russia made sure to physically slap the book with a forbidden to minors badge, due to the references to homosexuality.
  • She is currently working on a comic book adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches, which she is very excited about: she takes it to be the best Roald Dahl book. The idea of a comic adaptation of a Roald Dahl book came from Dahl’s estate, which proposed it to Gallimard, their French publisher, and that is how she was proposed the job. However, Gallimard initially proposed adapting Matilda, and while she loves the book, its relative lack of action did not strike her as making it particularly suited for a comics adaptation (that, and people’s idea of the universe tend to be shaped by the 1996 movie, not to mention Quentin Blake’s illustrations), so she made a counter-proposal to Gallimard of adapting The Witches, which the Dahl estate accepted. It will simultaneously come out in French and English beginning of 2020, which means she’s glad it is going to beat the Zemeckis movie to market and not be taken to be the book of the movie.

Then later in the afternoon, as the last event of the day, it was Boulet’s turn to be interviewed in a similar setup, and … wait, what are these people queueing in the stairs for? Oh, come on, it can’t be for the room where the Boulet interview will take place, it’s too far!? Well, turns out that is what it was for that. I swear, I never intended for the Lyon BD festival to conclude with the sight of Boulet’s mile-long line to be a running gag, but here we are; except that in the case of a panel/interview/etc., it’s not that you have to wait hours for your turn, it’s that the room is full before you have a chance to enter. So I am unfortunately unable to report on anything that happened there. I’m going to have to start showing up 15 minutes early whenever Boulet is involved from now on …
[Editor’s note: Nobody tell him about the Hall H camp-out lines in San Diego.]


Spam of the day:

It’s 2019 and yes! you can now burn fat without exercising!

I do that all the time, unless you count trying to put out a grease flash on my stovetop as exercise.

Lyon BD 2019: Day Two

Editor’s note: Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin continues his reporting of the French comics festival scene.

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Setting up a festival of the scale of Lyon BD is never an easy task, but this year they had their work cut out for them. For instance, terror level in France as a whole has abated somewhat since 2017, when I first went; but the explosion of an abandoned package which wounded about a dozen people (they’re all out of the hospital by now) in the center of Lyon mere weeks before the event was undoubtedly responsible for heightened security: mainly, the need to show an ID before entering the main festival spaces on Saturday, and the need for tickets to be nominative, which was completely unplanned. As a result, at the ticket booth vendors had to manually write down the name of the attendee on the tickets, slowing down the sales process and lengthening the lines.¹

Given that context, my Saturday went remarkably well. I took advantage of the lack of panels in the morning to check out local creator Phiip and his Lapin crew (Marc Dubuisson, Cy, Tim, etc.), and catch up on their latest releases. Same with Thom Pico (who I met for the first time on this occasion, allowing me to congratulate him for not talking down to kids in his writing, and he was glad I noticed that) and Karensac, whose Aster is slated to be released in English by Random House in 2020.

[Editor’s note: I’d been wondering when another imprint would challenge the essentially free reign :01 Books has had with grabbing the pick of Franco-Belgian comics for re-release in the US; it’s not surprising that it’s Gina Gagliano that’s taken up the banner.]

Then the afternoon was the occasion to get to the LGBTI+ comics event (the second edition, meaning the first wasn’t a one-off), where I bought a zine from Anna Lkiss and Holly Rectum, where each of them tells how they found out they were non-binary. Then a number of panels and events on Chilean comics (including a zine created by women, the latest edition of which they made wordless, in order to present their work abroad), on migrants entering France through the Roya valley north of Nice, and on making the invisible visible, where creators of a “hobo mom” story, of a story of a Roma family tricked into emigrating to France then getting trapped into debt by the human traffickers, and of a story of emigration from Africa to Europe, exchanged on their processes for bringing these stories to life. For instance, Christian Lax, creator of the latter story, told he took advantage of a partnership with a museum and mixed that with a migration theme to create the story of a man saving an African art artifact from Muslim fanatics by taking it with him in Europe.

Come back soon for coverage of the third day, including U.S. and English creators, Pénélope Bagieu, and Boulet.


Spam of the day:

This revolutionary lightbulb camera is driving home security companies out of business

Yeah, under no circumstances am I putting an unvetted wi-fi attached camera on my home so that you assholes can either stripmine the video for your own purposes, or leave it exposed to the world. Bugger off.

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¹ Oh, and the Lyon city hall was searched by police mere days before the festival following an inquiry involving the mayor, though I have no idea whether that affected festival activities.

Lyon BD 2019: Day One

Editor’s note: It’s all Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeapuin today, chiming in from the Lyon BD festival. Well, except for the Spam of the day, that’s me.

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Guess what happens at the beginning of June? That’s right, Lyon BD Festival, and just like in 2017 and 2018 your correspondent was there to cover it.

One characteristic aspect of Lyon BD is that it lacks a congress-center-like space as a central hub: Quai des Bulles in Saint Malo has the Palais du Grand Large, Colomiers has the Hall Comminges, and that is without mentioning the convention centers housing the various anime cons. As a result, when the Place des Terreaux had to go into renovations this year, meaning they couldn’t erect tents to host booths like the previous years, Lyon BD had to split itself between the Town Hall where it usually resides and the Palais de la Bourse) a few blocks away.

But regardless, Lyon BD always sets up or encourages more exhibitions that they have space in the main locations for, spilling them in many public places. The lobby of a small theater/comedy scene? Yup. The town halls for three boroughs? You betcha. A local bookshop? Of course. A hospital lobby? Been there, done that. An underground parking space? That, too. Contrary to Angoulême it does not feel quite like comics taking over the town, because Lyon is just too big, but they’re getting close.

So while sub-par planning on my part prevented me from attending professional day on Friday or entering the main locations, I nevertheless had a full day going to and fro between the different exhibitions¹. My favorite piece was in the Héro-ïne-s exhibition, one of the new pieces recently introduced from international creators, called Umah-Mah, by Thomas von Kummant (the names at the top may be familiar: Umpah-Pah was an early work of theirs, from just before they started Astérix). What if Sacagawea was a badass warrior, not merely saving hapless European explorers ready to walk into every trap, but able of single-handedly hunting buffalo armed with but a tomahawk, and striking fear in the hearts of her enemies, becoming single-handedly responsible for the success of the expedition? That’s Umah-Mah in a nutshell, since that is pretty much the plot of Umpah-Pah that von Kummant references².

The day was capped by an opening party, the first of its kind, with a dozen artists including Boulet and Luke McGarry drawing live on a small scene over music they chose (one or two at a time!), with in the middle a zombie-themed drawn concert on the main scene, featuring Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead) and
Julien Limonne.

P.S. I should mention Boulet and Cy directly switched to covering the Annecy animation festival as in past years. Since the two festivals arrange themselves to be set up on successive weeks, couldn’t they coordinate to give poor creators a day of rest?


Spam of the day:

If you’d not prefer not to recive future emails Unsubcribe here
480 Walnut Drive Penn, ND 58362

Hey, I don’t want to alarm you, but apparently Penn, North Dakota is literally about six small blocks, a car repair shop, and a bar, situated on maybe eight streets total, none of which is called Walnut Drive. Weird! You’re referring me to a place that doesn’t exist, no doubt by accident.

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¹ Note to the lowlife who stole my bike: I hope it gets stolen back from you at the most inconvenient time possible. And that you get caught, of course.

² Umpah-Pah actually takes place in the somewhat extrapolated context of a French expeditionary force reaching New World shores in the 18th century (e.g. they end up encountering a Prussian expeditionary force; Goscinny’s penchant for playing with history did not start with Astérix), but the parallels are otherwise striking.

We, As All Right-Thinking Folk Do, Rejoice At The News

[Quick note before the main event: Rosemary Mosco and a host of other creators from :01 Books’s Science Comics line will be at Friendly Neighborhood Comics in Bellingham, Massachusetts on Saturday, 26 January, from noon to 3:00pm. Go see them!]

You have, by now, no doubt heard the news that the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême has, after generally suffering from a couple of years of not having their collective shit together, pulled up their pants and gotten over themselves. That is to say, they have declared Rumiko Takahashi the winner of the Grand Prix, which makes her only the second woman¹ (after Florence Cestac in 2000) and the second manga artist² (after Katsuhiro Otomo in 2015) so honored in the festival’s 45 year history.

Given the depth and breadth of her career, and the numerous creators who’ve established their careers and cited Takahashi as their inspiration, this is both richly deserved and long overdue. For generations of readers around the world, Takahashi is practically synonymous with comics. Nobody can dispute these actual facts, and you’ve no doubt read something very similar to this already.

But have you read the observations of a French lover of comics? Take it away, Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin!

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So Rumiko Takahashi won this year’s Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême, and this is a significant event in more than one way.

First, it is significant for Takahashi-san herself, of course. While to the French public she needs no introduction, it is expected this will result in renewed exposure to her work, such as through re-edition of her classic works (did you know? It is only after Bill Watterson won the Grand Prix in 2014 that France finally got a French version of the Calvin and Hobbes tenth anniversary book).

Then, it is significant because she’s a mangaka. For a very long time comics professionals of the French-Belgian school have been resentful of manga’s success in France, sometimes openly so, and it is still going on today, to an extent. This new Grand Prix both shows the body of professionals is changing (the profession as a whole contributed to selecting the Grand Prix) and means it is time to put that attitude to rest and accept manga as an integral part of the pinnacle of sequential art; because while Katsuhiro Otomo’s Grand Prix in 2015 might have been misinterpreted as a fluke, Takahashi’s Grand Prix confirms that it isn’t.

It is also significant because she has created a significant body of all-ages comics. While I revere Otomo-san, I am also not going to give Akira to my 9-year-old nieces (or nephews); this celebration of all-ages comics is significant in that, while French-Belgian classics such as Tintin, Astérix, Spirou, etc. could be read by everyone from 7 to 77 years old, as the slogan went, the industry has drifted away from that in recent decades, with most comics bookshops today featuring a split between regular comics and comics for children. This, to me, is an unnecessary segmentation that impoverishes the medium, and we are fortunate to have creators such as Takahashi-san, many of them in manga, that keep supporting the idea of all-ages comics; we can only hope this Grand Prix will cause this segmentation to be reconsidered. In a similar fashion, Takahashi’s work blurs the line between shojo and shonen, weakening that segmentation as well.

And it is most significant because of her gender, of course. Finally we have a second female Grand Prix winner to keep company to Florence Cestac. Remember it was only three years ago that Frank Bondoux attempted to claim the absence of any female creator in the 30 nominees for that year could be in any way justified … and while many of us always knew he was telling de la merde that day³ (with we at Fleen specifically suggesting Takahashi-san as an example of qualifying female creator), this year is the year the supreme court of comics for the French-Belgian circuit handed him down a decisive defeat. Good riddance to that idea.

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Our thanks to FSFCPL for his local insight, and congratulations again to Rumiko Takahashi; as one of the aspects of the Grand Prix is that the winner is the President of the next year’s Festival, look for Angoulême 2020 to feature a lot of leggy ladies, short skirts, bountiful hair, frustration-laden slow-burn romance, and the best sight gags since Chuck Jones.


Spam of the day:

The persons shown in photographs in this email may not necessarily be actual users of valentime.com

As you didn’t actually include any pictures, I imagine not.

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¹ Or possibly third; in 1983 an additional tenth anniversary prize was awarded to Claire Bretécher, but it wasn’t the “real” prize.

² Again, possibly third; in 2013, a special fortieth anniversary prize was awarded to Akira Toriyama.

³ An event so obnoxious it resulted in me taking up the mantle of Fleen Senior French Correspondent from then on. [Editor’s note: And we at Fleen are lucky to have him!]

With Bonus Peek At Gary’s Life

As promised yesterday, we have a second dispatch from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, still in the Greater Toulouse region of France. Take it away, FSFCPL!

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A mere two weeks after the Colomiers comics festival, Toulouse was hosting the Toulouse Game Show or TGS, and since this is a show that Maliki’s Souillon regularly attends (though he and Becky skipped it this year), I thought it would be worth checking out. Yup, time for another four-hour train ride to Toulouse …

While the TGS has video games content, it is more general than that and is best thought of as a marketplace for pop culture paraphernalia (taking the whole of the Parc des Expositions de Toulouse), much like any other anime con. In it you could find apparel merchants, steampunk accessories dealers, retrogaming preservation associations, a lot of cosplay of course¹, diorama creation clubs, a food court, booths for many webseries, etc.

And the TGS did feature comics content, and not just Ankama (found in pretty much every anime con in France, Belgium, and possibly Switzerland). I did not spot any creator I previously knew about, so it seems webcomics have not significantly invaded the TGS so far, but this also means everything was new to me. In particular, the fanzine scene was well-represented.

Still, the comics presence was not sufficient to have a dedicated section or artist’s alley, with most comics booths being next to one of the steampunk accessories dealers. Not that there is anything wrong with mixing comics with steampunk), but the TGS and other such conventions could make themselves more attractive to both comics creators and comics fans by dedicating an area to comics, in my opinion.

I am still catching up on my haul of comics bought there (work has been hectic lately), but I was already able to note the variety of approaches the creators I met there have with the web. In some cases, the pages were initially posted online, such as for Blue Bird’s Oath. Other creators put books as a whole on Mangadraft after the fact, keeping the latest print-exclusive until its successor comes out. And some creators barely have a web presence at all.

So while I am not done with my assessment, this trip to the TGS is already a net win to me², and I will keep an eye on it, especially as it provides a view of indie comics outside that of Paris or Brussels, and which is itself nevertheless different from that of Colomiers: I found no overlap at all.

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Thanks as always to M Lebeaupin; when we at the US branch of Fleen eventually make it to France, we’ll have a much better idea of where to go for comics³.


Notspam of the day:

I keep getting email for other Gary Tyrrells (Garys Tyrrell? Garies Tyrrell?). If it’s important, I try to sort things out, but it doesn’t usually work. This morning, I got an invoice for lintels from Perth, Australia. As a special holiday treat, I’m sharing a typical reply:

Hi Wanita,

Wrong person. Bunch of Gary Tyrrells around the world (at least two in England, maybe three in Ireland, two or more in Oz, and one electrical contractor in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, US) think my email is their email. There’s also a sort-of famous Gary Tyrrell in California, but he’s cool. We had lunch together once.

I have not ordered any lintels from you. Truth be told, I’m not 100% sure what lintels are. I mean, I visited Australia once but what with the bridge-climbing, wine-touring, wombat-petting, and Great Barrier Reef snorkling, lintels didn’t come up at all. I’m sure your lintels are very nice, though.

For the record, I also do not have a Peugot that needs service in the Lakes District, have an order for a Brexit-supporting cloisonne badge to be delivered to the Scottish Borderlands, owe registrations fees on a vehicle in Dublin, have a Jurassic Park Smash ‘n’ Throw T-Rex on order at a toy shop in Kildare, have plans to fly between Ireland and Eindhoven, hold a Lawson’s card in Melbourne, or hold any interest in various contracts and requests-for-bid for electrical jobs. Oh and I don’t have a warranty on tires in California, but that wasn’t the Gary Tyrrell that I know, so at least one more?

Please contact your guy and update your records. Tell him Gary said hi.

Gary
The one in New Jersey

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¹ Among the characters spotted: Arthur, king of the Britons with his personal coconut knocker, a T-Rex, two ghostbusters of opposite genders, and a wheelchair-riding Aquawoman.

² Not to mention everything else you can do there, such as eating takoyaki, buying retro games (be sure to have your console so you can check they work: you’ll have a hard time returning them otherwise), or attending a panel by the competitive Puyo Puyo playing community.

³ Other than Belgium, that is. Several of the best English language collections in comics shops I’ve ever seen were in Brussels, Ghent, Bruges, Antwerp …

All I Want For Christmas Is You*

* Where You is defined as Dispatches from France courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. Let us jump into the first of them now.

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I didn’t know what to expect in Colomiers, but I wasn’t disappointed in the end.

The town of Colomiers (located next to Toulouse, home of the French aeronautics industry) has been hosting a comics festival for the past 32 years, and it is remarkable for its focus. Indeed, while it is directly set up by the cultural services of the town, it is not mainstream-oriented, as those tend to be (which makes sense: these towns typically intend to provide quality entertainment for their inhabitants, without any grander ambition).

Rather, with this festival the municipal authorities clearly mean to try and make the town, which might otherwise seem like an ordinary suburban town, a cultural attraction with their editorial choices, the first of which being a clear focus on indie comics.

First came the professional day, which was very student-oriented: at the start of the day I was given a proof of attendance, for instance. And the matters covered were undoubtedly advanced, such as the state of comics creation in Argentina, or the carrier of a master of comics in Argentina, Alberto Breccia¹.

Then I was able to go to the exhibition of his work the following day, and he indeed had a varied career, working with a variety of styles and means, though the published pages (often shown next to the originals) were often unfortunately not up to preserving his midtones. I was able to visit the other exhibitions the festival set up, all involving people I had never heard about before.

But besides the exhibitions, where the focus is most clear is in the main expo space that I trawled on the third day, which was almost entirely dedicated to independent creators and publishers, without even sellers of historical editions of comics as you can find even in SoBD for instance (there was a small space for a general comics library and a few invited creators). As a result, Colomiers provides the indie French-Belgian comics scene with the most space of any festival or convention in France.

I went back home with a few realizations.

First, it is interesting to note that, except in a few cases (Lapin, in particular), this scene is still largely independent from webcomics, by contrast with the small press scene in the U.S. which has by now entirely merged with the webcomics culture. So most of the works and creators were new to me, and it is clear it is going to take me some time to properly penetrate this scene.

In particular, the works shown made me realize I did not previously give much though about the legibility/reader effort dimension of comics: while webcomics, in French or in English, have made many experiments mainstream comics haven’t, on the other hand they would rather err on the side of being legible without much effort as a survival strategy on the web, where attention is very limited. Not so in this indie comics scene, and this brought me back to Scott McCloud’s theories on the subject (fortunately the local library, very much involved with the festival activities, did have Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics for me to refresh my memory).

The festival also veered towards the edge of what constitutes comics, showcasing for instance the publishing part of an artist collective as one of the four featured publisher, where the shown works were hard to distinguish from merely separately framed pictures in succession (they were wordless). Was it comics? Was it not? Heck if I know.

I did find familiar ground that nevertheless I think is representative of the festival, which is the works of Joan Cornella, published in France by Ici Même, one of the four featured publishers. You have probably seen one of his absurd, wordless, slightly disturbing four-panels cartoons floating on the web, but those are only the tip of the iceberg, and only with the book can you see how absurd he can go; I would recommend at least taking a look.

Yet all this focus on indie comics does not mean the expo space was empty: it did have significant attendance without it being free to attend (while SoBD, also focused on indie comics, is free to attend), with many families coming. So it is clear the organizers have managed to create an interest for indie comics in a wide demographic; this was best represented by the presence of Biscoto, an indie youth comics magazine. And the organizers do not always have it easy: it is quite a balancing act for instance to have under the same roof the creator of Avni as a featured creator, and the creators of its not-as-sensible parody Proutchi, themselves present as part of the Lapin booth.

I will be sure to come back next year, but meanwhile it has provided me with much food for thought.

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Thanks as always to FSFCPL, and come back tomorrow for his take on the comics scene at the Toulouse Game Show


Spam of the day:

It’s no secret the liberal news HATES the Bible and anything to do with it.

Nobody ever whines as much about being oppressed as a scammer trying to appear to be evangelical. Nobody.

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¹ The day ended with a drawn concert, which itself was much more experimental in nature than any I previously saw. No way to recount it; I will just note that, on the drawing side, actual plant leaves, and on the musical side, the support springs of a desk lamp were at one point involved.

Trust Me: Keeping Up With An Interview In Real Time Is Difficult

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin was tasked to attend the Quai de Bulles BD festival and report back. Please enjoy the approximately 2700 words he filed, which is beastly amount of work.

Just like last year, I had a great time at Quai des Bulles chatting with creators, visiting exhibitions, attending panels, and of course buying comics (Akileos did have the French edition of Stand Still, Stay Silent book one for instance), but the most interesting event was definitely this interview of Laurel which is transcribed at the end of the post: she had not signed her comics in France in the last 6 years, and so was eagerly expected.

I was able to chat with her at her booth on Sunday, and it had gone well: she and Adrien already knew they had made back their expenses, and she was glad to meet readers in this fashion again; she is not stopping, as she has more festivals planned even just this year.

One note: the meetup occurred on Friday, and this year the festival occurred outside of school holidays, so the auditorium was filled with school children (most about 10, some in the 14-15 range) which made for a very nice ambiance. Seriously.

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[Editor’s note: FSFCPL has produced an account of the interview, but this should not be taken as a series of literal quotations. For starters, Laurel and Adrien should not be taken to referring to themselves in the third person.]

Present were Laurel and Adrien Duermael, interviewed by Arnaud Wassmer.

What is Laurel doing today?
Laurel: She has always wanted to do comics, and when blogs started appearing, she put online what she considered a kind of diary. It took off, and accumulated a community as it went on. She claims to have the first blog BD (French-language comics blog) as she started it in 2003, after which she was joined by Boulet, Mélaka, Maliki, etc.

What was her initial intent?
Laurel: First of all, her pen name comes from Laureline, her actual surname (which itself comes from Valérian comics). These days Internet and the web enable young newcomers to start out from wherever they are, without the need to enter an artist studio. She taught herself (she did not pursue studies beyond the Baccalauréat [Author’s note: equivalent of the A-levels/high school diploma]), and she wanted to do it from her childhood reads.

What kind of stories doe she tell? Why autobio?
Laurel: It’s not because she’s self-centered; since she started out with a blog, she fed it with daily life stories, and that continued into her books: the characters were already ready, and she could more readily count on her community to buy them.

Adrien: As time goes on, you fall more easily into an observer role, ready to take note of relevant situations.

Laurel: It doubles as a way to be able to recount these stories to their own children, when they will be older.

So the children are taken along in the ride. How to set the limit between what you can tell and what is too intimate, and in a related question, how much storytelling versus literal telling is put in the stories?
Laurel: Everything is true. But the matter of making the children uncomfortable? Good question … At the same time, they tell very ordinary things about them (doing the dishes, school grades), nothing really intimate, even the story of expecting her second child that she’s telling has nothing specially revealing.

Doesn’t she risk fanning jealousy between her children?
Laurel: Her eldest Cerise does have her own book series …

What about the animals?
Adrien: Squirrels were often used to for narration, especially to tell of negative events, express messages, that sort of thing.

Laurel: Indeed, to have the squirrels complain while telling what happened is a good storytelling technique.

Laurel is drawing on a tablet these days. Why?
Laurel: She worked for 10 years on paper, even when she put colors digitally back then she did it with a mouse… But when she started working on video games, she had to switch to a graphic tablet for productivity reasons: games need tons of assets, and drawing on a tablet avoids having to scan the original, clean the lines digitally, etc.

Nevertheless, it did require her 6 months to get used to the graphic tablet, then 6 more months to be really comfortable with it. The material (texture, etc.) is not the same, and you have additional latency before the stroke appears as well as an air gap; and that is without mentioning technical parameters to worry about such as file resolution. She does however appreciate the possibility to cancel: she often retries the same stroke 10 times in order to get a clean one.

Adrien: Cerise is more comfortable with tablets than Laurel is.

What are her graphical influences?
She was influenced by Pénélope Bagieu, also by games such as Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on Nintendo DS; for the last 6-7 years she has had her own style.

Which is very expressive.
Adrien: Indeed, and for the messages of Comme Convenu, this is very useful to convey them, like for animation.

Laurel: Nevertheless, she considers that part of her work to be in line with French-Belgian comics traditions.

Here we see some panels before inking.
Laurel: One important part of the panels is their size: at the beginning Comme Convenu was not designed for a book, but they instead considered going for a mobile app, and therefore every panel was the size of a mobile phone screen, with 4 of them fitting an iPad screen. Then they did a book with that layout.

Adrien: The application never saw the light of the day, and it was easier to design that way than to design pages for A4, then try and cram them in a phone screen.

But does this change the way you tell the story, how to think in term of story rhythm?
Laurel: She tried to think in terms of multiples of 4 panels, and then on a larger scale to have breaks on the story fall on Fridays.

Adrien: Though it is a single story.

Laurel: Indeed, so the breaks were sometimes cliffhangers to get readers to return the week after…

Why then publish on paper?
Laurel: She wasn’t even sure at the start whether she would get to complete it or not, but with readers coming in and comments, she was encouraged especially as it provided her with an outlet next to her difficult day job; it was nevertheless taking her 6 hours of work per page. When she proposed it to publishers, she was proposed 8000€ [Author’s note: of advances, though that is often the only thing creators earn these days) for 3 years of work: there was no way she was going to accept that.

Does it make a difference in the story if it is published online or traditionally?
Adrien: Regardless, it is important for them that this story was published on paper in the end, as he saw multiple video games he worked on virtually disappear (no physical artifact remaining) when they were pulled from sale: here something concrete will remain. But it makes a difference for it to have been prepublished on an interactive medium, such as the ability to be reacting to feedback when continuing the story (as well as fixing typos).

Is she feeling pressure from comments? How to take them into account without compromising her work? Are they mostly positive or negative?
Laurel: Most commenters mean well, but sometimes she is not clear, and in one occasion she took a lot of heat and tried to address that by inserting a new page … which got heated comments as well, with much less justification this time. She realized that people demand because they like the feeling of being in control, without it being necessarily justified. She trusts Adrien to tell her when she ought to change something or if commenters are out of it. Twitter is sort of an additional comment stream, but on it people may not necessarily realize they are telling her something that 50 other people are telling her about already: it is not harassment per se, but a close equivalent.

Why did you move to California?
Laurel: Adrien is a software developer. In many aspects when developing applications it is better to be on location to meet Apple, Google, etc. So they uprooted their whole life and left with Cerise in tow.

Adrien: One advantage is that he previously went on holidays there; nevertheless when they started the business while still in France, and they would deal with the European offices of Apple for instance, as a result their apps would be promoted in France, but not worldwide. Coming to California was also important for them to meet other businesses in the same sector.

Laurel: It really is a super area, she had the feeling of being in a series.

How did the environment influence storytelling?
Laurel: Among other ways, she met with people from Pixar, and their work influenced her drawing style, more so than the move from paper to graphic tablet; she was also able to meet U.S. comics creators, go to conventions, and in general open herself to many different aspects of the local culture.

Adrien: He noticed there an important tradition of “artisanal” graphical expression, such as in burger restaurant menus, or lettering in coffee shops.

It was not exactly smooth sailing, hence the origin of Comme Convenu.
Laurel: They had a work visa, meaning if they were fired, they couldn’t stay, and they did not have the means to move back to France, plus they did not want Cerise to have to move again just after settling in. As a result they ended up having to unquestioningly obey their boss, Joffrey. They are not holding a grudge these days, but they suffered a lot at the time, especially when Cerise was involved, as a result this story had to come out. At the time they thought that, besides making an app out of it, it could allow their partners to see their side of the story and perhaps make them go off their backs, but that did not work.

Adrien: When Comme Convenu started they were really at their lowest anguish point.

Laurel: They were very protective of Cerise, as a result this story is also a way to tell her about these events in a time-shifted fashion.

Why use comics?
Laurel: It is the way she expresses herself. And when publishers showed interest but only proposed her insignificant revenues, she went: I’m going to show them how I can do it by myself.

Adrien: They had heard of Kickstarter, so given the ridiculous sums offered by publishers, they thought they had nothing to lose by going with crowdfunding, so they went with it. They were going to go with Kickstarter when Ulule took notice of them and proposed their platform, which had some benefits but in particular that of being oriented toward the French-speaking market for instance.

Could you elaborate on the crowdfunding concept for our audience?
Laurel: So you put your project up on the Internet on a platform such as Kickstarter or Ulule. You must have something to show already, and you’re asking people to chip in. They asked for 9000€ (US$10,300 then) which would have allowed them to print the book (which would have cost US$15,000) using an additional loan, and if that sum is reached the book is printed.

For the second campaign it is claimed the goal was reached in 6 minutes.
Laurel: Having a promo video helps a lot for promoting the crowdfunding, she doesn’t like doing them at all but it worked. The first campaign collected more than 8000 pledges for as many copies of the book, much more than she would have been able to do with traditional publishing. She is not throwing them any stone, but there they are.

Here the audience can see her with the printer.
Laurel: It was a California company, Global PSD, recommended by another French-American creator. She tried to get involved every step of the way, and she managed to have goodies (stickers, etc.) put along with the books.

And here the audience can see pallets and boxes of books being opened …
Laurel: They had 800 books shipped to their home in order to sign them, and they assembled the bundles of goodies by hand, including Cerise.

And they went with crowdfunding again for the second book.
Laurel: That allowed them to keep owning all the rights to the book and use them as they like later, for instance for a digital edition. They own everything.

Adrien: As a team, they own everything. While for her other comics books, they ended up seeing them on apps without being told about it.

And now everyone can read it.
Laurel: They wanted it to be available for everyone on the Internet, people in the audience can go read the 500 pages right now if they want.

Now the audience can see some of the pages from the book …
Adrien: Their cat, Brume, is indeed useful here to materialize the question they were asking themselves: why were they allowing themselves to get exploited?

Now they are back in France. What’s next?
Laurel: Right now she is telling her experience of expecting a baby (and side stories) in California.

Adrien: First it deals with the adventures in a video game studio, then with expecting a baby, but in fact it is larger than that.

What is Adrien’s opinion on his drawn double?
Adrien: I do see myself in him, well OK I’m less scrawny, but in all seriousness I find myself well drawn. In that story we are together, after a few more years have passed I would like to read it again.

[Adrien exits stage left. Now the public is allowed to ask questions.]

Will she do comics in a different style?
For now she sticks to what she is doing, but she previously did about 15 books: classic Cerise books for instance. When she will be done with her current project, in about 3 years, she will see.

Is she considering doing prose?
No, she needs to draw; writing is a very different job, but it is true that Diglee and Maliki are managing it.

She worked with Adrien for recollecting their memories of the story, did she do the same with Cerise?
Yes, Cerise was able to show her viewpoint at the end of Comme Convenu.

Were scenes changed or interpreted differently?
The names were changed, that’s it, but of course there are exaggerations, such as the size of a spider, but the dialogs occurred as shown.

How much time did they stay in California?
Five years, they would have stayed but could not renew their visas, now they are located near Vannes as Adrien has family nearby.

Do they intend to make video games in the future?
They do have projects to that end, they love developing games. They are proud of making games without ads, interesting, pretty, and out of people who download them there are people who appreciate that and allow one to make a living out of it.

What takes the most time, the scenario or the drawing stage? Would you consider you would need help on the scenario side or the drawing side?
Before she did draw scenarios from others. What she finds the hardest is dialogs and the process of dividing the scenario into pages and panels; however sketching and inking she feels are faster and more pleasant, and she can do so while watching series anyway. However, she has to watch against losing concentration because of social networks. She would rather work with a scenarist.

Would she like living in the U.S. again?
She would love to; her two youngest were born in the U.S., so they could claim citizenship when the time comes, but it is harder and harder to come, lately her immigration applications were solid but rejected anyway, she is not entertaining too many illusions. They will be able to come the U.S. for holidays already.

What games did she work on?
With the warning that they may or may not be online any more: Grub, which is a kind of snake by tilting the phone, and Greedy Grub, which is a village management game. They recovered the rights to them and are preparing a release, including on Android.

Thanks as always to FSFCPL for his unerring sense of interesting stories and creators in the intersection of BD and webcomics.


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