The webcomics blog about webcomics

Live From Europe

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin has been busy, and we’re the better for it. It’s been about a year and a half since he introduced Fleen readers to Maliki, which is typical of French autobioish webcomics — not necessarily true to life, possibly exaggerated to the point of riduculousness in search of the funny. Really, nearly the entire French webcomics community would feel right at home in Jeffrey Rowland’s reality.

And if there’s one thing that FSFCP loves as much as introducing we New World types to French webcomics, it’s digging down into how things are made. With that in mind, he sought Chloé and Sergane, who are contributing the English translations of Maliki. Take ‘er away, FSFCPL!

This interview was conducted in English over Twitter DMs on September 26th 2017; it has been edited for house style.

Fleen: Could you introduce yourselves to Fleen readers?

Chloé: Hello Fleen readers, I’m Chloé, originally from Bordeaux in France, but I’ve been living in Dublin for 9 years now.

Sergane: Hi everyone, I am a digital artist currently working at ILM. I’ve lived in the Pacific Island of Vanuatu for all my childhood and studied in France. I’ve been living in London for three years.

Fleen: Maliki strips were historically translated by Mali herself, then about a year ago a small mention Fan translation started appearing at the bottom of new English strips. Can you tell us how the collaboration came to be?

Sergane: At the time I was listening every day to the Maliki radio and I was often in the chat room speaking with fellow fans, many of which became trusted friends. One day Becky approached us asking if anyone was bilingual in English to help her out with the translations and I said I was. I’ve been doing them alongside Becky ever since.

Chloé: That’s so cool. I was bold and DMed Maliki on Twitter asking if they’d like a hand.

Sergane: Chloé arrived a few months ago to propose her services, as she is a professional translator. Her input proved invaluable, as she managed to get our work truly to the next level. The translations are now much more efficient and punchy than they were when I was on my own. I was doing my best and had no idea it could be so improved.

Fleen: That leads into my next question: how do you split the work between you two?

Chloé: Well, since I joined, Sergane has been quite busy getting married and all, so I do most of the translations and he proofreads, comes up with fancy titles, and so on. Mascot Hell’s Kitten was fully translated by Sergane and I proofread.

Sergane: So now it’s usually Chloé who does most of the heavy lifting, and I correct after her. Sometimes we trade places but she can work on the translation right away on Monday evening [Author’s note: when Maliki has just completed the strip, and it is posted to Tipeee sponsors] while I can only usually work during my breaks on Tuesday. Also, yeah, I got married and also because living in London is so wonderful I get to move house another time, it’s been five times in three years and it’s never a pleasant experience. London is a very expensive and demanding city.

Chloé: Don’t come near Dublin …

Fleen: So in a way, Chloé is bringing her professional translator skills, and Sergane his native English upbringing cred?

Sergane: I don’t know, most of all I think it’s good that we know we can both rely on the other. The most important thing is to get the job done as best as we can and on time. The key online is consistency. And also the idea is to lighten Maliki and Becky’s load so they can focus on their craft.

Chloé: Hem, I probably bring the native fluency and Sergane the pop culture references to be fair. I haven’t worked as a professional translator for about 8 years now, but I did get good methodologies. Yeah, I think we’re getting faster, more consistent and altogether more efficient.

Fleen: That’s interesting, because I wanted to ask, what are your latitudes to replace references, e.g. songs or poetry, as seen as recently as Sensory Combo and That time of year thou mayst in me behold?

Chloé: That depends on what Maliki intended in the strip. If it’s just a song she liked, we can localize it as we like (she gets final say), but if the reference or song has a specific meaning for the strip, then it’s the proper localization work that starts. What does it says, who is the target audience, what would an English speaker recognize, etc.

Sergane: So this is a great question, we have a lot of latitudes, and when we feel we’re going overboard we get approval directly from Maliki. Mascot was the hardest to translate. The language is fairly simple but there are so many injokes and references and puns it sometimes drove me crazy trying to find something that worked. Other than that, first you need to spot the reference in French and sometimes they can be quite subtle, so what we try to do is adapt the jokes to an English-speaking world culture.

Sergane: So the title of this week’s strip is a good example. First we wanted to simply use the translation from Verlaine but I did some digging and found this famous sonnet by Shakespeare and thought it would speak better to our English readers than a translation of Verlaine.

Chloé: Mascot was soo tough … the double-entendres in particular.

Fleen: I feel your pain … What kind of technical constraints do you have, for space in particular?

Sergane: Space was an issue at first, especially for me, as you may have seen I like my long and drawn out sentences, so I would sometime make a sentence longer than needed just to make sure the meaning got through. Now with Chloé it’s much easier and normally, English uses less space than French so it’s not that complicated. And when we go overboard, Becky tells us and we correct on the spot.

Chloé: Not that much to be honest. Becky is able to adjust the size of the speech bubbles a little so that helps. It can be a bit hard to have the same meaning in the same amount of characters in both languages.

Sergane: See, she sums it all up nice and tight, Chloé is a godsend!

Fleen: Yes, I did the converse for both comics and computer user interfaces, and it’s impossible not to be longer at times when going from English to French, it’s easier when going to English.

Fleen: Have you felt some pressure for particularly significant strips, such as Over the Rainbow?

Sergane: Nope, never felt pressure of any kind. Becky is really kind and when a big strip is coming our ways she tries to warn us and gives us an early access to the draft so we can prepare. It’s always been quite smooth.

Chloé: The first Mascot strip though, I was quite worried of how it would be received by the public. But true, Becky is amazing! I keep plaguing her for Word docs because it’s quicker than going back and forth on the strip.

Sergane: I wasn’t really. The Maliki fans are usually the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

Chloé: Also, we’re building a translation memory on a computer assisted translation tool, so that should we get hit by a bus, something remains.

Fleen: What is the turnaround time when it’s not a “big strip”?

Chloé: Fairly quick if I have a Word doc.

Sergane: The deadline is Tuesday evening [Author’s note: at the same time the French strip publishes to the public]. The deadline deadline of all deadline would be before midnight.

Chloé: Howler was about 1800 words so that took a good 4 hours.

Sergane: I spend usually up to two hours on a big strip, much much less on the smaller ones. Proofreading is quite quick though I have to compare with the strip to make sure nothing was omitted. It’s really easy to miss a bubble.

Chloé: That and me forgetting words randomly …

Fleen: What are the terms of your arrangement with the Maliki Corp?

Chloé: They keep us in the basement alongside Souillon [Author’s note: Maliki’s representative for signings and other public events]. When we’re nice we get a few fish-heads.

Sergane: I get to chit chat a lot and I quite love to chit chat. Also the basement is quite nice and snug and cozy if you like dark damp underground caves.

Chloé: The basement is much nicer now that they’ve moved. 5 stars basement, running water and hammocks. And the cats visit a lot. Fëanor has a soft spot for my hammock.

Fleen: Have you been implied in Maliki activities other than the strip proper (that you can share with us, of course)?

Chloé: A few things that in translation we would call metadata. Bits and pieces around the website, and announcements.

Sergane: There is a huge open world video game and a movie but I can’t speak about those, there is also a Netflix live action show in 7 seasons but it’s still in preproduction. I can’t say anything about those either and I may be totally lying.

Sergane: But on a more serious note, nothing right now. There was Mascot and it’s been going on for a while but right now it’s pretty quiet.

Fleen: And one last question for the road: do you have any personal projects you would like to share?

Chloé: Sergane’s the artistic one. I just write blogs about recruitment.

Sergane: I’m currently working on Ready Player One and it’s a lot of fun and work. I hope people enjoy the movie. Other than that I do write but it’s mostly in French. The only thing I have is a DeviantArt account. But with my job I don’t have much time to work on my projects, but sometimes I had a thing or two, mostly for fun.

Fleen thanks FSFCPL, Chloé, and Sergane. If you haven’t been reading Maliki, check it out.


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Hey Kids, What Day Is It? FSFCPLday!

Webcomics are, naturellement, a world-wide phenomenon; we at Fleen are pleased to bring you the latest news on the French webcomics scene, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin.

  • Montpellier¹ might not seem like a big city, but it does house a vibrant comics community, of which at least Paka (corny, untranslatable puns, with some exceptions) and Fabrice Erre (the life of a history and geography teacher in high school) maintain webcomics. These are very much anchored in local life … which also means they are unlikely to ever be translated (corny puns don’t help, either).

    But earlier this year they have been (re-)joined by Yllya (a previous veteran of comic blogs), another Montpellier dweller, who tells us about her Happy Family and in particular their daughter .. Their troll, pizza-hating, job-threatening, just plain evil daughter. Not only are those are available in English for your reading pleasure, but you can see the author improving her English strip after strip, up to a point it will soon be flawless. Highly recommended.

  • Not only do Agat Films et Ex Nihilo produce the animated version of Tu Mourras Moins Bête (of which the second season has just started airing), they also unveiled a few images of their adaptation of Les Culottées on the occasion of the Cartoon Forum in Toulouse, and they seem to be doing a great work of adapting Pénélope Bagieu’s style. They are also there in order to look for foreign broadcasters; no word as yet on that front, but we at Fleen will be sure to keep you posted.

Many thanks to FSFCPL, and come back tomorrow for an analysis of the Girls With Slingshots omnibus Kickstart; we’re a little short of 24 hours (and thus outside the window to calculate the FFFmk2), but considering that (as of this writing) it’s sitting at US$97,824, I’m going to guess that the final total is: large.


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¹ Full disclosure: you correspondent studied there for two years and has a number of relatives living in the area.

Welcome Returns For A Friday

Hey, the weather is distinctly non-Augustlike and I want to get out there, so how about a couple of quick pointers and we all enjoy the weekend? Got two things to share.

  • Great news from Becky Dreistadt and Frank Gibson, who’ve been away from one of their signature creations for too damn long. Capture Creatures has been incomplete and hiatused for too damn long … two years or so by my count. I have theories¹ as to why this is, but Gibson and Dreistadt are too polite to confirm these suppositions.

    But good news:

    Capture Creatures returns in 2018!

    I’ll try to get a confirmation if this is a relaunch, a continuation of the interrupted original run, or something else. Since I’m on the far end of the continent from Gibson & Dreistadt, I won’t be able to use my traditional technique of buying them drinks and hoping they volunteer something². In the meantime, dust off the old issues and refamiliarize yourself with Jory and Tamzen in anticipation. 2018 cannot come too soon.

  • From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin, a little breaking news about the insanest fight manga to not come from Japan, Last Man:

    Last Man [the animated series, last mentioned here] will air in English on [streaming app] VRV starting August 25th [i.e.: today] at 6:00pm ET, and director Jérémie Périn will be a special guest at Crunchyroll Expo [running today through Sunday at the Santa Clara Expo Center).

    As previously mentioned, Last Man (the book series) is batshit insane and good, and the fact that the tie-in series will be available to those of us on this side of the Atlantic is welcome news. Now to wait for the final volumes to get finished, translated, and released because boy howdy! Book 6 ended on one hell of a cliffhanger and I needs me some closure.


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¹ Namely, that the chronic disorganization and crappy (not to mention slow-walked) payment model at BOOM! ran into somebody that said no. I surmise that BOOM! is trying to treat the pair as they treat their work-for-hire newbies and don’t know institutionally how to interact with somebody that has the experience and knowledge to enforce their contractual rights.

To be 100% fair, for every BOOM! creator I’ve spoken to that has experience terrible treatment (on the business side, not the editorial side), I’ve spoken to another that has zero complaints and has been perfectly happy. How much of this is luck, or how much it’s BOOM! picking strategically who gets their limited attention³.

² I plied both Dreistadt and Gibson with excellent drinks in San Diego (adjacent to a wall decorated in 3D-printed human skulls, apparently left over from a Rob Zombie video shoot.), and could not get them to tell me anything on the record. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:

All: These are great drinks!
Me: Care to confirm my theories about how you’re getting screwed on Capture Creatures?
B&F: Nope!
Me: Fair enough. Let’s have more great drinks!

That’s some hard-hitting investigative pseudojournalism there, let me tell you.

³ Apparently, there was a time where BOOM! editor Shannon Watters was responsible for literally dozens of titles at the same time. I’ve gone back to pull their publication history and check mastheads, but I have been told by numerous sources that the number was upwards of fifty. That’s five-zero. If true, no matter how short a period, BOOM! was putting the crunch culture of Silicon Valley to shame as fucking amateurs in the field of running their people into the ground.

For Some Sense, Let’s Head Across The Ocean

Shit is bananas these days, so let’s just step back and have some wisdom from Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin on the most hated part of modern computing. It relates to bandes dessinées web, promise.

Adobe just announced their intent to put Flash in end-of-life mode by the end of 2020: they will no longer update the plug-in or distribute it. Since no one will want to run vulnerable software, this will be nothing less than a death sentence for the venerable multimedia engine.

I came to not particularly like Flash: a few years ago, I was more than skeptical of Adobe’s insistence that Flash was appropriate everywhere, and was glad when they stopped their effort to try and push it on mobile devices. And its track record when it comes to security is abysmal. That being said, from a digital history perspective this means we will somehow need to find the means to preserve an enormous amount of digital culture that was originally published as Flash files; Homestar Runner, of course, but the list only begins there.

But one piece just made the jump (were they tipped off?): Yves Bigerel’s (better known as Balak) visionary creation, About Digital Comics¹, was just remastered using modern web technologies². Among the benefits: it is multi-language, with the language being automatically selected according to your browser’s language setting. Go rediscover this masterpiece, and along with it you can discover the Turbomedia creations that many people have been busy creating on that site in the meantime.

Speaking of Balak, I discovered on this occasion that the Internet video series he co-wrote, Les Kassos, has been fully dubbed in English and is now available on Vice as The Wakos. Enjoy; I suggest you begin with The Pokemal Trainers [NSFW], then Totogro [NSFW] will do nicely.

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¹ Originally published as Flash in English and French.

² Many thanks to BatRaf, Turbo Interactive webmaster, for fixing a few outstanding issues — during the evening, no less — within a few hours of me reporting them.

Good stuff as always, but I have a quibble with one bit — I am less convinced that FSFCPL that no one will want to run vulnerable software, given that there’s plenty of vulnerable, unpatched, unsupported, deprecated, end-of-lifed, and otherwise completely insecure crap out there right now. I suspect that we’ll see Flash persisting for years and never quite going entirely away. But the sooner, the better.


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Lyon BD Is Just Three Days, Or He’d Keep Writing

We at Fleen continue to bring you all the news from the world of French [web]comics, courtesy of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin. Take it away, FSFCPL!

Lyon BD, like most French comics festivals, is run as a non-profit. That does not mean admittance was free (5€ a day, or 8€ for both days), but that means among others aspects it relies a lot on volunteer labor. [Editor’s note: That admission rate would be in the range of US$5.50 to US$9.00 for a city-wide festival]

But just because it is a non-profit does not mean you are dealing with unprofessional people. Case in point: when I came Friday morning to get my badge as an accredited member of the press (which also allowed me free entry), they couldn’t find my name among the envelopes containing the individual badges. That was going to be a problem: without a badge, I would not have been able to enter no matter how much I paid, since the first day was reserved to professionals (and accredited hack webcomic pseudojournalists).

But Mélodie Labbé, who was the Lyon BD point of contact leading up to the festival proper (for RSVPing to events, notably) was present and doing badge delivery herself too, my name did ring a bell to her, and so she took a blank badge and wrote in my name so that I could enter and access everything I could as accredited press; I did not even have to show the email accepting me as accredited press (I was able to come back on Saturday, and this time my “real” badge was found. I won’t lie: getting to wear [this](attached image) rocked).

More generally, Lyon BD did treat attendants and exhibitors well: there was free water from water dispensers (as previously mentioned), tables for lunch inside the city hall, allowing food brought in, and nearby seating allowing for a pause to read your haul, signage in the streets to find your way when going to offsite events (exhibitions, lectures, etc.), and lastly but most useful for me this Sunday¹, the last day: a free cloakroom, since my train was departing straight after the festival (admittedly, that last service was not open to the public: only exhibitors, journalists, etc.).

Lyon BD is also remarkable for its initiatives besides running the show proper. For instance, I previously mentioned they originally commissionned the Boulet/Inglenook drawn concert collaboration, but even though this was the 12th edition I first heard of Lyon BD only three years ago from their Hero-ïne-s exhibition, where they asked comic creators (including Boulet, through which I heard of it) to reimagine comics with female leads, because even in this day and age in French comics, female leads are still rare.

The works themselves have been posted on the web (some of which I’d very much pay to see made!), and you can buy it as a book which additionally contains interviews with the featured creators, small essays on sexism in and around comics, etc. The exhibition itself is touring (it was not at Lyon BD this year, though), but I do not know where it will be shown next.

Since there were fewer events of interest to me on Sunday (there were a few, but colliding with Scott McCloud’s lecture, and there was no way I was going to miss that), I decided this was the opportunity to try and meet some of the creators showcased in this project, especially as a number of them are local to the area.

Highlights of the day:

  • Meeting with Paka at the Lapin booth, who mentioned to me that his collaboration with Cyprien, Roger et ses humain (previously mentioned here) was now available in English on digital platforms, among them Comixology; this can be a viable way to discover this work, at least as an artist.
  • Catching Hero-ïne-s contributors Efix, Marie Avril, Emy), Anjale (note that I was still dressed as Clark Kent), and Yan Le Pon (links to their own pieces) and chatting with them about their contributions and the general state of comic book heroines. Most of them were even generous enough to sketch in my copy of the book.
  • Watching Scott McCloud’s lecture presenting his latest book project: the pitch, the need for it, case studies of examples and counter-examples, etc. Even with half the time taken by the translator, it still had so much information density that no summary could not possibly do the lecture justice. McCloud is going around the con circuit, so I implore you to go and catch a performance of his lecture, you won’t regret it.

    He went straight to a signing after the lecture (in fact, he was signing for most of the duration of the festival, and his line was always packed), so I was not able to have any aside time with him, but I did get a few answers: during the lecture, he had a few words about Powerpoint (probably the visual communication medium office dwellers create the most), and it will be covered in the book (one of my interrogations from the announcement).

    At the end of the lecture, during the Q&A session, he confirmed in response to my question that, while there would be no dedicated chapter (the book not being organized along media type, but along other concepts), the teachings would not just be applicable to static media, and some of the examples would be from interactive media.

    Lastly, I went in line for the signing, and once I reached him I asked one last question: what, if anything, he did find different in French cons as opposed to U.S. cons. His answer was that in his experience signings were mostly the same, but in panels in France he appreciated not having to spend nearly as much time justifying how comics could serve important endeavors: French people have little trouble believing that.

  • At the same signing, meeting Bou … oh, wait, is that the line for him?! One, two, three … ten … OK, there is no way I can reach him before the festival closes its doors. Too bad, maybe next time.

It was then time to leave, but if they keep up like this, I will most certainly be back next year. I would like to close by thanking Lyon BD festival for evaluating and accepting my press badge application, without which I would not have been able to cover the festival as much as I did; and of course, for putting out a great festival.

And that will wrap up Fleen’s coverage of LyonBD 2017. With any luck, we’ll have more reports from a variety of festivals from FSFCPL in the coming years.


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¹ Fun fact: Sunday was also polling day for the French general elections, and mainland France does not have mail-in voting or early ballots, and I hope it never has online voting: so I had to appoint a proxy to vote on my behalf, there is no other way to vote while away on polling day.

Lyon BD, Deuxième Jour

We continue the reporting of Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin from the grounds of Lyon BD. If you missed Day One, it may be found here.

The main attraction of a French comics festival is getting to meet the comics creators themselves, or more specifically, getting them to sketch and sign in one of their books you brought; that last part is important: the creator typically won’t have his books on hand, and by himself is not set up to take your money. This means sketches are free as a rule. Though if you don’t own any of their books, not to worry: they are available for sale at the festival so you can have your copy when you get in line for the signing.

So for instance for Lyon BD:

  • A temporary location inside the city hall was set up as a bookshop (an offshoot of a local bookshop, in fact).
  • A big reception room and several smaller ones inside the city hall were set up as table space for invited creators, independently of any publisher.
  • Inside a common tent on the Place des Terreaux, Glénat (one of the biggest French comics publishers) had set up a giant booth where one end was set up as a bookshop, and the other end as table space for their creators; same for Decitre (the association of Dupuis, Dargaud, and Le Lombard).
  • In the same tent, smaller publishers (Lapin, Warum/Vraoum, Rouquemoute, etc.) had booths where the creators were set up directly behind piles of books (though the publisher himself handled the transactions).
  • And a few isolated signing events were set up in bookshops around the city.

And so that you could best visit creators at the right times, this giant banner¹ was put at critical junctions in the festival … Oh wait, that is only creators A to K, a second banner was needed for creators L to Z. Columns are approximate time: Saturday morning, Saturday early afternoon, Saturday late afternoon, etc. up to Sunday late afternoon.

Other booths present included booksellers specialized in original and historical editions of comics, art schools, publishers of youth books (not just comics), etc. It was not a big festival: for instance, a few major publishers (Delcourt, Soleil) did not have a booth. But as you know, it is not the size that counts: what counts are the people I wanted to meet and that I knew would be there.

So, Saturday: the first day (out of two) of the main festivities.

This setup was less than ideal by some aspects. For instance, France remains under a high terror alert level which means bags had to undergo visual inspection whenever entering the festival, and that included whenever you wanted to go from the city hall to the tent on the Place des Terreaux (and the converse) as they were close, but not directly connected.

Furthermore, weather became rather nice and actually a bit hot (28°C, or about 81°F) which was felt more under the tent due to the lack of air circulation (a few booths were able to put up ventilators); especially by your correspondent, who chose to go that day dressed as Clark Kent: in a full suit (plus hat, and small S on the chest, under the shirt. My apologies: I forgot to take photos). But those were only inconveniences, and volunteers were on hand to help, for instance to bring drinks to people stuck in their booths; the organizers had also put water dispensers under the tent for attendees to get water, for free.

Interesting live programming was also scheduled for Saturday, in particular a jazz and drawn comics concert involving Florence Cestac (only woman so far to have received a Grand Prix at Angoulême), which unfortunately I had to pass on due to a collision with another event I wanted to attend at 3:00 PM.

By the way, did I mention the Lyon city hall was a very nice place?

Highlights of the day:

  • In the main reception room used for signings, getting to say hello to the German creators showcased in the exhibition (mentioned in my last post): Reinhard Kleist, Thomas Von Kummant and Isabel Kreitz (Birgit Weyhe was signing elsewhere), but I spent most time chatting with Flix about his book, The Pretty Girls; this is actually a series of relationship and drama strips self-contained in one page, and contrary to most body representations in comics (comics being a very coded medium), even from France, he features great body diversity: his girls are fat, slim, tall, small, even old or young… they are all meant to be pretty.
  • Chatting with the creators at the Lapin booth, in particular Tim, who reminded me I could point you to his Promenade (going for a walk), since there is no need to translate it. And he’s right. It it comics? You decide. And Cy², since I was interested in her Real Sex From Real Life [NSFW], but more on that later.
  • A panel on comics being featured in Le Monde’s morning digest app. Of note was the fact it is still hard for comics to make inroads in a newspaper that was one of the last holdouts of the “if it’s boring, it must be serious” school of thought: often interesting initiatives around comics are declined, even when money is not an issue. On the other hand, when the principle of having comics in the app was accepted, then getting budget to pay lump sums to the creators was not an issue.
  • A panel with Cy, Fabien Vehlmann, and Julie Maroh about their respective comics projects around sex Le vrai sexe de la vraie vie, l’Herbier sauvage, and Corps Sonores). Their approaches vary in the details (Vehlmann collected anecdotes through in-person sessions, while Cy used an online form), but the basic approach is the same: in order to show sex not as an ideal, but as it is practiced, they use comics to show such stories of real sex, and build them around raw material collected from other people so as to provide actually representative and diverse experiences. As such, even if not directly educational they all have a documentary aim.

See you next time for Sunday …

Fleen, as always, thanks Lebaupin for his attention and insight.


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¹ Note the use of autrice, a feminine form of the word auteur which has recently resurfaced (because when auteur is used for both masculine and feminine forms, it tends to erase female creators), and is still not widely accepted.

² Who, by the way, is tag teaming with Boulet to cover the animation festival in nearby Annecy this week.

From Our BD Desk

"Crayon", they said. Right. Photo by FSFCPL. Click to embiggen.

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin¹, as noted earlier in the week, spent some time prowling the recent Lyon BD, and he’s brought an extensive recap. Pret-ty sure that there’s no other webcomics blog this side of the world with a report from Lyon (or anyplace else in France), so be sure to share with your friends. Take it away, FSFCPL!

The Lyon city hall is a very nice place.

This is in fact not the usual location for Lyon BD, but with the French general elections, which happened the same weekend, preventing the use of the Palais du Commerce where it usually takes place, it had to find a backup location, and kudos for the city council of Lyon, and in particular the mayor, Gérard Collomb, for opening the city hall for use by the festival.

And so that is where your correspondent found himself in Friday morning to attend the first day of Lyon BD festival. The public was not allowed yet, reserving that day for interactions between creators, publishers, booksellers, students, and other professionals, including journalists. For instance, a number of publishers were set up with tables in a dedicated room so that students could come get feedback and inquire about opportunities; but KissKissBankBank also had a table there, for instance.

Additionally, most of the exhibitions were already set up, so it was possible to visit them while not too busy with everything else that would be happening the following days. And of course, there were panels on matters of interest to the comics community. Most of the booth space, however, would be in a tent on the neighboring plaza, which was still being set up.

Highlights of the day:

  • A panel on the interactions between museums and comics. In particular, a representative from the Centre Pompidou emphasized that it housed more than a museum of modern art, and in particular a library which has of late presented a number of exhibitions, on Claire Brétécher and on Gaston Lagaffe for instance. They also touched a word on museums acquiring original art, exposing it, and in a few cases publishing comic works (e.g. around a fine art exhibition).
  • Inside the city hall, an exhibition of comic works from German creators. Germans read more comics, in particular French, than they produce, but they do produce some, and as part of an exchange with the Frankfurt 2017 book fair Lyon BD presented this exhibition of German creators, most of which were present in the festival.

    I had already heard of Mawil through Safari Plage (which itself was pointed to me by Tim), but the others were new to me, and I would get to meet them the following day (except Mawil, who was not present). The exhibition will go to the Goethe Insitut in Lyon now the festival is over, so you can still catch it until September 14th. As part of the collaboration, the involved creators are creating comics to present French and German culture which are being posted in a dedicated site, including in English.

  • An exhibition [PDF] centered on Understanding Comics at the Lyon Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication a few blocks away. Organized around excerpted chapters from Scott McCloud7rsquo;s œuvre (it would be impossible to cover it all in a reasonable space), the exhibition illustrates concepts from the book (time and sequence, page construction, etc.) using French-Belgian comics (and a few others), notably Blacksad from Diaz Canales and Guarnido (as Boulet writes, #IMComingBackTonightWithACrowbar).

    The last room deals with digital comics and excerpts from Reinventing Comics instead. A must visit. It remains there until September the 20th, so if you are in Lyon for any reason, check it out².

  • A panel with Lisa Mandel and Matthieu Sapin, on how they work with the raw material they turn into comics. Both creators have used comics as a way to report on current events, for Mandel on the life and evacuation of the Calais migrant camp, and for Sapin on the life in the Elysée for a few months during the presidency of François Hollande.
  • A panel on graphic novels with McCloud, Yannick Lejeune, and Reinhard Kleist, specifically trying to tell what they are. Lejeune, an editor at Delcourt, provided examples more than a definition, starting with Tardi and Pratt in the 70s, followed by a renaissance in the 90s, starting with Satrapi’s Persepolis. Kleist, one of the invited German creators, told he uses “graphic novel” more as a container in particular for his own work, because he finds the word “comic” (used in German as well) as being inappropriate to represent his work, which is anything but funny.

    McCloud emphasized that, in the US, the expression “graphic novel” was a weapon meant not so much to add meaning than to escape the baggage of the word “comics”; he told he considers it all comics, while recognizing that the expression can be useful. On the matter of what they are, he said that while you always see the artifices of comics, a graphic novel for him is one that is deep and long enough that you end up losing yourself in the story and not noticing them any more.

    This is my favorite definition, because while his introduction of graphic novels in Reinventing was strictly in the context of US comics, now this definition is workable for Euro comics, and manga as well. After introducing myself, I told him as much during the opening ceremony for Lyon BD that followed a few minutes later.

  • During the reception that followed the opening, getting to chat with Phiip, local creator, host of many French webcomics and publisher of even more, about crowdfunding and its impact on comics publishing and self-publishing.

As always, Fleen thanks Lebeaupin for his contributions.


Spam of the day:

Ich habe hier mein Sofa im Test online gefunden.

A discussion of a sofa in German? I suspect that either Rich Stevens or Brett Porter is trolling me. In which case: Bravo, gentlemen.

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¹ Who, I should note is now the first person besides yours truly authorized to carry a Fleen business card (complete with a rendering of our masthead mascot by Meredith Gran). You’re officially a pixel-stained wretch, FSFCPL!

² The permanent collections are also worth checking out, including this bit. The caption reads: Crayon drawing This portrait drawn in crayon by the celebrated caricaturist Gavarni is of particular interest. Comparing the proof with the stone it can be seen that a moustache has been added. This kind of alteration was made possible by a process developed by Godefroy Engelmann in the 1820s. The stone is in its final state, the proof from a previous state ‘before the moustache’.

Comme Convenu Est Mort, Vive Valerian

Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin alerted me on happenings in French webcomics at the start of last week, but also asked me to hold the story as it was known that more details were coming down the pike. The tail end of the story arrived at the end of the week, so let’s turn it over to him and get caught up on Continental goings-on.

  • After 500 pages of an harrowing story inspired from her own experience, Laurel has recently concluded Comme Convenu (non-spoilery ending). Congratulations to Laurel for bringing this story to its conclusion!

    Now it is clear this is leaving a sizable hole in the daily trawl of many readers. And while we’re expecting to hear what she’ll be working on next, it turns out she’s been expecting, period.

    Everyone, please welcome Valerian, who [on 1 June] joined his big sisters Cerise and Hermione. And congratulations again to Laurel, as well as to Adrien Duermael.

  • Thomas Pesquet has been regaling us with photos from the ISS for the last six months, but [2 June] he is set to land back on Earth. But fear not! For Marion “Professeur Moustache” Montaigne is busy narrating his odyssey in comic form in a new book to be published in November. Yes, Commander Hadfield, you too have given us fantastic photos from space, but have you had a 200-page comic made about you? I don’t think so!¹

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¹ Ok, ok, he’s told us his story in illustrated form. Good enough. Sorry Commander, please don’t hurt me.

Gary again, with two thoughts:

  1. Commander Hadfield has never hurt anybody; he’s a friend to all. Nevertheless, I will be most intrigued to read Pr Moustache’s GN, for a litany of fairly obvious reasons.
  2. A footnote! Oh, FSFCPL, you are making a hack webcomics pseudoeditor very happy.

Okay, third thought: welcome, Valerian. I hope that we can make the world less stupid and cruel by the time you notice what it’s like. Your mother and father will love you unconditionally, but give them the occasional full night of sleep, and they spoil you rotten.

Also, grow up safely and quickly so that you can see what looks to be a completely bonkers Luc Besson movie named after you². It’s either going to be completely kickass or incredibly stupid, but either way it’ll probably make The Fifth Element look like a model of understated restraint and I can’t wait.

Edit to add: Octopus Pie just ended. Too soon to get my thoughts wrapped around that fact. Tomorrow, promise.


Spam of the day:

Bionic Steel Hose

Is this some kind of robo-Real Doll thing? Because, ew.

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² Seriously, have you seen the trailer? Bonkers.

From France, But Weirdly Without FSFCPL

To be fair, he’s waiting on a previously-announced thing to happen so he can tell us about it. Hopefully soon, because a day without Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin is a day without sunshine¹.

  • But we shall persevere, particularly when we have wisdom (cloaked by humor) from Boulet. It’s not the latest English-language post at Bouletcorp, but rather (at the time of this writing) the third most recent. It’s about who comics creators are, and why they do what they do, and neatly encapsulates the French tendency of webcomics towards autobio², as Boulet contrasts his own work with that of colleagues Zviane and Lewis Trondheim.

    From there it becomes nothing less than a meditation on the nature of creativity (and the importance of random, dumb circumstance above technical skill, education, hard work, and pretty much every other conventional wisdom indicator of success) and concludes that comics artists (quoting here) are all freaking platypuses. As with everything from Boulet, it’s a delight.

  • Book Corner time: coming next month (20 June, to be precise) from :01 Books is a delightful young-readers-plus-their-parents book from Benjamin Renner, The Big Bad Fox. Pre-order it now. The story is simple enough: a fox who can’t ever manage to snag a chicken (his friends the rabbit and the pig slip him turnips so he doesn’t starve) is convinced by a wolf to steal some eggs and raise chicks to adulthood for an easy meal. Genius!

    Until the chicks aren’t afraid of the Big, Bad Fox, because he’s mom. And the fox (who isn’t really big or bad) gets to like (love, even) his surrogate children. Hilarity ensues. The entire thing reads like a Chuck Jones cartoon (Renner, an animator, took an Academy Award as one of the three directors of Ernest & Celestine), with a style to match. The dog, charged with protecting the farmyard, looks a bit like a heavy-lidded Question Hound at his This Is Finest as he does the absolute least possible to manage the drama around him. The wolf is menacing in a slouchy way, and the fox is …

    Okay, the original French title, Le Grand Méchant Renard, is suggested by Google Translate as The Great Evil Fox. But that key word — méchant — has several meanings listed: bad meaning wicked, mischievous, nasty, evil. But also bad meaning mediocre, incompetent. Bingo. The fox is Wile E Coyote: rangy, mangy, prone to failure the more elaborate his schemes get, motivated more by hunger than malice, but ready to find a spark of empathy and take the hard way out (a pretty savage beating by the chickens, trained to ninja-like lethality) if it means sparing “his” children distress (or a noshing by the wolf).

    It’s charming, funny, and turns more than one expectation on its head³. Many thanks to Gina Gagliano at :01 for the review copy, and even more thanks to :01 for continuing to bring the best of French comics to these shores.


Spam of the day:

Beat Insomnia: The Fastest Way To FallSleep

I close my eyes and then I sleep.

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¹ Which, coincidentally, it is here. Overcast, spitty rain, which is thankfully predicted to clear for the holiday weekend. Oh, yeah, Monday’s a holiday, probably no post then.

² As previously explained by FSFCPL; we just can’t quit him.

³ By the end, the fox and his kids play “Fox and Chicken”. He plays the big mean chicken, they play terrified foxes, fleeing for their lives.

Because It’s Always A Good Day For FSFCPL

When Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin gets to thinking about what distinguishes the French webcomics scene from that in other countries, I say Yes, please!. Please enjoy his latest thoughts without further adieu.

In my contributions so far for Fleen, I never felt the need to make a general introduction as to how webcomics in the French language work, because there is no need to: they are comics on the web, only in French (the web being divided more along language lines than around country borders). That is everything that is needed as a starting point to further know about them.

But when you get familiar with them, it is obvious that many cultural norms developed differently here, compared with English-language webcomics. Some of these differences are in fact inherited from French-Belgian comics traditions in general, such as the common use of pseudonyms by comics creators; but most interesting are those differences that are specific to webcomics, which I am going to present today.

  • No ads
    Boulet’s distaste for ads, and his refusal to feature any on his site, is well documented (French-only, though it is clear enough even without the text). But he is not an exception: almost none of the webcomics I have linked to so far (Maliki, Comme Convenu, A Cup of Tim, Jo, Professeur Moustache, etc.) have any ads either, and the sole case I could find in French webcomics is a single leaderboard at the top of Pénélope Bagieu’s site; otherwise, they at most feature internal ads, like the comics hosted on lapin.org. This is unexpected when coming from English-language webcomics, where ads are standard.

    The implication is that, by and large, creators do not use the comic’s availability on the web as a revenue source, but purely as a display window to lead the reader to support them in other ways, such as through book collections, merchandising, patronage, commissions, hiring opportunities, etc.: most French webcomic authors practice at least one of these.

  • They don’t use webcomic templates
    Most of the time, webcartoonists from the French-Belgian tradition start with a base blog engine, only their blog posts are images or mostly images rather than text; WordPress+Comicpress is almost unknown around these parts. As time goes on, they either keep that system, or move on to a fully custom solution, with designs that are generally minimalist, especially as they don’t need to feature ads, which contrasts with the generally heavy designs of webcomic sites in the English web.
  • No schedule
    Granted, having a set posting schedule is no longer seen as mandatory in English-language webcomics, with notable webcomics (Octopus Pie, in particular) renouncing a posting schedule; but a large majority of them still follow one. In French, most of them don’t: the norm is not to have any set schedule, with many well-respected webcomics having never had one. I only know of Comme Convenu and Maliki to currently adhere to any schedule.
  • More reliance on social networks
    Having no schedule means it is harder to make readers get into the habit of checking the site in a regular fashion, so except for those readers who use RSS, French readers follow webcomics by subscribing to the social media feeds of their favorite comics. This means that around here social media subscriptions represent a large portion of a webcomic’s regular audience, and pushing updates to the social networks (and ensuring they do reach readers) is of great importance to creators.

    Moreover, since French webcartoonists do not make any ad revenue from their sites, some don’t hesitate to post the full updates along with the links on social networks: Comme Convenu (Twitter) and Commit Strip (Twitter) do so, for instance. And a few have openly floated the idea of only posting on social networks, like Marc Dubuisson, though for now he still posts to his site as well (a site is still more practical to browse the archives, for instance).

  • Dominated by autobio
    As previously discussed when introducing Jo, the overwhelming genre in French webcomics is autobio, possibly enhanced (with a smattering of “political commentary” strips here and there); you could consider them to be blogs that are drawn rather than being written. I am not going to offer theories on why this is the case, at least not yet; I will just note that the field is still relatively young when compared to webcomics in general: almost no French-language webcomic existed prior to 2004, and diversification from the genre the local pioneers started around is a slow process, even if we can now see the first examples of this diversification.
  • No appearance schedule
    Time for full disclosure: this is a matter that directly affects this pseudojournalism hobby, and if French creators were to adopt this custom, it would make my planning of which events to attend much easier. With that in mind …

    If you look at the site for a French webcomic, you won’t find any appearance schedule (Maliki being a notable exception; may they be blessed for the next 1000 generations). It’s not that the creators always stay at home, never to meet readers: if they are published, they do go and attend conventions and shows, but only advertise those when the date is close, on social media. It would be presumptuous of me to explain why this is the case; I will just note that creators have limited involvement with their convention appearances, which are planned by their publishers (e.g. the booth is always in the publisher’s name), and creators go with these plans.

    But I know some creators who are itching to booth in independence from their publishers, especially when currently they have to split their appearance time between the multiple houses which publish them, so this may change sooner rather than later…

Something that strikes me as I’m reading FSFCPL’s observations now for the third time, is how much his first four points mirror what Brad Guigar describes as his personal new reality over at Webcomics.com [subscription, with occasional free posts]. He’s rethinking a bunch of the prime directives of webcomics, a number of which parallel how the French have apparently always done things. With Guigar’s recently announced discontinuation of convention appearances, you have something pretty close to the sixth point as well.

I believe that this may merit some close consideration on both sides of the Atlantic. Thanks once again to FSFCPL for his analysis, and for much food for thought.


Spam of the day:

Cannabis gummies LEGAL IN ALL 50 STATES!

You might want to run that claim by our new Attorney General, who’s hot on restarting the drug war.