The webcomics blog about webcomics

Heh. “Coronavirus”.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to read of Uderzo?

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

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

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

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

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

Really Only One Story Today

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Spam of the day:

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

Nobody tell her.

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

From The Bunker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Guess no more Smurf festivals for a while, then.

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

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

    Enjoy, share, and be good to each other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spam of the day:

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

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

Webcomics Before The Web

From Fleen Senior French Correspondent Pierre Lebeaupin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Almost Live From Nouvelle-Aquitaine

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also brought back a few more pictures:


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

Spam of the day:

“gary.tyrrell“ WelcomeTo “ProvideAuto“

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

¹ Here is a translation of the relevant part:

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

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

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

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

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

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.


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.


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:

Soila Kopp wrote:
Hi there! I’m Dan, Managing Director of [remainder of crap deleted]

Decide on who you are before you show up trying to get me to click on your phishing links..

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.


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.


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

Spam of the day:

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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!


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


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:

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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.

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.


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.


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.

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.