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Bart Beaty Reacts to Laurence Harle's Passing
posted June 7, 2005
A terrible shock this morning to check the site and find that Laurence Harle has passed away. I first met her under the strangest of circumstances. In June 1997 I was invited (with Mark Nevins) to Chicago to give a lecture on French comics at the Chicago Public Library in conjunction with a large exhibition of comics art. The other invited guest was Laurence. We had the most fascinating dinner with her the night before our talk, and she told tremendous stories about coming of age in the Franco-Belgian comics scene of the 1970s during the first flush of the "adult" comics movement in Europe. In particular, she had a lot to say about being one of the few successful women working in the industry at the time.
The next day, during her Q and A session at the Library, she suddenly changed gears. She tossed her prepared talk and told the audience that since we had such an interesting discussion the night before, we were going to do it again now. She called Mark and I on stage, we were given microphones, and we suddenly conducted a long, spontaneous interview of this woman with the tremendously quick wit and wide range of interests. This should have been a disaster. Neither Mark nor I were really conversant with her work (neither of us being particular fans of the western comic), but her energy kept the audience riveted. By all accounts, it was a great unexpected success.
In the years that followed I caught up on her work, which I found to be intelligent, moving and highly personal within the constraints of the generic conventions, and with Laurence herself whenever I could. We would regularly share a drink at Angouleme, and she was always a great companion with a unique take on the comics scene in Europe.
I'm stunned by her passing, and will miss our conversations. Comics have just lost a remarkable pioneer, and a tremendous individual.