Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

Home > Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics

Meder, Jean-Christophe Menu
posted September 20, 2005


A real blast from the past, Meder (L'Association) is a republication of Jean-Christophe Menu's 1988 book from Futuropolis. His second book, Meder collected a series of mostly single-page mute strips (there is some dialogue, but it generally consists solely of crazed grunting) originally published in fanzines between 1984 and 1986. Why bring it back now, unchanged save for a slick new hot pink cover? The answer to that can be found on the title page, with the dedication (to Paul Carali and Etienne Robial), and the note that "The first edition of Meder was published in the 'Gros Nez' Collection by Futuropolis (1972-1994) in November 1988." This sentence, and the republication of the book, are a shot across the bow of the new, non-Robial directed, Futuropolis, which Menu dubbed Fauxturopolis in his essay, Plates-Bandes. So with this book, Menu makes a statement: L'Association is the true heir to the Futuropolis legacy, and this new venture can not revive that which has, sadly, passed away.

But what about the book? Can it be brought into the present, full of life and vigor? Well, no one will confuse this work with Menu's best. This is the work of a young, angry cartoonist out to knock the (comics) world on its ass. The strips are invariably the same. Meder, a mental patient, escapes from his asylum and beats the living hell out of someone or something. Typical is a strip in which a nun helps a blind man across the street. Meder follows the man, pushes him under a truck, steals his cane, and returns to beat the nun to death with it. The end. It's all like that: Meder decapitates politicians, kills dogs, and stuffs vegetable vendors up his ass. It's not for nothing that the character's name is a variation on the French word for "shit". It's all very much the product of a mid-1980s fanzine sensibility, and it never really gets smart (although the last two strips come close). It may still hold some appeal to fans of artists like Johnny Ryan.

Generally, what one finds in the book is a cartoonist struggling to come into his own, and occasionally managing to do so. The art improves steadily throughout the short book, although it never becomes truly polished. You can feel Menu growing here, and trying new things. His style, like many cartoonists in the 1980s, relied heavily on zipatone. Meder in the bath accomplishes a decent gag through the changing use of zipatone screens, and the whole thing made me kind of nostalgic for that lost aesthetic. Nonetheless, the work does have a somewhat dated feel to it (not the least because Menu has done so much better subsequent work), and reading Meder will be somewhat akin to relistening to old post-punk albums: great for the nostalgic, possibly tone-deaf for the newcomer.