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Home > Bart Beaty's Conversational Euro-Comics

La Fugue, Pascal Blanchet
posted August 14, 2006
 

imageA lot of cartoonists pay some bills working as illustrators, but it seems far less common to find illustrators dabbling in comics. Which is a shame, because there are scores of fantastic illustrators who might produce truly beautiful work in a more narrative context. Case in point: Pascal Blanchet, whose La Fugue (Pasteque) is one of the loveliest little books of the year.

I met Blanchet in Angouleme this year, where the 26 year-old Quebecois cartoonist was promoting his first book at the Pasteque booth. Pasteque, the "other" Montreal comics publisher and the guys who notably discovered Michel Rabagliati, have long been fixated on creating beautiful books, and they have found a perfect match for their style in Blanchet's jazz-age aesthetic.

La Fugue is a nearly wordless story (there are maybe fifteen words in French in the whole book) in which an elderly man looks back over his life. This old man is a jazz pianist, now lost in gloom, but whose life once took him to the biggest cities and to the boldest loves. As far as plot goes, there is nothing here that you haven't read a dozen times before. Everything of value comes in the presentation.

image

Blanchet approaches comics -- dare I say it? -- as an illustrator might. There are no panels here, and each page is a full illustration. Actually, many pages have no illustrations at all, and are left blank, giving the book a unique pace, with certain images provided a space to breathe over a two-page spread. Printed in two colors (red and brown), there is a sleekly jazzy line at work throughout that gives the images a bouncy feeling. Blanchet also uses negative space far more convincingly than other cartoonists. His layouts are spare and uncluttered, which has the function of amplifying what is on the page (this is a lesson that a great number of cartoonists could benefit from learning).

imageThe book production is also superb. Printed on pulpy, grainy brown paper that visually recalls brown paper bags (though the texture is much slicker), La Fugue reads as if it were printed on the paper that wraps old 78rpm jazz records. This is a fantastic choice, and simply lovely attention to detail. Increasingly (and thankfully), book design is becoming an important feature of comics, and this is one of the nicest designs of the year.

Blanchet makes his living as an illustrator (you can find his work here), but it would be nice if we could lure him into comics on a more regular basis. La Fugue is a promising start, and one that deserves to be encouraged.

*****

PS -- Last time out, discussing the rebirth of the post-L'Association David B., I offered some comments about Didier Pasamonik's article at ActuaBD about an ongoing legal dispute between L'Association and Casterman surrounding the rights to Incidents de la nuit. Subsequently, Pasamonik provided me with a nearly 1000-word response, somewhat clarifying his initial comments but mostly attacking my naivete. In short, he is alleging that L'Association is bullying David B. by printing, in Eprouvette #2, a letter from Casterman's lawyer to L'Association.

The complaint seems to rest on a charge of unethical practice from printing correspondence not intended for public circulation. In deciding whether or not to pursue this discussion, a quick tour through ActuaBD turned up this article from 2004, which, like the recent David B. article, accused L'Association of betraying its principles. The 2004 article highlighted Gilles Ratier's decision to print Jean-Christophe Menu's email in Bandes Dessinees Magazine, a decision that Pasamonik not only drew attention to, but also defended. So, the issue seems to be: L'Association publishes private correspondence = L'Association losing their soul. Ratier & Pasamonik publish private correspondence = L'Association losing their soul. What else is there to say?

*****

Justin Norman Replies in Letters

*****

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