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February 3, 2014


Euro-Comics Special: Paul Karasik In Angouleme 05

By Paul Karasik

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

*THE GOOD*

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1. Joe Lambert gets a prize

Joe Lambert's "Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller" book is marvelously clever and moving. The book successfully navigates through treacherous cliché-infested waters and delivers the goods without sentimentality while still landing real emotion.

It's too bad that the book suffered in the U.S. from a small format that did an injustice to his detailed work.

This has been corrected in France where his publisher, Ca et La, had the good sense to reprint the translation in a large format that allows the work to shine.

Joe won an award from an organization that promotes rights for the disabled. It is a well-deserved prize.

Congratulations, Joe!

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2. Netherlands Print Shop

When I met up with Joost Swarte on the first day of the festival he was giddy with anticipation. The contingent from the Netherlands arrived with two suitcases and a vacuum cleaner. When the suitcases are opened and the vacuum cleaner attached, a pop-up print shop materializes.

Addjacent to the open print shop were three studios where artists set up shop, creating on-the-spot poster designs (many dealing with the day's news) on tracing paper which the printer, the young man who designed the printshop-in-a-suitcase, and his assistant pulled screen prints.

These prints were then posted all over town throughout the festival.

Visitors were invited to wander around the printshop and studios to watch the process. A playful sense of vitality kept things lively.

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Curious about Joost's description, I dropped by early on Wednesday to say hello and see what they were up to. I was honored to be handed a brush and a sheet of tracing paper.

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3. Ted Stearn's book, "Fuzz and Pluck" won a prize.

Ted is a pal of mine and I love this book. It may look like a not-so-funny animal comic, but it is so much more. Plus it is laugh-out-loud funny.

Mazel tov!

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4. Herr Seele does more than just sign my Cowboy Henk book

*THE BAD*

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1. Japanese/Korean relations

As I wrote about in a prior column, there was an ugly incident regarding a book banned from the Festival. As a rule -- and as an American? -- I am opposed to book-banning, but, after speaking to the man who actually blew the whistle, I understand how this came about.

The manga questions the WWII practice of the abduction of Korean women to use as prostitutes in Japan, asserting that the women were recruited and paid. Comics historian and writer Thierry Smolderen, pointed out that this is not really a much better scenario and actually may shed a worse light on the Japanese.

At any rate, the whistle-blower agreed with me that had the book been placed with a bunch of other manga on the Japanese table, he probably would not have noticed it and the whole controversy would not have erupted.

The Japanese contingent, however, made sure that people knew about the manga because they came to the Festival to make a point: they disagreed graphically with the Korean version of the history. They positioned themselves as nay-sayers -- but were viewed by many as extremist revisionists.

Ultimately, the event served to underline ongoing tensions between these countries... and the sad, brutal history of sexual exploitation that continues today.

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2. Popeye adieu

I attended my first Angouleme Festival seven or eight years ago. That year, an alternative comics store popped-up on a side street. Adjacent to the store, the purveyors had painted a reproduction of one of Richard McGuire's "Popeye" designs on a metal gate. Over the years the mural has been vandalized and finally, inevitably, this year it received a fresh coat of gray paint.

When I first saw this sign years ago, my jaw dropped. Richard's Popeye designs are brilliant yet relatively unknown in the U.S. and here they were memorialized. Only in Angouleme! Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera that day.

So I retuned the next day in the snow, camera in hand. As I neared the door, I could see that someone else had the same idea and was taking a snapshot. It turned out to be Charles Burns.

Only in Angouleme!

*THE UGLY*

1. Let's skip the ugly.

My short list in the "Ugly" category is far too subjective. It would include such tedious subjects as the constant drizzle and four hours of sleep and the lack of a decent cup of coffee.

Instead, let's sabotage this category and rename it "The Beautiful" and end with some images by the great Gus Bofa (1883–1968).

*THE BEAUTIFUL*

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The first World War was covered by the great show by Jacques Tardi, which I have already written about. But I also wanted to let readers know about Gus Bofa's show on the same topic. Virtually unknown in the U.S., Bofa was a master illustrator best known for his on-the-spot and spot-on drawings of soldiers returned from the Great War often appearing in La Baïonnette, a French satire magazine that ran from 1915 to 1920 .

Many of the non-War drawings in the show display a sly, wistful humor. His masterful satiric drawings of daily life resonate deeply for the French. One prominent comics publisher I met admitted leaving the exhibit with a tear in his eye.

*****

Paul Karasik is a cartoonist, author and educator best known for his work on the graphic novel version of City Of Glass and for bringing to a wider audience the work of Golden Age cartoonist Fletcher Hanks.

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* all photos by Karasik save photo of Popeye imagery on fence, which was supplied to Karasik by Charles Burns

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posted 7:30 am PST | Permalink
 

 
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