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Richard Langlois, 1941/42-2010
posted August 11, 2010
 

The influential and historically significant comics scholar Richard Langlois passed away on July 19 following a short struggle with cancer. He was 68 years old.

Langlois received a BA and then an MA in literature. If I'm reading his French-language obituaries correctly, he began teaching in 1968 on what would become two tracks: at both the Universite de Sherbrooke and at the post-secondary vocational college also bearing the town's name. The latter job he kept until 1997; the former until 2000.

Langlois taught the first course on comics in Canada in 1970, and continued teaching such courses for the remainder of his academic career. His "cours sur la Bande Dessiné was not only groundbreaking in and of itself, it was approved by the Ministere de l'Education due Quebec a few years later and thus became the model for such courses in Canada and for other institutions seeking to build comics courses of their own. Such courses could be placed within literature, art education and education curricula. One gets the sense that Langlois approached it first as a permutation of literature. In a survey article by John Lent called "The Winding, Pot-Holed Road Of Comic Art Scholarship," Langlois is quoted briefly about comics as literature that suggests a two-pronged approach to the subject matter: first, as a test of the concept whereby you get rid of words from a work yet still consider it literature; second, where the effects engendered by comics are an equivalent to effects you see from literature.

The initial comics course also apparently reflected Langlois' own interest in comics: it had an American and a French component, for example, and it gave Tintin pride of place within the various works studied. He was an enthusiastic correspondent of Herge's in the cartoonist's later years, and was generally what seemed like a helpful presence in the lives of any number of cartoonists and comics scholars, whether in one of his classes or not.

He curated several comics shows during his career, including a pair of formidable-sounding exhibits in 1982: one featuring the original art of Edgar Jacobs; and another on Quebecois comics that traveled. In 1998 he enjoyed another apparent exhibition two-for: a show focused on cartooning in Quebec and another on Albert Chartier. You can get some idea of the breadth of his love for comics through a relatively short list of material with which he was looking to part when moving from a larger house a few years ago.

In recent years Langlois remained a mentor figure and a valuable resource for any number of creators and writers. This article at ActuaBD.com suggests that he did some work for that publication, primarily or perhaps just initially on the subject of American comic strips.

He is survived by a wife of 45 years, Louise Lee, and two daughters, Christine and Nathalie.