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Mark Siegel’s Spy Report From Angouleme 2005
posted February 13, 2005
Attached are photos snapped at Angouleme. Among them, the very talented Sara Varon, signing at the Alternative Comics booth, also luminaries of French comics entertaining the crowds during a signing (Joann Sfar on banjo, and Lewis Trondheim on the kazoo) as well as a close up of Sfar's decorated banjo, featured in one of his 'carnets' which bears the title of... BANJO.
Also, three shots of the brilliant Christophe Blain, signing one of his "Isaac the Pirate" books -- very long lines for that one.
And three most significant book highlights from the festival:
1. POULET AUX PRUNES by Marjane Satrapi. This won the GRAND PRIZE OF ANGOULEME. The author of Persepolis outdid herself, in one of the most moving Graphic Novels I've ever read. With a narrative crafted like the best old Cary Grant movies, and astonishing writing, Satrapi weaves the tale of Nasser Ali Khan, who has decided to let himself die after his wife smashes his "Tar", a Persian musical instrument which he treasured more than life itself. The story follows him for his last eight days, with surprising revelations along the way. A true masterpiece, sure to confirm Satrapi's place among true authors.
And two others, which we might not get to hear about in the US:
2. DESOEUVRE by Lewis Trondheim. This new book inaugurates L'Association's new collection "eprouvette" (or test tube), dedicated to critical works on comics. And here, Trondheim explores the comics essay with disarming ease and sincerity. He researches why comics artists seem to age badly. He interviews many of the great ones still alive today, along the way of his own ruminations. And yes, naming names from Europe and the US, he wonders and wanders around the question of why so many of them end up alcoholic, depressive, suicidal or stuck in some way -- and whether he is headed for the same. With Trondheim's trademark wit, but also tons of heart, he opens up new avenues both for comics and for essays.
3. PLATES-BANDES by Jean-Christophe Menu. The other book in L'Association's new collection "eprouvette." This one is an essay in straight text, except for the etchings interspersed throughout: 19th century renderings of a gradual -- and ugly -- tooth extraction! Menu gives one long, cold, hard look at the state of comics today, mainly in France. He pretty much eviscerates a number of crassly commercial publishers who have tried (in vain) to take over L'Association's unique place in comics publishing. It should be noted Menu is in a good place to know: he was one of its main founders, and continues to be a driving force behind the most exciting, daring innovations in European comics. Whether or not one agrees with the occasional vitriolic opinions, it's smart, perceptive and in many ways a "State of the Art" address for the comics world.
Attached is a jpeg of JC Menu in a club in Angouleme, as always in blue and white stripes, holding a copy of "M Le Menu", a special tribute to him for his 40th birthday, from 40 authors of L'Association. Even though he is known for his bad manners and grouchy business style, his contribution to the field can't be underestimated.