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Pattes de Mouche, Various
posted March 29, 2006

L'Association's Patte de Mouche comics series, launched even before the organization was created in 1990 as a series of photocopied zines, has long been the hallmark of this innovative French publisher. Short, professionally printed mini-comics produced on nice cream-colored paper, the Pattes de Mouche are the quintessence of cool: the deluxe versions of something almost totally disposable.

In January, L'Association published four new entries in the series, bringing the collection to fifty-six volumes. In the interests of keeping tabs on the growth of this unusual enterprise, the new entries are:

image- La Poubelle de la Place Vendome by Florent Ruppert and Jerome Mulot. I raved about this duo last year when they published Safari Monseigneur, and I will do so again here. In Eprouvette, a new L'Association published essay anthology, Mulot and Ruppert were interviewed about their working practice, which essentially can be summed up as: both artists working on the same page at the same time in an improvisational manner. That's something I have to see, because the results are consistently amazing. La Poubelle tells the story of a young man, apparently mute as all of his dialogue takes the form of sign language (complete with subtitles), who finds a loaded handgun in the garbage. Showing it to his friend, they struggle over it. Tension fills this short comic, not simply because of the story (with its obvious negative potential outcomes) but because the sign language fractures the dialogue in a fascinating way, ratcheting up the miscommunication and the attendant stress. This is another great one from this duo.

image- Histoire de la Balafre by Alex Baladi. Baladi is a mini-comics producing machine. For several years, and at several festivals, he has set up a fanzine manufacturing enterprise to entertain and delight the crowds. While festival-goers are invited to make their own minicomics on the spot, Baladi leads the way, cranking out comic after comic for days. He's a natural of the short form and the casually tossed off mini, but when he sets his mind to it, really unusual work. This is such a book. Histoire de la Balafre tells the story of how a young man earned an enormous scar on his face. While the moral might be: never trust a junkie, Baladi fills the tale with unusual narrative highs and lows, and a bizarrely unexpected denouement. Moreover, his page designs, always a bit baroque, are really starting to become truly distinctive, moving to incorporate a wide variety of comics story-telling possibilities.

image- La Nouvelle Pornographie by Lewis Trondheim. Trondheim pushes the formal boundaries even further than Baladi with this bizarre comic. Following up on his experimental, non-narrative comic book Bleu (2003), Angouleme's Grand Prix winner provides us with a porno comic unlike anything ever published by Eros. Trondheim's cervix-eye-view of the sex act is perhaps the least erotic thing ever committed to paper. A series of abstract circles, ovals and circles within ovals, La Nouvelle Pornographie may just put you off sex entirely. Best part of this comic? The yellow Grand Prize band provided for it by L'Association. It is semi-standard practice for French publishers to adorn award-winning books with a disposable banner proclaiming their stature, but to do so for a mini-comic is a really sly poke at the comic book world's most prestigious prize.

image- La Chute de l'Ange by Stanislas. I had hoped to finish a career retrospective of Stanislas for The Comics Journal before I leave for six weeks in Europe, but that is looking extremely unlikely. This is a poor substitute, but it is a good book. A wordless, dreamlike story of a man who finds a fallen angel and her bag (well, valise) of miracles, La Chute de l'Ange blends Stanislas' interest in sentimentality and the puncturing of sentimentality. The whole thing is, as always, expertly illustrated with the artist's graceful ligne clair-inspired graphic sensibility. This is a nice introduction for people who might be unfamiliar with this important artist's great work.

Overall, each of these books has its merits. The Trondheim may be the most popular because it is the most unusual, but for my money the best book of the bunch is by Ruppert and Mulot, a comic book that actually made me anxious.


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