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BD & Comics Passion:

Something To Suit Every Passion

French auteur Étienne Davodeau (above right) has written and drawn an unusual and intriguing graphic novel, The Initiates (in English from NBM), in which he pairs up for a year with a fiercely independent, innovative wine-maker named Richard Leroy. Along the way he writes and draws how each man learns about and comes to understand the other’s passion. Grapes and graphic novels are rated, books and bottles opened and enjoyed, or not.

There’s no predicting someone’s taste, when it comes to wine or comics. In a telling conversation out in the vineyard from the fourth chapter, Richard discusses with Étienne the most recent book he’s read the night before from his pile of ‘homework’, Lewis Trondheim’s autobiographical Approximate Continuum Comics (translated by Fantgraphics). 

Richard: “I don’t see what it’s good for.”

Étienne: “He questions himself, without compromise. You read it, you question yourself. And the drawing gets to the essential. It’s not demonstrative. It’s a narrative, nothing more.”

Richard is not convinced: “Myeah. I need for someone to tell me something.”

Étienne: “Be attentive. You’ll see that an autobiographical book also tells you something about you.”

Richard: “I wasn’t familiar with that kind of comic book, and…”

Étienne: “Exactly! You, who spend your time complaining about wines that do everything to resemble what’s imposed on the public, you aren’t going to balk at a book that surprises you!”

Richard: “Ha ha! Okay, to work!”

Great masters and great masterpieces may make little impression on this comics ‘initiate’. Richard mostly dismisses Moebius on a visit to his Fondation Cartier retrospective, and trying to read Watchmen puts him to sleep. Among those artists who do interest Richard is Marc-Antoine Mathieu (above). In Chapter 11, Davodeau drives him over to Mathieu’s place to meet him and drink wine in his garden and a restaurant nearby.

Richard is frank and asks: “Does it bother you if I tell you that your drawing jars me, that I have trouble getting into it?”

Marc-Antoine: “Ha ha! No! Our books can’t please everybody. I even think that they mustn’t do so. ... What’s important to me above all else is for them to be coherent with the vision of the world I’m developing in them. Then, whoever wishes to, may enter.”

Towards the end of the book, as a guest with Davodeau at the marvelous BD Bastia Comics Festival in Corsica, Richard gets to hear Belgian creator Dominique Goblet talk about her sensitive work and see an exhibition of her original art. In the end, among the graphic novels he chooses to buy is her autobiographical memoir Faire semblant c’est mentir (‘Pretending is Lying’).

Étienne comments: “Excellent choice. You know for quite a few people, it’s ‘kind of a thing for eggheads’, as you say.”

Richard replies: “That’s because they know nothing about it.”

No matter how much you think you know about any subject, there’s always more to learn and all of us are really ‘Initiates’ who can either stay in our comfort zones or consciously decide to keep an open mind and keep on discovering. If you’re curious, ready for something different in your comics reading, and want to explore contemporary comics culture from both side of the Channel, there are few better, or more cool and convivial, ways than visiting BD & Comics Passion at the Institut Français in London. This third annual long weekender celebrates the very finest in British and French graphic novels, once again in association with Comica Festival.

Among the guests, both Étienne Davodeau and Marc-Antoine Mathieu are coming over. Matthieu has had two books in English already, the allegorical Dead Memory from Dark Horse and in The Museum Vaults, a commission from the Louvre Museum no less, from NBM. Mathieu is over on Saturday to talk about his latest translated book, 3” (below), his audacious new graphic novel experiment, launching in English from Jonathan Cape in print and digital versions of a high-velocity whodunnit which lasts an intense three seconds! Are you eagle-eyed enough to solve this mind-expanding mystery?

Other highlights of the packed four-day programme include kids’ favourites The Smurfs (back in print from NBM), Boule & Bill (translated by Cinebook) and Les Légendaires (waiting to become a huge hit) with their artists Pascal Garray, Patrick Sobral and Laurent Verron giving talks and drawing demos. And there’s a pair of unique gigs or ‘Drawing Jams’ with top comics artists illustrating live on the Ciné Lumière stage alongside great singer-songwriters La Grande Sophie and GiédRé performing on Friday night, May 31st.

The Saturday line-up brings you zany comedy maestro Edika (below), published in English in the past by Knockabout Comics, and all-star drawing duos between Posy Simmonds and Étienne Davodeau, and Hunt Emerson and François Boucq. Plus Saturday night’s special event is a Drink & Draw combination of fine comics and fine wine, in keeping with Davodeau’s book The Initiates. He’ll be drawing along to the drinking, so come and savour them both.

Sunday June 2nd welcomes more UK and Gallic creators in conversation, including at 11am the massively talented and popular Parisian blogger Pénélope Bagieu (below), who also creates the series Joséphine and designed the charming Festival poster. Her latest release is an illustrated guide to London with nifty fold-out maps.

Other Sunday treats are the delightful, delirious Glen Baxter; a 2-hour masterclass with François Boucq of Bouncer fame, the Western series written by Alejandro Jodorowsky from the Humanoids (below); and SelfMadeHero’s I.N.J. Culbard, David Zane Mairowitz & Mark Stafford on adapting classic literature into comics.

The unmissable attraction on Sunday is the first London appearance by Régis Loisel, over from Quebec for the publication of a complete English edition of Peter from Soaring Penguin Press. A masterpiece of evocative writing and lush illustration, Loisel’s daring take on Peter Pan adds a deeper, darker dimension to Barrie’s original by imagining the eternal youth’s troubled background in Victorian London and what drives him to finding Neverland.

Other attractions include the prize ceremony for a comics competition on the theme of food, with master chef Raymond Blanc among the judges. There are also films for kids and all ages, book signings and a digital workshop for teenagers. You can go à la carte and book the events of your choice, but there are special deals available, giving you 5 major events on Saturday for only £20 (only £4 each), or 12 events for only £28 (an insane bargain at not much more than £2 each).

And what better way to herald this great festival than with the extra special in-depth Comica Conversation with Jaime Hernandez, co-creator for over thirty years of the cult American indie series Love & Rockets, with Woodrow Phoenix on May 30th, 6.30pm, with support from The Copenhagen Comics Festival and Gosh Comics. Book your tickets for this at £10 each, and for the Festival’s own great events, at the Institut Français without delay.

There really is something at this Festival to suit and to stimulate everyone’s BD & Comics Passion. Whatever you choose, whatever you discover, whether you’re a fan-addict or an ‘initiate’, do it with - passion!

Posted: May 19, 2013


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Featured Books

Available in English

The Initiates by Étienne Davodeau (NBM)

Dead Memory by Marc-Antoine Mathieu (Dark Horse)

The Museum Vaults by Marc-Antoine Mathieu (Dark Horse)

3” by Marc-Antoine Mathieu (NBM)

Bouncer: The One-Armed Gunslinger by Alejandro Jodorowsky & François Boucq (Humanoids)

Peter by Régis Loisel (Soaring Penguin)