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PG Tips No. 7:

Euro Comics Special

Paul Gravett surveys the recent crop of European comics in a Euro Comics Special of his regular PG Tips column.


5 Is The Perfect Number
by Igort
Drawn & Quarterly
£12.99
“You’ve brought hell into the family. You know that?” When his young son is shot dead on the mean streets of Naples, his grey-haired father, a retired mob hitman, has to confront the consequences of his dogged quest for vengeance. In the moody duotone graphic novel 5 Is The Perfect Number, Igort, alias Italian Igor Tuveri, breathes an expected beauty into the gritty Mafiosi genre, importing subtleties from Japanese cinema and manga. A global aesthete, Igort’s cultural references have always been eclectic. His hybrid of pumped-up superheroics and Russian propaganda art in his previous translated album Dulled Feelings resulted in a revolutionary Batman for the workers with a permanent erection in his trunks. Igort’s latest is the serial Baobab in the Ignatz collection which he is editing for Fantagraphics and his own company Coconino Press.


Verve
by Ever Meulen
Editions de l’An 2
€36
If Paul Klee takes a line for a walk, Ever Meulen takes his line for a joyful dance. You may have come across his witty illustrations and all-too-rare comics here and there, perhaps in Raw or The New Yorker, but this bilingual volume compiles over 200 pages of his elegant images from 1988 to 2005. Surely Belgium’s greatest contemporary illustrator, he draws on his fellow countrymen in the ‘Clear Line’ of Hergé and Jacobs, but is also inspired by the modernist cartooning of America’s Saul Steinberg and Britain’s Edward Bawden and Fougasse, alias Kenneth Bird of Punch. In his turn, Meulen has influenced many artists today, including Daniel Torres, Dupuy & Berberian and Max. This compilation is the mother lode.


Sine Qua Non
by Marcel Ruijters
Editions de L’An 2
€16
Rotterdam-based mastermind of silent comics, Ruijters plunges us into the warped imagery and imagination of the Middle Ages, obsessed with religion, death, miracles and monsters. The scant titles and speech here are all in Latin, explained in a glossary, but the pictures here do the storytelling, in bold brushstrokes and dense scraperboard. Medieval illumination meets underground comix mayhem.


Malus
by Chris Webster
MMMNNNRRRG Editions
€12
“Don’t move a muscle!” In a germ-ridden world, the future of man rests with Star Tower’s medical experiments. But their cocktail cultures on cleaners Rosen, Mitchell and others have all gone horribly wrong, distorting their bodies and bodily functions. Their muscles multiply and burst free on their own like some freakish Hulk-gone-wrong, their tears gush as torrents that can be channelled and controlled, their nerve endings feed on more and more pain. Now these “highly volatile speciments” on the loose must be brought down. First self-published between 1995 and 1997 and revised and improved in 2000, Webster’s lavish, viscous graphics present explosive combats and mutations, while the fractured, shifting times of his sinister allegory gradually coalesce. He also draws the most amazing giant horse-shaped helicarrier you’ve ever seen, chosen for this hardback’s cover. Some ten years on, Webster’s big brute of a book remains fleshily grotesque yet strangely tender.


Masters Of The Ninth Art: Bande Dessinees & Franco-Belgium Identity
by Matthew Screech
Liverpool University Press
£50.00
Like buses, you wait for ages for any informative English-language books about French comics, and then three come along together (see below). Their only downsides are that they are all pretty text-heavy and pricey, so try to get your local library or college to order them in for you. Screech examines Franco-Belgian identity through their comics, from classics Tintin, Asterix and Franquin’s comedies to modern innovators like Moebisu/Giraud, Tardi, satirists Gotlib, Bretécher and Franc, ending with a sweep from the 1980s to today’s firebrands like Mathieu and Trondheim. Well-researched and quoting from his own fresh interviews, Screech offers an accessible 252-page study into the history, roles and lasting significance of “the Ninth Art.”


The Francophone Bande Dessinée
Edited by Forsdick, Grove & McQuillan
Editions Rodopi
$55.00
From the British conferences of the International Bande Dessinée Society, these essays by 14 university teachers focus on different theories and practices of Francophone comics, while BD auteur Tanitoc draws his in strip form and in French. Spanning nearly 300 pages and two centuries, from Swiss “inventor” Töpffer to Bilal and Baru, and tackling issues like feminism, masculinity, class and AIDS, this anthology shows the rich, varied possibilities that BD offer for analysis, both within and between the panels. non-French readers be warned that the Bilal essay and, as in the other two books here, some passages, are kept in French; would it be such a concession to translate these as footnotes?


Text/Image Mosaics In French Culture
by Laurence Grove
Ashgate Publishing
£50.00
Surprising and enlightening parallels are pinpointed by Grove between the BD phenomenon since 1934 and France’s much earlier “emblem” books: in their mixing of pictures and words, in their creation, mass production and popularity, and in the societies and mindsets behind them, centuries apart but both coping with the rush of new ideas and technologies. Grove’s engaging writing and his case-studies, including one chapter on Le Téméraire, the notorious Nazi-run comic published in wartime occupied France, build bridges between these two seemingly remote media, the past and present, “high” and “low”, informing each other.

Posted: December 17, 2006

PG Tips is a monthly sidebar to Paul Gravett’s Novel Graphics column in Comics International providing shorter reviews of the latest recommended books of and about comics.

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Chris Webster
Euro Comics
Ever Meulen
Igort
Marcel Ruijters
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Featured Books

5 Is The Perfect Number
5 Is The
Perfect Number

by Igort

Verve
Verve
by Ever Meulen

Sine Qua Non
Sine Qua Non
by Marcel Ruijters

Malus
Malus
by Chris Webster

Masters Of The Ninth Art
Masters Of
The Ninth Art:
Bande Dessinees &
Franco-Belgium Identity

by Matthew Screech

The Francophone Bande Dessinee
The Francophone
Bande Dessinée

Edited by Forsdick, Grove & McQuillan

Text/Image Mosaics In French Culture
Text/Image
Mosaics In French Culture

by Laurence Grove