Hardly surprising, here it is: Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian are the winners of the 2008 Grand Prix at Angoulême. An understandable, if somewhat dull choice, Dupuy and Berberian have played central role in the development of the French album-format comic for adults in the 1990s, first and foremost with their Monsieur Jean series (1991-2005), about a thirtysomething, single Parisian’s romantic travails and coming to terms with aging. Notable in their oeuvre is also their autobiographical work, particularly Journal d’un album (1994).
Their artwork is elegant, airy and clear, a combination of the Belgian ligne claire, Parisian school illustration of the 30s in the tradition of Bofa, Laborde and Savignac, as well as New Yorker-style cartooning in the tradition of Addams and Arno. They are consummate storytellers and craftsmen, creating pretty, entertaining comics that do not rock the boat excessively. Good, but somewhat petit.
This is merited and all, but on the other hand it is very easy to think of other, more deserving figures amongst their contemporaries (David B., Guibert, Neaud, etc.) or from the 80s generation (Baudoin, Baru, etc.), not to mention from amongst the non-francophone, who are almost never awarded (it has happened exactly four times out of 38, Will Eisner, Hugo Pratt, R. Crumb and José Muñoz being the beneficiaries).
It is, by the way, also the first time the prize is given to a duo of cartoonists. Dupuy and Berberian write and draw together, and are almost inseparable as creators, even if they have occasionally done comics individually, so this makes sense. But one wonders why last year’s prize, which entirely deservedly went to Muñoz, was not shared with his long-time creative partner Carlos Sampayo, which would have made as much sense. It is as if French auteur-theory dictates the Academy’s definition of who can win, disqualifying writers. This is evidently problematic, given the many great comics created by a writer and an artist in tandem. Oh well, as Muñoz himself immediately stated when he was awarded the prize, he found it evident that it was simultaneously a recognition of Sampayo.
Congrats, Dupuy & Berberian!
Extract from Monsieur Jean vol. 7: Un certain équilibre (2005). Dupuy & Berberian on Lambiek, and on Wiki. English editions of their best Monsieur Jean work is available from Drawn & Quarterly as Get a Life, while Journal d’un album has been translated as Maybe Later.