A Healthy Serving of Comics History

eccoci.jpgComics writer and historian Alfredo Castelli has a late Christmas present for us all — the entirety (704 pages!) of his annotated bibliography on the early American newspaper strip, Eccoci ancora qui (“Here We Are Again”) is now available online in PDF format! Meticulously researched and chock-full of rarely-seen images, this is a must for everyone interested in the period, even if you don’t read Italian.

Manga på Louisiana til efteråret

Fra Louisiana’s hjemmeside:

8. oktober 2008 – 8. februar 2009

Det var den berømte japanske maler Hokusai, der kaldte sine tegnede portrætskitser for manga, som bragte navnet til Vesten. Manga er et særlig japansk tegneserie-fænomen, der historisk rækker 200 år tilbage, og som i dag har international kultstatus med millioner af hæfter solgt hver måned, talløse filmatiseringer og som over de sidste 25 år har sat sig dybe spor i den japanske samtidskunst.

Dupuy & Berberian — Grand Prix d’Angoulême

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.

Shaun Tan Wins Book of the Year at Angoulême

This just in: Australian Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, published last year in several languages, amongst them in French as Là où vont nos pères, was awarded the Book of the Year award at Angoulême. Here’s the full list of the Essential Selection, along with other selected awards:

Rutu Modan — Exit wounds
Pascal Rabaté & David Prudhomme — Marie en plastique
Cyril Pedrosa — Trois ombres
Jean Regnaud & Emile Bravo — Ma Maman est en Amerique, elle a rencontre Buffalo Bill
Pierre Dragon & Frederik Peeters — RG

Discovery of the Year
Isabelle Pralong — L’Elephant

Fanzine Prize
Turkey #16

Heritage Prize
Tove Jansson: Moomin

Youth Prize
Philippe Buchet & Jean-David Morvan — Sillage vol. 10: Retour de flammes

Prize of the Public
Catel & José-Louis Bocquet — Kiki de montparnasse

Well, that’s that. Seems like a strong enough selection, even if it is definitely a less interesting list than last year’s, but that was also exceptional.

The French “Comics Mafia” and other Follies

As always when Angoulême rolls around, discontents in the French comics community rise to the surface. A perennial issue is the relationship between artists and critics. In an ill-informed and ill-advised article in this week’s issue of French weekly Le Point, the journalist Romain Brethes sets up Joann Sfar, Marjane Satrapi and the other usual suspects of comics success as a kind of ‘comics mafia’ — an inner circle of “Godfathers of the Ninth Art”, that exchange favours by appearing in each other’s comics and on each other’s labels, just like American rappers do. I guess it was only a question of time before France got its own “King Maus,” its own comics camarilla.

Heath Ledger RIP

The actor Heath Ledger was found dead in New York earlier today, possibly by his own hand. Sad news. In addition to being too young to go, he was a great talent. His performance as a passionate man lost the closet in Brokeback Mountain (pictured) was what made that film great rather than good. And I’m looking forward to seeing him as both Bob Dylan and the Joker, so sue me. Rest in peace.

Old Men in a New Car

The Coen brothers’ No Country for Old Men is finally out here in the UK. Although I enjoyed it, and would rate it amongst the best of their films, I still have something of a hard time understanding the insane hype it’s been getting from critics everywhere. It’s nothing new in their oeuvre, and hardly represents a significant development for them beyond its toning down of their usual cinematic playfulness.

Faithfully adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the same name, the Coens evidently found in him a kindred spirit. The film is basically a less showy reworking of earlier works such as Blood Simple (1984), Miller’s Crossing (1990) and Fargo (1996). As if the filmmakers decided, once and for all, to get what they wanted to achieve with those movies exactly right.

Angoulême 2008

We here at the Bunker are rather depressed that none of us will be going to Angoulême (Jan. 24-27) this year. In addition to always being worth the visit, we’re going to miss all of our Angoulême friends — the great people we unfortunately only meet there, once a year. Please be assured that we will miss you, and have a great festival.

A Blazing Baroque

There Will Be Blood directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, loosely based on Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!, and out now, is a great piece of baroque cinema. Sharing more than a passing semblance with Erich von Stroheim’s monumental Greed (1924), this is high Hollywood classicism brought through the wringer of idiosyncratic, but grand ambition. As Manohla Dargis points out in her somewhat hyperbolic but nevertheless excellent review, the filmmaker here finds what his earlier efforts have lacked, a great theme. The overwrought ostentatiousness of Boogie Nights (1997) or Magnolia (1999) is turned into an asset in this quintessentially American fable of soul-destroying enterprise, in that it consolidates the archetypical nature of the narrative.