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Aboard the CBR mothership, Alex Dueben talks to Black Hole author Charles Burns about his new book X’ed Out, in stores this week from Pantheon. And by the sound of it, the book — the first in a trilogy — is thoroughly indebted to Belgian comics master Hergé’s timeless Tintin tales, from the cover to the coloring to the format itself:
There’s certainly a very strong Herge influence. If you just think of the Franco-Belgian style of creating comic albums in that format, the way those European make them which is the 64 pages, 48 pages. A hardbound albums with continuing characters. I was one of those rare kids of my generation who grew up reading Tintin and it had a very profound effect on me, so this is the way that I can kind of reflect on that and play with some of those ideas.
“Black Hole” was always conceived of as being a book that would be all collected together. I’m not conceiving of this as, “Here’s three books that will eventually be collected into one book.” When I get interviewed by the French and Belgian press, I won’t be answering this question, because it’s a different tradition. I’m kind of emulating that tradition by doing a series of books in this manner. For example, when I was doing a signing in Southern France, there was someone who came up to me and who explained that he was really hesitant to buy “Black Hole” for a long time because it just seemed too foreign to him, this idea of this big volume. He wasn’t used to that idea of the graphic novel format, whereas now, it’s really been assimilated over there and popular over there as well. Here, the questions I get asked are, “Gee, this seems like a really slender volume for a graphic novel.” It’s not trying to pass itself off as a big graphic novel. It’s a different style of storytelling.
Unfortunately, Hergé passed away before he could ever release a graphic album in which he processed the influence of Charles Burns. Too bad — I would have liked to have seen Captain Haddock grow a small but strangely erotic vestigial tail.