Angoulême is synonymous with comics, so it’s probably to be expected that when marriage-equality supporters marched in the French city last weekend they enlisted some familiar faces for the cause.
On her blog, local artist Algesiras posts a handful of photos of banners depicting several famous comic characters sharing a same-sex kiss. There’s Tintin and Captain Haddock, Catwoman and Poison Ivy, Asterix and Obelisk, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck, Blake and Mortimer, and Spirou and Fantasio, among others.
“Notice the rings on the hands of the characters,” Algesiras writes. “I think the best one is the one with the Smurfette, because it mocks the fact that the Smurfette is the only female in the Smurfs world. She’s not alone anymore.”
The 40th annual Angoulême International Comics Festival kicks off Jan. 31.
In addition to returning to the Mignola-verse with a new B.P.R.D. series, in February Snejbjerg will debut a graphic novel series with writer M. Jerry Frissen called World War X: Hélius. It’s set in a near-future story in which the International Space Station breaks communication with Earth, leaving the people on the ground at a loss for why. As it turns out, a bizarre alien life form has awoken from a deep slumber and set it sights on Earth — beginning with the ISS. The only man with the potential to fend off this alien threat is a man named Hélius, who may not be as human as he looks.
“[World War X: Hélius is the] first of a series of 3, out from Le Lombard!,” Snejbjerg posted on his website. “What, it’s in French, you say? You can’t read that? Sure you can, don’t be silly. Otherwise you’ll just have to find an English-language publisher and beat them ’round the head with rolled-up copies of Secret Wars, untill they give in and put it out in a language you can.”
As Snejbjerg playfully explains, there are no announced plans for World War X: Hélius to be translated for English-speaking audiences. Although Le Lombard has brought some of its books out for British and American readers, the publisher’s track record is rather spotty.
Here’s a trailer Le Lombard released to announce World War X: Hélius:
Publishing | More than 4,000 new comic titles were released in the European Francophone market in 2012, marking the 17th consecutive year of growth. According to the Association des Critiques et journalistes de Bande Dessinée, the French association of comic strip critics and journalists, more comics were produced in the Francophone market than in the United States. [RFI]
Comics | The death of Spider-Man hits the mainstream media, with Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso asserting, “We didn’t make this move lightly.” Stan Lee called it “a helluva birthday present” but added “But then, a little voice in my head whispered, ‘never say never. Just go with it while you can because Marvel, the House of Ideas, will always have a surprise up its creative sleeve for you and the rest of Marveldom Assembled!’” Entertainment Weekly’s Geoff Boucher said the ongoing deaths of superheroes are starting to feel “a little gimmicky” but he also nailed why the publishers do it: “if you look at who’s buying Marvel and DC, it’s long term fans and those readers are going to complain about this and debate about it — but are going to buy two copies.” [New York Daily News]
Mike Hawthorne is easily one of the most underrated artists in American comics. Given this level of appreciation, it’s no wonder he’s skipped off to produce work for the French market. There’s a preview of the first book he’s been working on for the BD publisher Ankama Editions, Oms En Série: 1 Terr, Sauvage, on the BD Gest website. There are some lovely pages at that link, the line work and color palette remind me of Moebius’s early-’80s work such as L’Incal and Les Jardins d’Edena, and the plot that can be discerned from this short section remind me of that one Porno For Pyros song. All together now: “We’ll make great pets, we’ll make great pets.”
Neil Cohn, who studies the visual language of comics, has some interesting things to say about this comparison of French translations of Marvel comics with their American originals. As you can see from the image above (and there’s another at the second link), the localizers didn’t just translate the words, they changed the images in very significant ways. The speed lines are missing in the French version, as is the “impact star” that marks the point where Captain America’s fist makes contact with Daredevil’s chin. The sound effects are missing as well. The changes were supposedly made to water down the violence for young readers, and indeed, they visibly change the meaning of the panels by taking away the immediacy of the visual impact.
Cohn points out that French comics use minimal speed lines, and when I think of French comics I certainly think of a cleaner look, so it may be that the localizers were, consciously or unconsciously, trying to make the comics look more French. Or, as Cohn puts it, “In other words, they are trying to translate the American Visual Language closer to French Visual Language.” This raises some interesting questions for further research (did I mention that he’s an academic?) including whether the presence or absence of speed lines indicates different ways of visually processing information in different cultures.
Retailing | The Borders death watch continues, with the struggling bookstore chain giving publishers until Feb. 1 to accept or reject a proposal to convert delayed payments into loans. Publishers reportedly are skeptical of the plan, which would see them take up one-third to one-quarter of the bookseller’s reorganized debt. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based retailer also has hired bankruptcy and restructuring lawyers to advise in its restructuring efforts, which center on negotiations to secure a $500 million credit line from GE Capital.
Borders, the second-largest book chain in the United States, announced in late December that it would delay payments to key publishers and distributors, leading some — such as Diamond Book Distributors — to stop shipping books. Jacket Copy reminds us that Borders Group is closing nearly 200 Waldebooks and Borders Express outlets before the end of the month. Additionally, it’s shuttering 17 Borders superstore locations nationwide. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]