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The rise and fall and rise of L’Association, the French comics supergroup

The artists of L'Association in 1991, seated from left: Mattt Konture, Killoffer, Stanislas, Lewis Trondheim, Jean-Christophe Menu, David B., Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian

The artists of L'Association in 1991, seated from left: Mattt Konture, Killoffer, Stanislas, Lewis Trondheim, Jean-Christophe Menu, David B., Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian

What if the Image Seven were Chris Ware, Daniel Clowes, Charles Burns, Chester Brown and so on, instead of dudes who made their bones drawing Spider-Man and Wolverine? The result would probably look a lot like L’Association.

Founded in 1991 by French alternative-comics titans David B., Killoffer, Mattt Konture, Jean-Christophe Menu, Mokeït, Stanislas, and Lewis Trondheim, L’Association was formed as a response to the lack of opportunity for avant-garde comics provided by France’s mainstream comics publishers. But L’Asso quickly became a sales forced to be reckoned with on its own, thanks in large part to its breakout hit, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Over the years, the publisher’s lineup took on “everybody who’s anybody” proportions in the Francophone comics world, with Julie Doucet, Joann Sfar, Blutch, Dupuy & Berberian, Emmanuel Guibert, and Guy Delisle all releasing work through the collective.

But as was the case here in the States with the makers of Spawn, Youngblood, WildC.A.T.s et al, L’Asso became a house divided. A combination of personal rivalries, diverging interests, and outside opportunities elsewhere soon saw the seven founders go their separate ways, leaving Jean-Christophe Menu as the publisher’s head honcho. What happened next — hidden financial records, unexpected layoffs, an employee strike, accusations of alcoholism and paranoia, tumultuous meetings involving hundreds of people, and a team-up between the departed founders to wrest control of their former company away from Menu’s allegedly dictatorial hands — became the stuff of comics legend.

Now the Comics Journal’s Matthias Wivel is telling the story of the L’Asso War — and getting participants on both sides on the record. In part one of his fascinating report, he takes us from the founding of the group to the eve of the company-wide strike in protest of Menu-directed layoffs that rocked Angoulême, France’s biggest comic con. In part two, he chronicles the strike and the resulting legal wranglings and wild-sounding general assembly meetings that eventually led to the co-founders’ return and Menu (and Satrapi)’s departure. Filled with juicy quotes from Menu, Trondheim, David B. and other leading players, the whole sordid saga reads like a movie, or more appropriately a comic, which, thanks to a team of cartoonists led by Trondheim, it’s about to become. Take a break and read the whole thing — it’s one of the most compelling collisions of art, commerce, and clashing cartoonists that comics on either side of the Atlantic has ever seen.


SDCC Wishlist | Pack an extra bag to bring home the goods from Fantagraphics

Love & Rockets New Stories #4

Fantagraphics sent over their list of books debuting at the San Diego Comic-Con later this month, and boy is it packed tighter than my suitcase on vacation day. The publisher will have almost two dozen new books at the show, including the last Mome; new stuff from Michael Kupperman, the Hernandez Bros. and Johnny Ryan; tons of Eurocomics; a Lou Reed/Edgar Allan Poe joint; and more. Check them out:

Love & Rockets New Stories 4 by Los Bros Hernandez: Featuring new stories by Jaime and Gilbert, including new material featuring Maggie set in the present and during her teen years.

Mark Twain’s Autobiography by Michael Kupperman: Probably the one I’ve been looking forward to the most, Kupperman publishes Mark Twain’s “biography” since the day the author/humorist died through last year — including his affair with Marilyn Monroe and his time-traveling adventures with Einstein.

Prison Pit Vol. 3 by Johnny Ryan: More deranged, twisted ultraviolent fun from Ryan.

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What Are You Reading?

Athos in America

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where every week we talk about the comics, books and other stuff we’ve been reading lately. Today our special guest is Kim Thompson, co-publisher, editor, translator and AutoChatter at Fantagraphics … and world traveler, as you’ll see below.

To see what Kim and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click the link …

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Comics College | Jason

I Killed Adolf Hitler

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

With a few notable exceptions, most European cartoonists have a tough time getting noticed by U.S. audiences. That’s definitely not the case, however, with this month’s Comics College entry, the Norwegian artist John Arne Sæterøy, better known to most American readers by his pen name, Jason.

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Six by 6 | The six best stories in Mome

One of the more notable news stories of the week was the announcement by Mome editor (and Fantagraphics co-publisher) Eric Reynolds that the quarterly anthology would come to an end with the release of the 22nd volume later this year.

The series has had a rather remarkable and distinguished run since its inception in 2005. In addition to featuring work by such notable cartoonists like Jim Woodring and Gilbert Hernandez, it’s served as a publishing venue to highlight the work of up and coming artists like Laura Park, Tom Kaczynski and Sara Edward-Corbett, as well as introduce American readers to work by notable European creators like Emile Bravo and Sergio Ponchione.

As a memorial of sorts for the anthology’s oncoming demise, I thought I’d attempt to put together a quick list of my own favorite stories from Mome. This was a tough list to put together actually, and there are a number of names I feel a bit guilty for leaving off, but I’m sure you all can duly chastise me for my omissions in the comments section.

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Robot reviews: The Arctic Marauder

The Arctic Marauder

The Arctic Marauder
by Jacques Tardi
Fantagraphics Books, 64 pages, $16.99

Based on what’s been translated in English so far, it seems as though are two kinds of Jacques Tardi books. The first is the dark, grim and gritty type, best represented by books like the wonderful but harrowing It Was the War of the Trenches and the steely-eyed noir West Coast Blues. The second is what I’d dub (rather awkwardly, because I can’t for the moment find better terminology) his goofier, more tongue in cheek style, best seen in the Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec series (and, to a certain extent, the satirical You Are There).

The Arctic Marauder, Fantagraphics’ latest entry in their Tardi line, easily fits in the second category. It’s a wickedly sly take on classic turn-of-the-century pulp adventures that nevertheless manages to both tweak and evoke those stories. It is, in short, a blast to read.

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Six by 6 | Six potentially great 2011 comics you haven’t heard of

The Man Who Grew His Beard

Like you, I’m all a-twitter about the release of those Carl Barks books from Fantagraphics later this year. (you are a-twitter, aren’t you?) Not to mention Craig Thompson’s Habibi, Paul Pope’s Battling Boy, Chester Brown’s Paying for It and that Grant Morrison Multiversity mini-series. And, hey, maybe we’ll even see the first volume of Pogo! Yep, by any yardstick, it seems like 2011 promises to be another year of really great releases.

But, even beyond the big-name titles and huge company crossovers, there are a number of comics and graphic novels arriving in stores this year that warrant further attention. They may have not have garnered much of your notice, since they’re not attached to a well-known creator or license or come from overseas. Here then, are six such books, all due this year, all of which I’m willing to bet good money aren’t on your radar, but should be. As usual, be sure to note any books you’re excited about but haven’t generated much buzz yet in the comments section.

1) The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics). If you’ve had the lucky opportunity to read Schrauwen’s My Boy, or perused his work in the anthology Mome, then you’ll know this Belgian artist is the real deal — a true, utterly unique and frequently inspired cartoonist who draws upon century-old cartooning styles (McCay, Outcault) to create something contemporary and frequently bizarre. This is the first American collection of Schrauwen’s work and I’m really excited to see him reach a potentially wider audience. Actually, I’m just excited to read more of an artist I’ve only been able to catch in dribs and drabs.

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Robot Reviews | The Zabime Sisters

The Zabime Sisters

The Zabime Sisters
by Aristophane
First Second, 96 pages, $16.99

The Zabime Sisters follows a day in the life of three girls who live on the Caribbean island nation of Guadeloupe. That description will, I suspect, cause many readers to assume that this is a book heavy in political and social import, as we’ve become come to expect any graphic novel set in or focused on a culture that’s not specifically North America or Eastern Europe to be some harrowing tale of life lived under a harsh totalitarian regime, poverty, colonialism, or some other real-world horror. But Zabime Sisters is not that book at all.

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Comics College | Herge

Tintin in Tibet

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Welcome and happy holidays to all our Comics College readers. Today, as a post-Thanksgiving treat to you, we’ll be talking a lengthy look at the career of one Georges Remi, better known by his pen name, Herge, and by extension, his most famous creation, the plucky boy reporter Tintin.

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What Are You Reading?

The Bulletproof Coffin

Welcome to this week’s edition of What Are You Reading. JK Parkin is off enjoying the APE convention this weekend, so I’m filling in. Our guest this week is blogger and critic Sean Witzke. To find out what he and the rest of the Robot 6 staff have been reading this week, just click on the link below.

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What Are You Reading?

Usagi Yojimbo: Return of the Black Soul

Usagi Yojimbo: Return of the Black Soul

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Paul Maybury, creator of the webcomic Party Bear. His work can be found in Comic Book Tattoo, various volumes of Popgun and 24seven, and, of course, the full-length graphic novel Aqua Leung. Be sure to check out the sketches he shares.

To see what Paul and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click on the link …

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What are you reading?

Adam Strange Archives Vol. 1

Adam Strange Archives Vol. 1

Welcome to another round of What Are You Reading. With JK Parkin in the midst of San Diego Comic-Con madness, I’m taking over the WAYR duties for this week. Our guest this week is blogger, noteworthy critic and Newsarama contributor Matt Seneca.

Find out what Matt’s been reading (he’s got a long list), and be sure to include your own current reading list, after the jump …

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The return of the Smurfs

New edition of The Purple Smurf

New edition of The Purple Smurf

The Smurfs are back! What, you didn’t know they ever left? Apparently the little blue guys have been out of print, at least in the U.S., for years, but NBM/Papercutz is bringing them back, with the first volume, The Purple Smurf, set to debut in August. (Incidentally, the Urban Dictionary has two definitions of “The Purple Smurf,” and neither of them is obscene. Go figure.)

Most people experienced the Smurfs as animated cartoons, rather than as comics, but that’s the origin — they first made their appearance in a Belgian kids’ comic in 1958. Jog, who broke the news (on a tip from Pedro Bouça), has more commentary, including the note that the purple Smurfs were actually black in the original comic; apparently the symbolism was too heavy-handed for the folks at Hanna-Barbera, who re-colored them in the animated cartoon.

NBM/Papercutz does a nice job when they bring European comics over here, except for a tendency to shrink them too much. At first glance, these look like full-size albums (like Tintin), but the type makes me think they are going to be smaller. The Amazon listings don’t give a trim size.

Preview: ‘Hey Princess’

Hey Princess

Hey Princess

Today we wrap up our look at Top Shelf’s upcoming Swedish Invasion with a preview of Hey Princess by Mats Jonsson. The book is a confessional autobiography centering on Jonsson’s arrival into the big city and his desperate attempts to find love and become hip. Not necessarily in that order.

Our exclusive preview begins just as Mats has finally convinced the girl of his dreams to break up with her boyfriend and come out with him to a concert… after which she promptly disappears with the band’s lead singer to ‘hang out’ in his hotel room …

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Preview: The Troll King

Troll King cover

Continuing our-three part preview of Top Shelf’s upcoming Swedish Invasion line of graphic novels, today’s we’re offering a look at The Troll King by Kolbeinn Karlsson. Here’s the synopsis from the official page:

A dwarf falls into a river and is taken to a place beyond space and time. A carrot takes a bath and finds itself transforming. Two reclusive mountain men rejoice when their wish for children is granted, but their sons make a terrible discovery. And throughout all these tales, the spirit of the forest walks on… Welcome to the surreal world of The Troll King, by Swedish visionary Kolbeinn Karlsson. It’s a fantastic journey into the wilderness lurking right outside your town, brought to you by comics’ cuddliest Viking.

Sounds like my kind of comic! You can determine if you feel the same by checking out the preview after the jump.

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