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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.

Comics A.M. | Sparkplug to continue; Michael George in jail

Sparkplug Books

Publishing | Emily Nilsson, wife of Sparkplug Books publisher Dylan Williams, said she plans to continue running the publishing company after the death of her husband. “We need your support now as much as ever,” she said in a post on the Sparkplug blog. “We are grieving at the same time as we are trying to keep business afloat, and trying not to overstrain ourselves. We want to publish again soon but that is a step we will consider more once we get through the next few months.” Nilsson, Virginia Paine and Tom Neely will continue to run Sparkplug, with plans to continue online sales and attend conventions like the upcoming MIX in Minneapolis next month and the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival in December. Williams passed away in September due to complications from cancer. [Sparkplug]

Legal | Michael George, the former comics retailer found guilty of murder for the second time, is in the Macomb County (Mich.) jail after his bond was revoked following Tuesday’s verdict. George was found guilty of murdering his first wife Barbara in the back of their comic book store in 1990. “The family’s ecstatic,” said Barbara’s brother Joe Kowynia. “There’s no way a jury is going to get this wrong twice. I feel sorry for my nieces, this is long overdue. Now that this is over, Barb can rest in peace. And we can move on and he can rot in jail.” [Detroit Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | Persepolis airing sparks protests in Tunisia

Persepolis

Crime | About 50 protestors were arrested in Tunisia for an attempted arson attack on the offices of Nessma TV after it screened Persepolis, the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s celebrated autobiographical graphic novel. The protesters claimed the animated movie offends Islam. All political parties in Tunisia, including the country’s main Islamic party Al-Nahada, have condemned the attack and expressed their solidarity for freedom of the press. [Variety]

Digital comics | Warren Ellis looks at the current options and sees webcomics as a broadcast, out there for free and bringing in new readers through notifications, links and solidarity, whereas digital comics services like comiXology (or even Marvel’s subscription) service are closed systems, more like a shop with comics on the shelves. That makes a difference in building an audience and also in the pacing of the comics, because webcomics can better accommodate the more decompressed storytelling that Ellis prefers. Lots of interesting nuggets among the ramblings. [Warren Ellis]

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Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums: The Movie

France gets some cool comics movies. Last year there was The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec; now in a couple of weeks they’ll have Poulet Aux Prunes, an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Chicken with Plums.

Oddly, Satrapi’s story of a relative of hers who decides to kill himself after his wife destroys his cherished tār looks like it’s played for laughs in the film. The trailer below shows some surreal fantasy sequences in which Nasser Ali Khan imagines various ways of committing suicide. It’s been a couple of years since I read the book (I reviewed it for Robot 6 at the time), but though I remember its using humor, it’s certainly not the comedy that the trailer makes it out to be. While the suicide plan sounds extreme and ridiculous at first, there’s a hidden reason for it that makes sense once it’s revealed. Discovering the answer to that heartbreaking mystery is one of the book’s most captivating and powerful elements and I dearly hope the film doesn’t sacrifice it for laughs. Satrapi both co-wrote and co-directed the film, so there’s reason to be optimistic.

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Marjane Satrapi’s The Sigh coming from Archaia in November

The Sigh

I completely missed this in the latest Previews and when Michael noted it last week — Archaia Entertainment will publish an English-language version of Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi’s The Sigh in November.

The illustrated book has already appeared in France and Spain, and is a fable about the daughter of a merchant. “One day Rose asks for the seed of a blue bean, but her father fails to find one for her. She lets out a sigh in resignation, and her sigh attracts the Sigh, a mysterious being that brings the seed she desired to the merchant. But every debt has to be paid, and every gift has a price, and the Sigh returns a year later to take the merchant’s daughter to a secret and distant palace,” the press release Archaia sent out today reads. The 6” x 8” hardcover will feature 56 pages of text and hand-drawn color illustrations.

“The Sigh is a timeless fairytale that promises to capture the imaginations of readers both young and old,” said Mark Smylie, chief creative officer of Archaia Entertainment. “Marjane is one of those rare writers who has the ability to connect with readers on a global scale and we are proud to bring this story to the U.S.” The release also hints that The Sigh is the first of many new English-language translations coming from Archaia, noting it is “the vanguard of a new wave of foreign titles it will be publishing in the next several months.”

Previews: What Looks Good for November

The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Dark Horse Presents is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Ape

Puss in Boots Movie Prequel – I don’t care for movie prequel comics as a rule, but swashbuckling cats are awesome in any incarnation. As long as these are fresh gags and not just ones warmed up from Shrek, I expect to enjoy this.

Archaia

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, Book 1 - I just introduced my son to The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth a couple of weeks ago, so this is great timing. He had the same questions about The Dark Crystal‘s world that I always do, so I’m looking forward to seeing Archaia’s take on answering those. Totally feel like the world’s in good hands with this publisher and these creators.

The Sigh - If Archaia’s snagging Marjane Satrapi’s (Persepolis, Chicken With Plums) new book has been reported already, I missed it. I’m surprised that wasn’t bigger news.

Siegfried, Volume 1 – I’ve been meaning to read P Craig Russell’s Ring of the Nibelung adaptation for years, so I think this might be what pushes me to finally do it. It would be fun to read Russell’s and compare it to this version by Alex Alice.

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The 30 Most Important Comics of the Decade, Part Two

megatokyo3_500

Continuing our countdown of (in our opinion, obviously) the most important and influential comics of the past ten years, here’s the second half of our list, from #15-1. If you missed it, you can read part one over here, with an explanation of how we put the list together and the (admittedly somewhat arbitrary) ranking. Can you guess what made number one? (hint: it’s not one of the books sampled in the collage above.) Read on to find out!

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Straight for the art | Persepolis 2.0

Persepolis 2.0

Persepolis 2.0

One of the more interesting comics mash-ups this week was Persepolis 2.0, a remixing of Marjane Satrapi’s groundbreaking graphic novel designed to draw awareness to Iran’s current post-election plight. Matthew Weaver of the Guardian talked to the comic’s creators, two Iranian exiles called Sina and Payman, who apparently did the work with Satrapi’s blessing:

Sina said the updated cartoon was intended to show how history was repeating itself in Iran.

“The reaction to Persepolis 2.0 has been great,” he wrote in an email. “We’ve had visitors from 120 countries thus far, and a large volume of emails from people asking how they can help support Iranians.

“This has really infused us with energy, and we’re now working on additional ways to help get the word out.”

Ware, Satrapi talk comics

A scene from Persepolis

A scene from Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi and Chris Ware recently gave a talk, moderated by Francoise Mouly, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts as part of the the three-day festival of New French Writing.WYNC has a podcast of the conversation up on their Web site. (via: Jeet Heer)


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