Friday, November 28, 2008

Carlos Sampayo's and José Munoz's Sudor Sudaca - Coda

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Images:
1. Alack Sinner' first published page: Alterlinus # 1 (vol. 2, January 1975);
2. José Muñoz and Carlos Sampayo meet their creation in "La vita non é un fumetto, baby..." (life's not a comic, baby); Perché lo fai, Alack Sinner?, Milano Libri: 1976;
3. "I love to be with you and I love you..." / "But we'll not meet each other again... ...Why?..." / "Your sadness..." / "My sadness."; dark city: "Città Oscura"'s last page as it was published in Charlie Mensuel # 106 (November, 1977);
4. "I mean... the marines were for the second time in Nicaragua. Well, then Sandino told them to go away, but the marines didn't want to... What were the marines doing in Nicaragua, considering that it wasn't their country?" / "Stealing, killing, occupying, I know what they were doing..." / "I ask the respectable audience. What were they doing?" / "What were they doing?"; "They occupied."; "They protected the United Fruit..."; "Yes, yes, the fruits."; just a puppet show by Muñoz and Sampayo as published in Nicaragua (Casterman: 2000 [1986]);
5. a Diane Arbusesque "comédie humaine" in the foreground while the story is elsewhere: "Città Oscura" (Charlie Mensuel # 106; November, 1977);
6. a kiosko (newsstand) in Parque Rivadavia (Buenos Aires); the characters say: "And now, what?... The kids?"; "The kids are young Negrita."; the sign announces old Argentinian children's comics from the fifties and sixties: Misterix: 290 - 325; Rayo Rojo: assorted numbers; Frontera: years 61 - 62 - 63. Fine state."; a child (mirroring José Muñoz's own childhood) reads Rayo Rojo with enthusiasm (Sudor Sudaca; La Cúpula: 1990 [1983]);
7. an heir apparent to his role models Alberto Breccia and Hugo Pratt, José Muñoz is a master of the chiaroscuro: cover for Charlie Mensuel # 106 (November, 1977).

Texts by Paul Gravett and Oscar Zarate:

A Muñoz & Sampayo interview with Matthias Wivel and T. Thorhauge:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Carlos Sampayo's and José Munoz's Sudor Sudaca


Carlos Sampayo and José Muñoz did, in my opinion, the only real noir comics series (or otherwise) ever: Alack Sinner (first appearance in the Italian magazine Alterlinus: January 1975; the magazine was numbered # 1 every January; 1975 was the mag's second year). Even so they weren't happy duplicating the stereotypes of the genre and their series improved immensely when the clichéd ex-cop private detective became a taxi driver. The only thing that mattered from that point on were human relationships and the big, grotesque, protean, expressionistic, dark, city of New York around the main characters.
José Muñoz described Alack Sinner's creation in an interview with Eddy Devolder (my translation): "We always talked a lot more about our lives in our comics than about the books that we've read or the films that we've watched. [...] [W]e gave ourselves a lot in our relationship. That's how Alack Sinner was born. [...] The whole story of Alack Sinner and his daughter, for instance, is a transposition of what I experienced with my own daughter." (José Muñoz: Le dessin duel; Vertige Graphic: April 1994: 43.) Conversely: "Alack Sinner was born from our fascination with melancholic, tender, nocturnal, characters." (44)
About New York, here's what José Muñoz said in the same interview: "As a place in the mind, New York, which we visited in 1981 only, offered us the possibility of telling stories in which we could mix a varied array of milieux. But, deep inside ourselves, New York was like an ideal Buenos Aires. [...] At that point we didn't have, by the way, any eagerness to tell stories with an Argentinian background." (44)
I remember a scene in one of my favorite movies, Andrei Rublev by Andrei Tarkovsky (1966) in which Andrei is just walking. At a certain point a rider appears, coming from the opposite direction. The camera focuses this new character for a while until the horseman disappears. This simple, strange, interlude always seemed to me the mark of a genius (something as weird as Goya's dog). It reminds us that there's life beyond the diegesis. The world is larger than the stories we are witnessing. In the stories of the Alack Sinner's series and also in Sudor Sudaca (spic's sweat; the word "sudaca" is as offensive as the word "spic," but the origin is different: it comes from the word "sudamericano," "South American") the same effect happens when bystanders are depicted by José Muñoz in an expressionistic way. Carlos Sampayo also allows us to read graffiti, "hear" fragments of the people's conversations, or "listen to" their thoughts. Muñoz and Sampayo transport us to a nightmarish Diane Arbusesque world. Alack Sinner is part of that meagre gallery of what I called elsewhere "the absent hero." Against North American inspired mass art hero mythology, the true anti-hero that is Alack Sinner disappears gradually to show the world around him. This is an Argentinian tradition that goes back to the often lauded Oesterheldian "collective hero" (what we have here is the anonymous collective anti-hero).
Sudor Sudaca (first appearance in Frigidaire # 19, June, 1982) is a short series of short fragmented stories about the experience of being an immigrant. This topic can also be found in a couple of Alack Sinner episodes: "Constancio y Manolo" (Constancio and Manolo; Charlie Mensuel # 98: Mars, 1977); "Pépé l'architecte" (Pepe, the architect) in Le bar à Joe (Joe's bar; published in book form by Casterman: 1981 [1978]).
José Muñoz was the most successful comics artist to attend the Escuela Panamericana de Arte during the fifties. He was Alberto Breccia's student and admired Hugo Pratt's art. At a very young age he began drawing for Editorial Frontera. He drew Ernie Pike episodes and assisted Solano Lopez as a ghost artist in El Eternauta (writing by Héctor Germán Oesterheld). In 1963 Hugo Pratt hired him to draw Precinto 56 for Misterix magazine. The series' main character, Zero Galván, was a kind of Alack Sinner's forefather (scripts by Eugenio Zappietro, alias Ray Collins). In 1972 José Muñoz leaves Argentina. He'll meet Carlos Sampayo in Barcelona. Needless to say that Sudor Sudaca is a distillation of their experiences as immigrants in Europe. As Carlos Sampayo put it in the intro to La Cupula's edition (1990: 8; my translation): "Today, temporarily reduced to being a Sudaca, I'm a foreigner forever; that's what I am where I live - Spain - and, going back, that's what I would be in my homeland. Personally I think that I have no other roots than the language in which I express myself, writing and talking, thinking and dreaming (sometimes I also dream in Italian, a language that's part of a not so distant past). My roots are in the language of my childhood (my homeland, as Fernando Pessoa put it refering to the Portuguese language).
I'm a foreigner forever, not yet as free as the air, but I aspire to its state of weightlessness."
An important piece of the puzzle is missing: politics. Muñoz and Sampayo said some bad things in their comics about their cousins from the north's world hegemony; but that's another story...

Image:
the confrontation between the clean, self-righteous (right wing) hero of mass comics and Muñoz and Sampayo's anti-hero (a North vs. South confrontation?): "Scintille (...fiamme, fumo...)" (sparks, flames, smoke): Perche lo fai Alack Sinner? (why do you do it, Alack Sinner?); Milano Libri: 1976.

PS A great essay that mentions Sudor Sudaca (the only thing that I don't understand is why "Fernando Pessoa" is substituted by "popular belief" at the end: page 25):

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Vincent Fortemps' Cimes - Coda

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Images:
1. someone falling into the abyss in a Vincent Fortemps' comic before Cimes: Frigobox # 1 (November, 1994); an allegory of the risks we take to attain what we desire?;
2., 3. vulture and carrion; plus: a drunkard vomiting in Cimes (Fréon: 1997; as someone put it in the Frémok site: one of the heights of the art form; the two panel page is used by many artists to dissociate themselves from a children's comics' look);
4. seagulls in La digue (Amok: November 2001);
5. "Cale sèche" (dry dock): Liplezen / Lieux sans frontières / Distant Voices; Vincent Fortemps in color: artists from three groups (Bill, Pelure Amère, Frigoproduction) draw Molenbeek (February, 1995);
6., 7., 8.: three artists who published in Frigobox:
6. Alberto Breccia's page in Frigobox # 4 (September, 1995);
7. Frigorevue's publisher Alain Corbel's page for "La fosse" (the pit; Récits de villes: Frigobox série II vol. 2 - Fréon: February 2000);
8. Martin tom Dieck's page in "Territiroirs: (ciré)" (an untranslatable word play between "territoire" - territory - and "tiroir" - drawer -; "ciré" means "waxed"): Récits de villes: Frigobox série II vol. 3 (Fréon: October 2000).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vincent Fortemps' Cimes


I agree with almost everything that Jean-Christophe Menu has to say about comics and the comics milieu (from the top of my head, I just remember not being as enthusiastic as he is about Jean-Claude Forest). I particularly remember a great text signed by him in Oupus 1 (L'Association: January, 1997): "Ouvre-Boîte-Po." In L'association's great magazine L'éprouvette Jean-Christophe Menu tried to revive the concept of the avant-garde because (my translation) "If we embrace the idea that everything was already done in literature and the visual arts the avant-garde is effectively impossible (this seems to be confirmed by the immense vacuity of these fields' production); it's not the same thing for comics yet, maybe. Comics are belated." (L'éprouvette # 1; L'Association, January 2006: 174.) Jean-Christophe Menu is right if we consider the restrict field only. As he puts it (again, my translation): "If we compare comics with other disciplines, they're at a primitive stage. Not only because of their poor criticism, but also because of their practitioners' lack of interest in putting their language in perspective with anything else (even their own history)." That's why those who watch the comics phenomenon from afar (writing books about them even (!): e. g. David Carrier in The Aesthetics of Comics; The Pennsylvania State University Press: 2001) claim that comics don't evolve. In his excellent book Unpopular Culture (University of Toronto Press: 2007; 70) Bart Beaty calls this late avant-garde a "Postmodern modernism." From this point of view few comics publishers were as avant-garde as Belgian publishing house Fréon. After graduating from Sint Lukas (Saint-Luc) school in Brussels, Thierry Van Hasselt, Vincent Fortemps, Olivier Deprez, Jean-Christophe Long, Olivier Poppe, felt that their work didn't fit in any publishing house around. That's when they decided to publish Frigorevue (1992). Joining forces with Alain Corbel they'll publish four issues of the magazine until 1995. Many other artists will see their work published both in Frigorevue and Frigobox (ten issues of the latter were published from 1994 to 1999): Denis Deprez, Dominique Goblet, Eric Lambé, Paz Boïra, Frédéric Coché, etc... (Argentinians, and Uruguayan, Héctor Germán Oesterheld, Alberto and Henrique Breccia included, proving that their work is as avant-garde as the most extreme ones in the restricted field; a special word also for Spaniard Ricard Castells). It was in Frigobox # 5 (December, 1995: 31 - 37) that Jan Baetens published his essay "Autarcic Comix" (an European alternative comics convention: Brussels, October 6 - 8, 1995) where he noted: "Autarcic Comics [...] is not postmodern. Conversely it is - and that alone is an event - an aspiration that's decidedly modern."

Cimes (heights), by Vincent Fortemps, is a wordless book published by Fréon in 1997. Fortemps' technique is quite unusual to begin with: litho crayon on acetate, scratched with an X-Acto knife. One of the most vivid proofs, in my opinion, of most comics artists' conformism is the baffling persistence of old modes of expression and techniques. Why do they continue to work like their grandfathers did without questioning caricature and India ink on white paper?
Anyway, Cimes is also a very somber book, with ominous musicians playing a dark music (one imagines) in most of the pages and vultures circling high above the heights of the title, waiting for those who are pushed from the top of the mountain (I also imagine Cimes as animation: it would be great). Vincent Fortemps' art is highly impressionistic, suggesting a lot more than showing or telling anything. We construct the story on our heads, nothing's pre-digested...
Apart from Cimes Vincent Fortemps also participated in Frigobox with "Par les sillons" (through the tracks), a rural tale. He published also the book La Digue (the sea dike) at Amok (2001; Amok and Fréon merged, forming Frémok - FRMK - on June 22, 2002), among other books, most notably the monumental Chantier Musil (coulisse) - Musil's working site (backstage) -; 2003. Chantier Musil was a dance show by choreographer François Verret. In it Vincent Fortemps drew in loco projecting his drawings behind the performers.

Frémok's site:
http://www.fremok.org/

An interview (in French):
http://du9.org/Freon-les-agitateurs-culturels

Chantier Musil:
http://www.ballet.co.uk/magazines/yr_03/aug03/sm_rev_compagnie_francois_verret_0803.htm
The first ten pages of Chantier Musil (coulisse):

Image:
Pedro Nora's interpretation of Art Spiegelman's Maus. Catalogue of the Self-Service exhibition at Casa Fernando Pessoa (with poems by Jan Baetens; June - September); Bedeteca de Lisboa, Fréon: 2001.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duarte d'Armas' Livro das Fortalezas

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This is the first book mentioned on my blog that's not listed in my first post. This is so because I don't think that it is a great work of art. It's an amazing and fascinating curio though, and, I suppose, an anomaly in the extended comics field's history (if, by any chance, any of you know of something that resembles Duarte d'Armas' Livro das Fortalezas - the fortresses' book -, I'd love to hear about it, of course).
In my last post I wrote, describing a link: "A Robert Weaver slideshow (a visual reportage, way before Joe Sacco: February, 1962)." Now, can you imagine a visual reportage done in 1509, 1510?
Around that date king Manuel I of Portugal (r. 1495 - 1521), was worried and wanted to know in which condition were his defences near the border. To get this info he sent draughtsman Duarte d'Armas (Duarte de Armas in today's orthography), with a valet on foot, who drew all the towns that he visited while surrounding the rectangle: from the South to the North and, then, from the East to the West. His book (done in parchment) is a travelogue.
Unfortunately Duarte de Armas was more interested in buildings than he was interested in people. Even so he shows us some brief glimpses of life as it was at the beginning of the 16th century. Particularly shocking to our contemporary eyes are the gallows with which every town "greeted" newcomers. Maybe this was a warning to ill-intentioned individuals.

Images (all details);
I'm following Duarte de Armas and his valet:
1. Duarte de Armas uses a plumb line in Olivença (today Olivenza, Spain; an "atalaia" is a watch tower);
2. Duarte de Armas and his valet arrive at Ouguela (notice how the horse is still drawn in Gothic style; because of privileged economical relations with the Flemish region, Italian renaissance would arrive very late to Portugal);
3. women near a well in Montalvão;
4. ominous gallows in Penha Garcia (the stereotyped rocks are also typically Gothic);
5. Duarte de Armas and his valet climb to Monsanto (they are depicted at the mountain base and a bit higher in the same image - this way of showing the passing of time was common in the Gothic style);
6. Duarte de Armas and his valet are leaving Bragança heading West; someone is hanged;
7. boats in front of Tuy (today, Tui) in Galicia, Spain;
8. lacking a bridge Duarte de Armas, his valet and horse are transported by barge in the Minho river near Vila Nova de Cerveira; huge galleons are sailing the Atlantic Ocean (another one is being constructed on the river's bank).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Barron Storey's The Adjustment of Sidney Deepscorn - Coda

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Images:
1. "The Adjustment of Sidney Deepscorn"'s last page (Tales From the Edge! # 1, June, 1993): the original page is too tiny, but, here, you can amplify it reading Barron Storey's amazing words;
2. the last page of "Refried Eyes" (Tales From the Edge # 5, February, 1995): Barron Storey imagines two readers: the father, on the left, is a mature person who understands what he's seeing and reading (his life experience enables him to do a a sophisticated decoding); the son, on the right, understands nothing; the panels tell the story of Barron's deteriorating relationship with Kelly B.;
3. Barron Storey's frustrations with the comics market are distilled into the last page of "Slidehouse" (Tales From the Edge # 7, July, 1995); the text below - on my November, 14 post - is white in the black square;
4. The Marat Sade Journals' cover (Tundra Publishing: 1993);
5. Barron Storey stated many times that he admires his former teacher Robert Weaver (who was an important illustrator: he helped to freed illustration from Pompierism and saccharine à la Norman Rockwell advocating a painterly and personal approach, without denying communication); it's only natural that Barron Storey's visual journalism excludes Naturalism to be highly symbolic (it's painterly in technique and reminds collage in its kaleidoscopic effect; the word "postmodern" comes to mind); at first glance I find Barron Storey's style more suitable to illustrate science fiction or Homer's epic tales than to illustrate simple, plain life (I also have a problem with the excessive use of quotes); what happens is that, as I said before, the content of his comics and journals (the same thing in the expanded field) is so personal that the use of symbols (both to show and to conceal) or words and images from other artists, is perfectly understandable; this also leads to a fascination with masks (Life After Black, Graphic Novel Art: 2007);
6. canvas # 14 from the Victims exhibition (Anno Domini gallery: February 1 - March 15, 2008).

PS A Robert Weaver slideshow (a visual reportage, way before Joe Sacco: February, 1962):

Friday, November 14, 2008

Barron Storey's The Adjustment of Sidney Deepscorn


It's a well known rule: mediocrity perpetuates itself. While hacks are celebrated as "great artists" there's no money and fame to anybody else. This has two consequences: (1) the art form has no capacity to attract the real great artists; (2) it pushes away those incautious few who make the mistake of trying out of the field (either that or they end up doing second rate work after very promising debuts). Barron Storey is a living proof of all this.
More details, here, in an article by Robert Wilonsky:

I chose this telling quote on the above site:

"When Storey made his comics debut in 1993 with the publication of The Marat/Sade Journals, and then with the release of the completely autobiographical "The Adjustment of Sidney Deepscorn" in the first issue of the Dallas-produced comic anthology Tales From the Edge, Storey thought he would revolutionize comic art. His style - a blend of painting, drawing, and photography, so much text and narration flowing in and out of the dark and twisted images - looked like nothing in modern comics or the so-called graphic novels that emerged in the mid-'80s. Storey was convinced it would cause a furor within the industry.
But nothing happened. And when he followed it up with his epic "Slidehouse" series over the next year in Tales From the Edge, he imagined movies and dolls of the story's main character, Assassinada. He would make big money [I may be wrong, but I think that Wilonsky misreads "Slidehouse"'s last page, here]. But again, nothing, just the occasional "fanboy" who would show up at a comic book convention and tell him the art was "cool." Storey, who's already self-deprecating when he speaks about his art, was crushed."

I had a certain taste resistance to Barron Storey's art style. What totally sold me to his comics were the words: Storey is a great writer. In the below quote (from the same Wilonsky article) he shows how words are important to him and pretty much sums up my take on mainstream comics (remember: Storey said "crap," not I):
"Acknowledged as a master of commercial art, Storey has in recent years ventured into comic books - a field for which he holds contempt.
"A friend of mine, a former student, just sent me a comic that he did for Marvel, which I think is beautifully done," Storey says, presenting a copy of the brand-new Tales to Astonish featuring the Incredible Hulk.
"He called one day, and I told him, 'It's gorgeous. I'm so proud of you.' Then he asked what I thought of the story, and I told him I hadn't read it. It's stupid. I told him I could read any line from it at random and make the point."
Storey flips open the glossy book and reads the first line he sees: "'You have enraged my father beyond all imagining, creature, and you'll most surely die.' Or, 'Believe it or not, honey, when the dust settles you'll thank me for this.' That is crap, and I told my friend so."

Barron Storey's magnum opus are his journals. He sees them as a way to illustrate his life, as he puts it. I think that he's such a great writer mainly because he's brutally honest. Robert Wilonsky (in the link above) summarizes Storey's work beautifully: "Sidney Deepscorn is a poor disguise, hiding nothing - his anger with a comic book industry interested only in two-dimensional superheroes; repressed memories of a childhood spent running with "gun-toting idiots" who liked to shoot at the "niggers" in South Dallas; his conflicting feelings about his mother. Reading "Sidney Deepscorn," or most any of Storey's works, is voyeurism.
Storey fills the final page of "Sidney Deepscorn" with thousands of nearly unreadable words that actually divulge much about his past. He recounts the guilt he experienced when one of his friends bragged about shooting a black man in Dallas and Storey did nothing about it. He recounts his three bad marriages, how he talked the true love of his life out of getting an abortion, how the love of his life walked out on him."
I'll let you, for now, with another example of what I'm saying, even if not from one of Barron Storey's journal's (needless to say that I subscribe to every word... but one: I couldn't read it):

"Take a note: what you are looking at. but are you?
was created throughout in drawings. I point this [...]
this paraphrase of Bertolt Brecht’s Song of
the Cut-Priced Poets
to ask again the question of his
poem of nearly 70 years ago: why won’t you pay?
Have you forgot what drawings look like? We try
to offer you something to look at that will remind
you of drawings that are not knocked out, though[t]
that has not been simplified and stories that are
derived from experiences that occurred in life. Why
then have you abandoned our market? Tell me:
has nothing in our work struck you? We tried to
speak to you in the language you seem to admire
even though you persist in overrating that lan-
guage and the practitioners thereof. And yet no-
one speaks truths any more in that language &
no one does drawings that cannot be done easily.
And no one ever thinks of doing stories that ask
questions that cannot be answered by displays
of will of force. That’s the pass you have brought
things to. You won’t pay - even though you have
become more affluent - or so we’re told. When I
began Slidehouse I wanted it to be excellent
all through. But. That’s too hard. Who will pay
me? This will just have to do.

No? How 'bout this one: Did anyone notice the Brel lyrics in this episode? No? Is anybody out there? No? Well, ya'll have a good time with your Batmans, y'hear?" ("Slidehouse:" Tales From the Edge # 7, July, 1995.)

An homage site:
http://www.geocities.com/negsleep/main/links/barron/barron3.html

The Inkstuds interview:
http://www.inkstuds.com/?p=173

The Victims exhibition:
http://www.galleryad.com/past_exhibits/barronstorey08/

The Journals blog and the site:
http://barronstorey.blogspot.com/
http://www.barronstorey.com/

Images:
Barron Storey's commercial work: the famous Howard Hughes Time magazine cover (April 19, 1976); Barron is pissed off with the babymen for obvious reasons...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

James Edgar's and Tony Weare's Matt Marriott - Coda

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Images:
1. newspaper clippings glued by Tony Weare in a scrapbook: "Belle Benson's Daughter"'s two first strips (1956);
2. Tony Weare's drawing style would get looser in time; it was a nice mix of impressionism, hatchings, cross-hatchings, anatomical and emotional accuracy (looseness and preciseness): panels from strip ten of "The Territory," I think; early seventies (original art);
3. a rare one panel strip in what is, in my opinion, the series' best story: "A Man Called Shannon" ("Tragedy on the plain" - 29 - as it was published in Camillo Conti's Matt Marriott: November 1978 [1965]);
4. Matt Marriott's stand against manichaeism: "Gospel Mary," last panel of strip seventy three as it was published in Mundo de Aventuras Especial # 12 (October 1976 [1973]): "-It is a confusing world, with good people and bad people. When money is involved most good people become bad people!..." Shadows and light underline the characters’ words;
5. in a great essay about Superman, Umberto Eco noticed how strange time in a series is (it's a compromise between the frozen time of myth and the consuming time of fiction; he called it the iterative scheme: from an adventure to the next it's as if nothing happened before: it's a continuous of successive beginnings); in this image, dated 1989, Tony Weare gets a revenge against said limitation (published in Ark magazine # 31, undated, c. 1990);
6. Tony Weare: "I eventually developed a technique of my own when I did Matt Marriott (1955 - 1977). I wouldn't draw the outlines of objects and people but would have two different shades meet." (Ark # 31: 45.); "Rookwood" by William Ainsworth and Tony Weare: Look and Learn # 961 (August 9, 1980).

Monday, November 10, 2008

James Edgar's and Tony Weare's Matt Marriott


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If Matt Marriott was a series of films instead of a British newspaper comics series it would be compared with Howard Hawks' and John Ford's Westerns. Things being what they are Matt Marriott isn't even known, let alone celebrated as the comics masterpiece that it is. To begin with the good news, here's a great text by David Lloyd (it explains exactly why this series is so good visually; scroll down a bit, please): http://www.cartooncounty.com/cartoonstripped.html A few years ago I championed Matt Marriott on the Comics Journal's messboard (as usual, I did some changes, mainly because I wanted to tone down my Dom - sorry for the pun, it's also how it's written in Portuguese - Quixote day's rhetoric):

"September 16, 2003 04:36 PM

Matt Marriott is a British comic and it is forgotten there. We can't really expect it to be remembered elsewhere. It seems that what they remember the most are children's comics: The Beano, "Dan Dare," "Judge Dredd," etc... The Journal did publish an obituary page remembering Tony Weare: issue # 174, February 1995, page 34. It was (very well) written by comics connoisseur, Steve Holland.

September 19, 2003 07:25 AM

Milo George: Domingos: Why in the world would you champion Matt Marriott? That strikes me as a particularly odd pick from you. What makes it so great?

I, like everybody else, forgot all about Matt Marriott for the last couple of decades or so (same for Guido Buzzelli, as a matter of fact). While discussing on this board about the putative greatness of Giraud's Blueberry (the best comics Western, ever!), I said to myself: it can't be true; Giraud is a great craftsman, but the series is poorly written (just formulaic children's comics). Jeet's title for this thread is: What deserves reprinting, aside from Peanuts? For some strange reason I read: What [post fifties newspaper comic] deserves reprinting, aside from Peanuts? Putting two and two together, I remembered Matt Marriott. So, why is it so great? First of all, why isn't it so great? Because it is a piece of masscult (I'm reading McDonald right now, ah ah). I. e. the hero and his sidekick can't die in a fight, for instance. Because of the unfortunate occurrence that I lost my innocence long ago, whenever Marriott fights a criminal, supposedly being in danger, my reaction is: yeah, right! I fail to see why grown ups don't say the same thing when they're reading every superhero comic ever made, but I digress... The greatness of it all: Tony Weare's art is gorgeous! His people look like real people. Their body language is just perfect. The shading is masterful. Etc... Also: Jim Edgar's writing. It's miles and miles away from Charlier's mediocre stuff. Even when there's a formulaic fight he gives a reason for what happens (not solving the problem, of course, no one working in a commercial milieu - or in a commerce before art milieu, to be exact - can do that, but he tones it down). His characters are some of the best characterizations in comics history. Their feelings are real, the story is never manichaean (Marriott is too perfect, of course, but oh well...). I particularly remember Marriott saying good bye to Sister Eulalia. It's as great as Hugo Pratt's Corto Maltese (a character I have no sympathy for, but don't get me started) saying good bye to Changai Li in Corto Maltese in Siberia. Both Weare and Edgar do it with just the right doses of detachment and melodrama. A difficult cooking to be sure, but masterfully done here.

February 24, 2004 08:27 AM [the ed. down there is yours truly, not the interviewer]:

Tony Weare (who did Matt Marriott and is one of the few artists in my list who worked in the mainstream sez: "Paul: We were talking earlier about how you would have liked the characters in Matt Marriott to develop. Tony: Yes. I would have liked the characters to have been fallible, but, of course, being cowboys they have to be infallible. If there was a scene where Matt and Powder were camping out in the bush at night and they heard a noise, Powder would ask Matt if that noise meant there were Indians. Matt would calmly announce that it was an owl, and he'd be right. In another episode, Powder would say it was an owl and Matt would say it was Indians, and Matt would be right again. I always wished that they'd change it around for once. That side of cowboys is very boring. It's the same with Batman. He can't make a mistake either. Paul: They pretend he makes a mistake, but he doesn't really. Tony: That's right. In the first Matt Marriott story Matt had to shoot someone for the first time and he felt sick. I would have liked to have continued in that manner and have Matt lose fights so that he would have to find other ways to win. He might have triumphed in the end [of course, being this a mainstream strip and all... ed.], but I didn't want it easy for him all the time. In the gun fights the baddies shoot ten bullets and they all miss whilst the goodies shoot one bullet and it's on target. I hated that side of it. If you had to be your own law in the west you wouldn't go around showing off, you'd shoot people in the back to get revenge. You'd also feel bad about it. It's those sort of human values which should have been in the strip, but weren't allowed." [Interview with Paul Duncan: Ark magazine, # 31, undated, c. 1990] Even so Matt Marriott has enough human values in there to fill the lack of them in all the rest of the world's mainstream. The proof? In a milieu that just values simplistic children's comics, Matt Marriott is completely forgotten and was never reprinted."

Images:
1. part of a sequence as it was originally created (Matt Marriott, Futura, 1988 [the [London] Evening News, 1955]);
2. the same series of panels as they were published in the children's magazine Knockout (1961): to show violence to kids is perfectly all right, but to show the "hero" feeling sick after killing a man, is unbearable to watch - or was it censorship because of powder's last remark? (In the missing panels: "Then, the tension of the last weeks suddenly ceases.”; “- Excuse me.” / “- Are you all right, Matt?” / "I think that I'm no good as a gunman! To kill a man - even Carper - makes my stomach turn!"; "- The same thing happened to me, but now it's as natural as killing a fly!)";
3. ...aaand... another cut (these were definitely panels unsuitable for children: Mundo de Aventuras # 446, February 25, 1958).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fred's Le Journal de Jules Renard Lu Par Fred - Coda

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Images:
1. no, you're not seeing Will Elder's drawings and reading Harvey Kurtzman's words in Mad magazine... it's Jean Giraud (aka sacred cow Moebius) in Hara-Kiri # 35, January 1964 (the first Moebius signature appeared in issue # 28, May 1963);
2. the daily life circus in "Le petit cirque" (Hara-Kiri # 39, May, 1964);
3. first strip of page 27 as it was published in Le Matin de Paris (image caught, here: http://miiraslimake.over-blog.com/archive-11-27-2007.html);
4. the same strip is now a faked two pager in the Flammarion book (the panels of the verso page lost their continuity - in the newspaper they were a split panel - and the repetition is awkward; a tree was added to tidy things up, perhaps?);
5. Jules and Fred at their most poetic ("Fish appear above the water glittering briefly... / ...like recollections when they climb to our memory."): see what I mean?;
6. "Yes, crow, God didn't do badly when He created nature... / ...but He miscreated men." (My translations.)

PS In his blog La Cárcel de Papel Álvaro Pons says that a lot of my ideas are radical: http://www.lacarceldepapel.com/2008/11/03/luneros-nuff-said/. I'm not quite sure if I understand what he means (and I accept my radicality if he meant that I'm far away from the comics milieu's spectrum's center), but I've been accused of something similar before: João Miguel Tavares said that my statements are too definitive: http://www.bedeteca.com/index.php?pageID=recortes&recortesID=725. Matthias Wivel said the same thing: http://www.metabunker.dk/?p=1590#more-1590.
Two points: (1) I said that what I called "the cow herd" (the artists behind the comics milieu's children's comics canon) are great draughtsmen (no women in there, I suppose) and great storytellers; this doesn't seem too definitive and too radical to me; (2) if they're the sacred cows who worships them?, who doesn't accept a single criticism in these gods' direction? Aliena vitia in oculis habemus, a tergo nostra sunt, and all that?...