Monday, October 19, 2009

Yvan Alagbé's Nègres jaunes - Coda








1. The page layout as a meaningful device: the triadic rhythm in Jacques Tardi's C'était la guerre des tranchées refers to the French flag (as exemplified here by page 48 in Casterman's graphic novel, 1993);
2. in Jacques Tardi's latest book about WWI (Putain de guerre - fucking war -, Volume 1, Casterman, 2008; with Jean-Pierre Verney) he repeats the same mechanism, but... since Tardi also focuses on foreign soldiers (no problem when representing the Germans because their flag is also tricolor) it doesn't work when he depicts the Brits (the Union Jack isn't); in this particular page (8) soldiers are compared to sheep heading to a slaughterhouse: "Human meat was needed to satisfy the insatiable appetite of our masters! / Meat was needed to feed those who were going to die disemboweled, with their bellies still full of the beasts' smelly warm meat! / Meat was needed, it was unavoidable, because they turned us into slaughterhouse sheep!" - the tone of the text has a Celinian touch (my translation);
3. the series of drawn blank pages in The Cage by Martin Vaughn-James to which the previous double-page spread belongs: as published in La Cage, Les impressions nouvelles, 2006 (unpaginated); translation by Marc Avelot;
4. Yvan Alagbé changes his drawing style abrubtly in the last panel of page 26 of "Nègres jaunes"' second episode (Amok, Le cheval sans tête # 4, January, 1995);
5. Comparing these two panels (the first one published in the serialized version of "Nègres jaunes" - Le cheval sans tête # 5, May, 1995: 38) it's safe to conclude, I guess, that Yvan Alagbé created the subjective, racist, representation of Alain when he decided to redraw the whole story (the second panel was published in the graphic novel of the same title: Amok, 1995); note also how Yvan Alagbé simplified the panel;
6. Claire is "color blind" only when Alain says that he doesn't want to marry her just to get a green card (Le cheval sans tête # 5, Amok, May, 1995: 39);
7. Mario's mother mumbles something unintelligible, but looking at how she obliterates Alain's face, we know what she's saying: Nègres jaunes, Amok, 1995;
8. Mario rambles about how the world should be organized in order to function properly ("[...]each in their place, it all works better like that..." - translation by Ellen Lindner and Stephen Betts); looking at the second panel we have no doubts about Martine's place (Nègres jaunes, Amok, 1995).
Nègres jaunes is unpaginated.

PS I read in a couple of www pages some "outraged" comments (the word is too strong, hence the quotation marks) because I said that "Chris Ware's comics in The ACME Novelty Library # 18 are not mass art." I will not deny that I tend to prefer what's usually not considered mass art, but, in this case, if I remember correctly, I was just underlining the story's focalization in the main character's subjectivism, the story's lack of spectacular actions and Chris Ware's assertive layout style. There's absolutely no value judgment attached whatsoever...

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