When I decided to launch this "Tardi library" project, I quickly knew that I wanted to include as one of the first books Ici même. This is, if I do say so myself, a bit of nervy move, because Ici même is long (at almost 200 fairly dense pages, it's among his most massive) and, in its satirical, surreal playfulness, difficult to pigeonhole (NOT a World War I drama! NOT a detective novel! NOT a Feuillade-esque fantasy romp!) and not exactly the most accessible of Tardi's works.
But Ici même is one of the milestones of French comics. Created in collaboration with Jean-Claude Forest (of Barbarella fame), its serialization was the centerpiece of the first year or so of (À Suivre), the great '80s comics anthology that dragged European comics out of its character-oriented, genre-oriented, endless-serial prehistory. Originally conceived by Forest (and trust me, if you know Forest only from Barbarella, or even worse only Barbarella the movie, you have NO idea) as a film, it was one of the first book-length comics to be designed specifically as a single, self-contained piece of fiction. When Ici même ends, it is most definitely over.
So I figured by God, if I was going to take a stab at Tardi, I'd start at the top.
But as I said, Ici même is a bit of an atypical Tardi... Which is one of the reasons the other Tardi I picked to kick off with was a ball-busting crime thriller (which comes in at a very tidy 80 pages). But there's a number of things I want to chat about on this one, including its connections to Alain Delon and Watchmen, so I'll see you here again tomorrow.
• Review: In a blog post simply titled "Rave Review," Mark Evanier says of Humbug, "The material is excellent. It's Kurtzman, Elder, Davis, Al Jaffee, Arnold Roth and a few others working at the peak of their awesome powers. The package is excellent. It's well-designed and well-printed, and I can't think of a way in which it could have been improved. We've seen a lot of fancy comic book reprint projects lately but this may be my favorite. Buy it. Just buy it."
• Review: Comics Worth Reading checks out Anywhere but Here by Tori Miki, concluding "Did I like it? Yes, due to how different it was from every other manga I’ve seen, and how I appreciated the way one’s mind is engaged."
Pursuant to my jeremiad yesterday about the absence of any English language editions of Jacques Tardi's work, it gives me enormous pleasure -- admit it, you saw this coming — to announce that...
Well, let's go to the press release.
"This summer, Fantagraphics will launch an ongoing series of hardcover books presenting the works of the legendary French cartoonist Jacques Tardi.
"The first two releases will be West Coast Blues (Le petit bleu de la Côte Ouest), a hard-boiled crime thriller adapted by Tardi from the novel by Jean-Patrick Manchette, and You Are There (Ici même), a satirical, surreal story written for Tardi by Barbarella creator Jean-Claude Forest that many consider one of the first true French graphic novels. Both will be released simultaneously in August, in what series editor Kim Thompson (ahem) calls a ‘double-pronged shock-and-awe assault on the American readership, to immediately show off Tardi's versatility.'
"Planned for Spring 2010 is the World War I-themed It Was the War of the Trenches, chapters of which have previously appeared in RAW and Drawn and Quarterly magazines during the 1980s and 1990s.
"‘Tardi has always been one of my top favorite European cartoonists,' said Thompson, who will also be translating the books. ‘I've wanted to do this for many years — pretty much as long as we've been publishing — and I think the time is ripe. In today's graphic-novel world, the audience is finally ready for Tardi.'"
Isn't that cool?
In the next couple of days I'll talk a little more about these two books.
One of my all-time favorite cartoonists, and certainly one my favorite European cartoonist of the last 30 years or so, is Jacques Tardi.
It's been a source of constant annoyance and sadness to me that so far, every attempt to bring Tardi's work to an English speaking audience has been, at best, a mitigated success, and certainly never a big enough of one to warrant continuation. And it's been years since anyone even tried.
So we've seen Dark Horse (in Cheval Noir) and NBM try to launch the Adele Blanc-Sec series, both Fantagraphics (in Graphic Story Monthly back in the 1990s) and iBooks (in the Bloody Streets of Paris album) take a stab of Tardi's "Nestor Burma" adaptations, while one of his masterpieces, "It Was the War of the Trenches," was attempted in bits and pieces by both Drawn and Quarterly and RAW. But so far nothing has stuck.
I don't know why that is. Tardi represents to me one of the peaks of modern cartooning. He's managed to somehow alchemically infuse the vigor and sheer comic-page readability of the best humor cartooning with the gravitas and conviction of the best "realistic" illustration, to create an uninterrupted series of witty, wry, and sublimely beautiful graphic novels. I've got Art Spiegelman on my side on this one, too: He put Tardi in at least three issues of RAW Magazine, and it was a perfect fit.
So the fact that at this point NONE of Tardi's work is in print in an English language edition is cause for shame and embarrassment in our soi-disant enlightened graphic novel industry.