Kim Thompson has been my partner at Fantagraphics Books for 35 years. He's contributed vastly and selflessly to this company and to the comics medium and worked closely with countless fine artists over that time. This is a tough announcement to make, but everyone who knows Kim knows he's a fighter and we remain optimistic that he'll get through this and report back to work, where he belongs, doing what he loves.
– Gary Groth
I'm sure that by now a number of people in the comics field who deal with me on a regular or semi-regular basis have noticed that I've been responding more spottily. This is because of ongoing health issues for the past month, which earlier this week resolved themselves in a diagnosis of lung cancer.
This is still very early in the diagnosis, so I have no way of knowing the severity of my condition. I'm relatively young and (otherwise) in good health, and my hospital is top-flight, so I'm hopeful and confident that we will soon have the specifics narrowed down, set me up with a course of treatment, proceed, and lick this thing.
It is quite possible that as treatment gets underway I'll be able to come back in and pick up some aspects of my job, maybe even quite soon. However, in the interests of keeping things rolling as smoothly as I can, I've transferred all my ongoing projects onto other members of the Fantagraphics team. So if you're expecting something from me, contact Gary Groth, Eric Reyolds, or Jason Miles and they can hook you up with whoever you need. If there are things that only I know and can deal with, lay it out for them and they'll contact me.
On behalf of Kim, we would like to encourage anyone who would like to reach out to him to feel free to send mail to him c/o Fantagraphics Books, 7563 Lake City Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115, or email.
We're busily working away on Volume 7, covering the years 1949 and 1950, which we expect to have out in May or June, trying to catch up from the slightly delayed Volume 6, and thereby aiming for three volumes this year. (By the way, our Free Comic Book Day comic for this year will feature an advance excerpt from Volume 7. Be sure to grab one -- if only to see how we managed to break down Foster's lush, oversized tabloid pages to comic book format.)
With the exception of the occasional pin-up-style shot of Princess Aleta (which are pretty hot, actually), Prince Valiant has always been considered a rather staid, conservative strip, but Val/Foster expert Brian Kane (author of a fascinating article about Foster's treatment of North American natives in the current volume, and of course the wonderful Prince Valiant Companion) pointed out two panels from the upcoming volume that suggest that Mr. Foster may have had a wicked sense of humor. In this sequence from 1950, young Arf is smitten with a "maid with flaming hair and eyes of blue" as he almost falls out of a tree. For his clothing to drape so that the pommel of his sword creates a huge bulge in the fabric in one panel can be dismissed as a graphic happenstance. But to see Arf back on ground with the end of his sword still "pitching a tent" is maybe a little... eyebrow-raising.
Well, maybe we're just seeing things. But as Fredric Wertham famously wrote, "In ordinary comic books, there are pictures within pictures for children who know how to look."
The Seattle-based French cultural organization the Alliance Française is having a Christmas market and you're invited!
Fantagraphics will have a table there selling our French translations (Tardi, Trondheim, David B., etc.) but we will also have a big pile of non-Fantagraphics editions of French and Belgian classics such as Tintin, Asterix, the Smurfs, and Lucky Luke, and several boxes full of french comics IN THE ORIGINAL FRENCH that have not previously been made available in our store.
The Alliance Française is a great organization and this should be a fun time for Francophiles in general even above and beyond Fantagraphics' presence, so we hope to see you there. Francophone Kim Thompson will be manning the table throughout and will answer your questions and banter with you (and take your money) in French, in English, or in Danish if you happen to trek up from Ballard, for that matter. A bientôt!
The Alliance Française is located on the ground floor of Historic Seattle's beautiful Good Shepherd Center at 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North. There are two large free parking lots as well as abundant free on-street parking.
The indefatigable Gilbert Hernandez has already turned in his cover to next Fall's Love and Rockets: New Stories #6, featuring "Killer" in a pose and milieu that long-time LR fans will find familiar (and which picks up from the storyline in #5). That issue's stories will also tie into the life-of-Luba graphic novel "Poison River," albeit in an unexpected way.
[In in the return of our Editors Notes series, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about New York Mon Amour by Jacques Tardi, now available to order from us and at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
This is going to be a particularly discursive and rambling one, so reader, be forewarned. I don’t want to see any complainin’ in the comments section about how self-indulgent this is; you’re being told that going in. That said…
Okay, so… New York Mon Amour. This is what, your eighth? Ninth Tardi book?
I’ve reached the point where I have to go back to our website and count them off myself to keep track. Eighth. A Fellini-esque 8½ if you count the Fatale giveaway.
You’re cranking them out — eight in two and a half years. Why the hurry?
Because I’m afraid someone will catch on and stop me? No, it’s just that these are some of my very favorite comics, and I think it’s disgraceful that it’s taken this long for them to be released in English — so I’m making up for lost time.
And, to be honest, they’ve been selling unexpectedly well. I went into this Tardi venture with a samurai assume-you’re-dead-when-going-into-battle mindset figuring we could publish a handful before dire sales drove us into the ground, but on the contrary, we’re into second printings of four of our first five — in some cases third — and they’ve gone over great. So why not?
This book, or at least most of it, has already been released in English in one form or another. Why pick this one?
Well, with the exception of one short story which is buried in a huge British-published crime anthology, all of it’s been out of print for a while. And I had some problems with the way "Tueur de cafards" had been presented in the NBM title, including the reproduction and the lettering…
Yes, the new edition is noticeably better.
I don’t want to rag on the NBM version because the digital revolution has helped us so much in the intervening years. Our printing is far cleaner because we had first-generation digital files rather than second- or third-generation negatives or Photostats, and being able to use fonts instead of hand lettering, especially with Tardi’s eccentric caption design, is so much easier. So I am being helped by that. But I’d like to think that we added our own skills to the mix in addition to just surfing on those advances.
You even changed the title, from “Roach Killer” to “Cockroach Killer”…
I always hated the Dark Horse/NBM title, “Roach Killer.” As Tony Montana reminded us, “Cockroach” is such a great word, with its hard “k” sounds, and the BAM-bam BAM-bam rhythm of the whole title; I never understood why they opted for what they did. It always, uh, bugged me. Apparently Art Spiegelman didn’t either, because when he wrote the introduction for the NBM book version he automatically used the title “Cockroach Killer” (and that’s how they printed it in the book).
Did you go back to the earlier English translations?
Yes and no, mostly no. For “(Cock)roach Killer,” I remember thinking the original translator just hadn’t quite nailed the gritty conversational urban tone of the work, and I take some pride in my way around unbridled profanity, so I did that from scratch. “Hung’s Murderer” was short enough that I figured it was just as easy for me to do it rather than to fiddle around getting the rights…
What about “Manhattan,” which was printed in RAW?
Well, it’s fucking RAW. Spiegelman and Mouly knew their shit. I went over the RAW translation and I didn’t think it could be improved upon, at all; I just asked Art if I could use it and he said “Sure.” (Just as with the Joost Swarte strips for his book.) I think I changed one word, literally. And even though the original lettering was excellent, I re-lettered it using our Tardi font just for the sake of consistency throughout the book.
One interesting thing: There was one caption in the RAW version that’s not in the new version. It wasn’t in the new French version’s files I was working on and I emailed Casterman wondering if they’d left it off by accident, and no, Tardi had decided upon reflection that it was superfluous and eliminated it. So there you go.
Whose idea was it to combine “Killer” with the three other New York based stories for this book?
Apparently everyone’s. I had figured out I wanted to add “Manhattan” and “Hung’s Killer” to the book and was going to propose it to his publisher, Casterman, and then they beat me to the punch and put out exactly the book I had envisioned, throwing in a fourth story I was not familiar with, the John Lennon one. They even got a new cover out of Tardi for it. So it was pretty much kismet.
The Casterman book had some text pieces which you didn’t use…
They were too much “a European explaining the U.S. to other Europeans,” and they had too much of that French… impressionistic approach to essays that doesn’t travel real well, at least to my mind. There was this book by Bernard-Henri Lévy a few years ago that purported to explain America, and I’m sure it read fine in French but by the time it made it over here… Well, I didn’t read it, but I remember Garrison Keillor stomping all over it with hob-nailed boots, hilariously. Tardi’s book just seemed better off without them.
The fact is, there are some oddities in fact and tone in the comics stories themselves that… I wouldn’t say betray it, but reveal it as very much a book about the U.S. by someone who’s not an American. Even the premise of the lead story…
You mean the assertion that there are no 13th floors in New York buildings?
Exactly. It’s one of those urban (literally) myths that Tardi took off and ran with, but any New Yorker will go “What the…?” And the conspiracy-thriller ideas and urban-hell vision are clearly formed more by American movies rather than anything else. It just doesn’t have the authoritative ring of authenticity that Tardi’s books set in Europe do.
I talked to Spiegelman about the book when we were preparing it; as a New Yorker he is much more sensitive to those oddities, and he felt it needed to be put in context as one of those interesting works about America by non-Americans whose “errors” have to be accepted — acknowledged, but accepted. The example Art used was Kafka’s Amerika, with its scene of a ship sailing into New York harbor, with the Statue of Liberty brandishing her trademark, uh, sword… I like to think of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, too, which is set in the most densely packed city in the Western world, and Leone’s own widescreen visual quirks led him to show all these enormous, broad avenues and Manhattan grocery stores that are the size of skating rinks. (Not that it isn’t a totally awesome movie.)
But Tardi’s visual research is so impeccable — as one can tell, he traveled to New York and did so much photo research that he was able to use the photos as backgrounds for the epilogue to the story without missing a beat — that I think he ultimately pulls it off. It’s not one of my very favorite of Tardi’s books, but as with all the books I translate I grew to appreciate it much more as I worked on it. (The Arctic Marauder went from one of my least favorites to one of my favorites.) And it was fun to take French dialogue in an American setting and translate it into its “real” language, it’s almost like this is the original version and the French one is a translation. I get that effect with some of the Jason stories set in the U.S., too.
The black-and-red “Schindler’s List little girl with the red dress” technique is pretty unique.
Don’t say that, Tardi hates Schindler’s List. He did a hilarious drawing about it for a movie column written by a friend of his I should show here that kind of says it all:
Don’t forget, Schindler’s List was released the same year as Jurassic Park. American critics found this admirable; European critics found it dismally revelatory.
Anyway, Tardi had some bad experiences with color early in his career, both in terms of reproduction and having to hand off coloring to another colorist because of time constraints, and for most of the 1980s and early 1990s he really avoided it (except for the contractually-mandated Adèle books). But he always liked going beyond pure linework and experimenting with tones, including Craftint…
Like in “Hung’s Murderer.”
Exactly. He’s never done a whole book with that, but he played around with it for an alternate version of the ill-fated Fatale, too. I remember reading about him asking friends who traveled to America to see if they could find Roy Crane strips to bring back to him to study. He’d also used Letratone sheets for It Was the War of the Trenches (in the upcoming interview I did with him for the Journal he told me he loved the sensual aspect of cutting up and scratching away at those sheets) and had been using photographically-shot overlays for his Nestor Burma books. Recently, including in his upcoming book, he’s used digital tones. Add in the wild scratchboard effects for The Arctic Marauder and Tardi has messed around with pretty much every way of producing tones except maybe gray washes — and so much of Goddamn This War!, even though technically in color, falls into the monochrome that that could qualify.
Who is Benjamin Legrand, who wrote "Cockroach Killer"?
He’s a writer buddy of Tardi’s, a crime writer and translator. (Tom Wolfe and Robert Ludlum, among others.) To be honest I know as much about him as anyone who can consult Wikipedia. From what I understand "Cockroach Killer" was Tardi’s concept and Legrand came in to execute it. Last year Legrand was hired to write the novelization of Besson’s Adèle Blanc-Sec movie, which I assume was Tardi going, “Well, if such a thing must be done, might as well give it to my pal, and he’ll do a good job.” As a footnote, Legrand wrote the new Druillet book Delirius II (after the writer of the original Delirius died). He also co-wrote the screenplay for Le Monde Truqué, the feature-length animated film Tardi designed that we mentioned a few weeks ago, and for a more tenuous Tardi connection, worked on the French Nestor Burma TV series. So he seems to be part of the comics orbit and Tardi’s specifically.
What’s next for Tardi at Fantagraphics? Still cranking?
Oh, yes. Well, of course there is the 28,000-word interview I did with him that’s going in the next Comics Journal. But yeah, we’re already in production on the ninth book, which will be Goddamn This War! (sort of a sequel to War of the Trenches) and we’ve announced the tenth, his third Manchette adaptation, for early 2013. Then we need to do Adieu Brindavoine, his first solo graphic album from 40 years, because it’s part of the Adèle continuity and we have to release it before the third Adèle. By then we’ll have published… maybe half of his comics oeuvre? And he’s still producing. His next graphic novel is over 300 pages long, slated for completion next year, and might very well turn out to be his masterpiece. See the Journal interview for details!
So I could easily plot out the next five years or ten Tardi books on a napkin right now. No rest for the weary!
I'm pleased to report that thanks to a few tips, we've got 103 of the 104 Sunday POGO pages we need for the next book (three of them include black and white panels from book reprints that we've colored to match the surrounding strips, but that's just between you and us).
The August 19, 1951 strip remains the problem child -- or "chile," as one of Kelly's characters might say. We have a 1/3 Sunday page tearsheet, and have been able to track down two of the three panels from the missing top strip as this sequence appears in a book, but the opening panel is nowhere to be found. If push comes to shove, we'll print it this way with a little note explaining to fans that we haven't been able to locate this strip (and will publish a full version in a later book if and when it turns up) -- we did that with a PEANUTS strip back when, and it did eventually turn up.
Early readers of the third volume of THE DITKO ARCHIVES, Mysterious Traveler, have already noticed two unfortunate glitches. The story "The Forbidden Room" is missing its ninth and final page (above), and "The Menace of the Maple Leaves" is also missing a page (below). Editor Blake Bell has been busy tearing his hair out ever since we learned this.
The fix, fortunately, is very simple: We'll just reprint both stories (in full, at full size), in the next volume of THE DITKO ARCHIVES, coming in the Spring, so collectors will have the full stories. For those who don't want to wait that long, we're also providing a downloadable PDF of the missing pages (7.9 MB).
You don't have to send us ass-kicking emails because our asses are already sore from self-inflicted kicking. And rest assured, we'll be very, very vigilant on future books.
We're coming down the home stretch on the second volume of Walt Kelly's Complete Pogo, and the good news is that we've got literally 99% of the never-beforere-reprinted, full-color Sundays from the two years covered in this collection. The bad news is that we're missing a half dozen panels still.
How can we be missing panels and not strips, you ask? Simple: the Pogo Sunday was put together in an odd configuration in which of the three possible formats -- full page, half page, and third page -- only one, the third page, contained the complete strip. The third page was missing the full top tier, and the full page was missing one square panel in the middle of the strip that was designed to be removable so that the strip could be assembled in this format.
So if we've got the half-page we're fine. If we've got both the full and the third page we're also fine because the two "complete each other" (to be romantic about it).
However, in the case of the following four strips:
July 8, 1951 December 9, 1951 September 14, 1952 October 12, 1952
We have only the full page, which means we're missing that little square. (We actually have a black-and-white version of all except December 9, 1951 hanks to a book reprint, so if push comes to shove we can colorize them and insert them -- but December 9, 1951 is the tricky one, we've only got a bad microfilm version of that panel.)
There is also August 19, 1951, for which we have only the third (meaning we're missing the entire top third of it) -- here again we have access to a black and white version (which seems to have been edited for the book version, another problem) but nothing else.
So we're sending out a call to collectors: If you know of or can find or can put us on the track of HALF or THIRD page versions of the first four strips, and FULL or HALF page versions of that final one... do let us know!
Yes, our Jodelle book is running late, and we're sorry. All we can say is, the project has expanded to something way beyond our original planning and you'll be blown away by the scope of what we've come up with. We're also in the final stages of refining and fixing the coloring of the book itself, which turned out to be a lot more labor- and thought-intensive than we initially thought.
In the meantime, here is a 1968 video clip of the Bee Gees (RIP Robin!) performing "IDEA" against sets designed by the one and only G.P. What a decade!
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