[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") about The Littlest Pirate King by David B., Fantagraphics' second Franco-Belgian kids' comic release, now available to order from us or at a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
This is Fantagraphics' first full David B. book, right?
Correct. We published the second issue of his Ignatz comic Babel (D+Q published the first one before wimping out on the whole Ignatz deal), and four of his short stories in Zero Zero and MOME (in fact, the three MOME stories will be collected next year), but this is our first David B. release with a spine.
What made you pick this one specifically?
It more or less fell in my lap last year: The French publisher offered it to us, and if I didn't grab it up NBM, which released David's Nocturnal Conspiracies back in 2008, was ready to. I really enjoyed the story, and I thought it would make a nice match-up with Blanquet's Toys in the Basement to launch our Franco-Belgian kids' line. [Ed. Note: You can currently purchase The Littlest Pirate King and Toys in the Basement together for 20% off the cover prices!]
Are you and NBM in competition for books often?
Not really. Terry Nantier's and my tastes are pretty different, as are my tastes and First Second's — and, God knows, Heavy Metal's. But there are so many great European comics still to translate that this kind of collision is rare anyway.
It's David B.'s first color book, too?
In the U.S., yes, but it's about his sixth color book in France, actually; ever since he finished Epileptic and moved from L'Association to more mainstream French publishers like Dargaud and Dupuis — see, the Fantagraphics-to-Random-House alternative-to-corporate pattern isn't unique to the U.S.! — he's been working almost exclusively in color.
Who is this Pierre Mac Orlan who wrote the original story?
At this point I know as much about Pierre Mac Orlan as anyone who's bookmarked Wikipedia.org does. Apparently a French novelist, songwriter, and children's book writer.
For a kid's book, this has got some pretty adult stuff in it. Like the fact that the zombie pirates talk about the prostitutes back on land they miss...
This has been brought up to me by sensitive members of our staff. Well, it's handled pretty delicately. It would fly right over a theoretical young reader's head: He might think the pirate want to spend the money on the women just taking them out on dates or something. If anything, it's far more genteel than the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride in Disneyland, which used to have the pirates carrying off serving wenches with the clear intent of rape until it got politically corrected. (Perhaps even worse, they used to have one ugly serving wench who was disconsolate because no pirate would take her.) You could also argue that all the pirates' cursing God in Littlest Pirate King might be problematic for some parents, but they're pirate zombies, they're not role models. And they have a pretty good reason to be ticked off at God.
The ending is very bleak.
That's true. Although most Disney movies have even bleaker moments at one point or another, usually involving the death of a parental character. But I think kids can take it. It's not as bad as Old Yeller getting killed or anything. [Spoiler alert — Ed.]
You mentioned Babel, David's sequel-of-sorts to Epileptic, which delves into his relationship with his brother from a different angle, their shared fantasy life as kids. Will that ever continue?
Well, the whole Ignatz series ran into some rough waters. It was predicated on being published by at least three or four publishers in different countries, and after starting off with six (Holland, Germany, Spain, France, the U.S., and Italy), three of the publishers dropped out almost immediately because they discovered the format didn't work at all for their market, and of the three remaining two ran into financial or structural problems, which meant the books weren't being published and cartoonists weren't getting paid except by us, which wasn't sustainable. So David, like most of the cartoonists, had to move onto actual paid work. The good news is that as the Ignatz stuff gets sorted out it looks like he'll be able to finish the series with a third issue which he'll then be able to sell as a book in some of these markets, including the U.S. where we'll either release it as an Ignatz and then a book, or go straight to book. The funny thing is that we actually published several pages from #3 in our I.G.N.A.T.Z. Free Comic Book Day preview comic a few years ago, and that's literally the only place in the world those pages have been published... In the meantime he just published a really cool sketchbook comic, and I understand he's working on a major historical volume now.
Okay, so I'm confused... What if anything would you say is next for David B. in terms of Fantagraphics releases after the MOME stories collection?
I'm playing it by ear. Could be Babel if/when that's finished, could be this new project, could be one of his earlier L'Association books for that matter. Wait and see!
[In this first of what will hopefully be a recurring series of Editors Notes posts, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") on the subject of Fantagraphics' first Franco-Belgian kids' comic release, coming to a comics shop near you later in November. – Ed.]
This is your first Blanquet book. Why pick this one?
Honestly, it kind of dropped in my lap out of nowhere. I read it, I liked it, and I thought "Why not?" I've long wanted do publish a Blanquet book - we've published short stories of his in Zero Zero and Blab!...
This one is kind of outside his usual mode, though. I mean... a kids' comic? This is a guy known for body horror that makes David Cronenberg look like Walt Disney.
There's elements of that even in Toys in the Basement, but yes, that's true. What's even weirder is that the other long-form Blanquet book that's been translated into English is another more-or-less all-ages story, in Dungeon Monstres Vol. 2: The Dark Lord. The thing is, most of Blanquet's more Blanquet-y work in France has been published in these odd formats, little boutique presentations, none of which I think would really survive very well in the American book market. But actually that might end soon. I've been in contact with Blanquet's main French publisher, Cornélius, and they're talking about doing a sizeable omnibus collection that would collect some of those smaller books and other material and basically create a nice big sampler of Blanquet — something I could sell to Barnes & Noble. I told him I'm in!
Toys in the Basement is also apparently the first in a "line" of sorts...?
Yeah, my all-ages Franco-Belgian comics series. Again, I sort of backed into it. I'd decided to publish Blanquet's book, and then I was offered David B.'s Le roi rose, which we're publishing at The Littlest Pirate King, and then I figured, why not make an official series of it? Geometrically speaking, if you've got two points, you've got a line. So I asked Jacob Covey to come up with some overarching design, I wrote a little historical essay putting the whole Franco-Belgian kids' comics thing in perspective which we'll run in the back of each, and I've started buying up other material for it.
Will it be contemporary like these two, classic, or...?
The next two will be classic 1960s work, Tillieux and Macherot, but I plan to hop around and pick and choose from the entire last 50 years. I've always loved the Franco-Belgian kids comics: I grew up with them, and even though this may color my feelings somewhat, I firmly believe that was, and is, one of the true pinnacles of comics, absolutely on a par with Carl Barks or Walt Kelly.
Sure, although the series veered into a bit more of adult sensibility in the later volumes. I might yet go back and do a few more of those, as a matter of fact.
Aside from Tintin and Asterix, and a few things from First Second, there really isn't that much being published in the U.S.
In some ways it's a tough genre to sell. It killed Catalan Comics back in the 1980s when they tried to expand their adult European graphic novels into a kids' line, Comcat, and if you remember Fantasy Flight, which published among other things a Franquin Spirou book which I translated, that was a noble disaster. But the material is so great; maybe the American readership is finally ready for it. NBM, who has dabbled in it themselves from time to time, is re-launching The Smurfs, for instance. The movie looks like it'll be an abomination, but if it gets people reading those classic albums again, that's good. (The Smurf King is one of the ten greatest European comics albums ever, seriously.) There's actually an outfit in the United Kingdom called Cinebook that's been doing a lot of work in the genre, including at least three stone classics, Lucky Luke, Blake and Mortimer, and Valerian, and a lot of solid other work like Iznogoud, Yoko Tsuno, and Boule et Bill (which they've re-dubbed Billy and Buddy, apparently in inadvertent tribute to Herman Melville). Those books do sell in the U.S., you can buy them through Last Gasp or on Amazon.com — they're nicely done, and really inexpensive, too. Seriously, any fan owes it to him- or herself to pick up a Lucky Luke and a Blake and Mortimer.
Aren't these AutoChats supposed to be promoting your books?
Well, yeah. I get carried away with the Team Comics spirit sometimes. Anyway, Toys in the Basement is a huge amount of fun, like everything Blanquet touches it's spectacularly drawn, it's one of the few books we've put out that's both totally kid safe and thoroughly entertaining for adults... I had a blast working on it. Buy it.
We are sorry to announce that several experts have confirmed that what we thought was a sketchbook of early versions of several years' worth of Krazy Kat strips created by George Herriman — and had planned to publish as such — is almost certainly the work of a very intense (perhaps contemporary with Herriman?) fan who diligently, even maniacally, copied each new strip into his sketchbook over a period of three years.
The telltale signs of this became apparent only when we had a chance to take a closer look at high-resolution scans made as part of the pre-press process, signs which made evident some flaws and quirks in the drawings that rendered its authenticity highly dubious.
I want to emphasize that the owner of the sketchbook was quite convinced as to the authenticity of this object, and the late thumbs-down from the experts came as a rude shock to him as well. No deceit was intended on anyone's part: Our delight at what we thought we'd found overruled the skepticism we should've wielded at an earlier date.
We will be sending refunds to the handful of Herriman fans who'd pre-ordered and prepaid this book, and we apologize to anyone who got their hopes up. At least we figured it out before actually going to press on the thing.
This, the penultimate KRAZY + IGNATZ Sundays volume (covering 1919-1921), will be available in February 2011. We should be able to wrap up the series with the 1922-1924 volume by the end of that year, leaving us free to focus on... the dailies!
(1) Here is the cover to our Summer 2011 Tardi release, his latest adaptation of a Manchette novel (in fact his latest graphic novel, period, it's just being released now in France), La Position du tireur couché. (The original prose novel was released in the U.S. as The Prone Gunman, which while out of print is still available on Amazon.) Our title is Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot. Dig ace designer Adam Grano's brilliant incorporation of that logo into the "inside page as cover" design we've been using for Tardi.
(2) Meanwhile, Random House has announced the April 2011 release, under their NYRB Classics imprint, of another Manchette classic, Fatale. Fatale was actually almost the first Tardi/Manchette collaboration, as Tardi began an adaptation of it way back in the mid-1970s and then abandoned it in favor of drawing an original Manchette story titled Griffu instead. An English language version of Griffu was published in Pictopia back in the 1990s, and a few pages of the aborted Fatale adaptation can be seen in various Tardi collections... but anyway, the original prose novel will soon be available in English for fans of French noir.
As work progresses on our first volume of Ernie Bushmiller's NANCY (yes, it's late, we admit it), collecting 1942 through 1945, we belatedly realize that our source for most of the strips is missing the first year. Oops. So we are sending out the plea to NANCY collectors: If you have clippings for 1942's NANCY daily strips, we would love to hear from you. (For that matter, as we are missing a handful of strips from 1943-1945, and some of the ones we do have are a little rough around the edges in terms of repro quality, if you have ANY NANCY tearsheets from this period...)
Contact editor Kim Thompson at
(and yes, we are in contact with the Ohio State Library, but even they have significant holes in their NANCY run) — and be sure to pass on this plea to anyone else you think might have contacts, message boards, what have you. NANCY fans unite!
If we can't get our hands on the elusive 1942 we'll probably just switch the first volume to 1943 through 1946 (we do have all of 1946) and get back to 1942 in the future when we've had more time to dig, dig, dig for source material.
In other NANCY news, the much-anticipated HOW TO READ NANCY by Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden has unfortunately been delayed 'til next Summer or Fall, as Paul and Mark have been vastly expanding the contents with additional images, additional interviews, additional research, and additional fact-checking. This will be a completely mind-blowing book when it is finished, so we ask that eager fans adopt a Bushmiller-like serenity and it'll be there before you can say "three rocks."
Luc Besson's The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, adapting the earlier volumes of Jacques Tardi's graphic novel series, opened last week at a solid #1 at the office in France (handily beating the only other major opening, the Matt Damon Iraq flick Green Zone), to generally positive reviews. There was general praise for the lead performance by Louise Bourgoin (although some reviewers familiar with the original comics lamented the "sweetening" of Tardi's cranky original), the special effects, and the fun-ride aspect of the movie, less enthusiasm for some of the broader farcical aspects, and a general consensus that the Paris-based sequences worked better than the Spielberg-ish Egypt-based ones.
Given the last few Besson movies, the reaction boiled down to "Whew! Better than we expected!"
Not many domestic reviews yet, except for the inevitable Variety. We can't link to it as this review is subscribers-only, but here are some excerpts:
"Take Indiana Jones and replace him with a knockout redhead, a slew of CGI and a somewhat bloated storyline, and you'll get an inkling of what lies behind Luc Besson's costumer/creature feature, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec....most notable for newcomer Louise Bourgoin's captivating perf as a fearless, wisecracking heroine who — this being France — drinks, smokes and plays in the buff."
And, what we were waiting for: "Massive local rollout delivered a strong opening, and should venture beyond Francophone markets." Yes indeed!
They go on: "With handsome production values, polished visual effects and eye-popping locations (shot by Besson regular Thierry Arbogast) that include icons like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, pic smoothly blends state-of-the-art CGI with a story set in pre-WWI France."
Cine-nerd note: Arbogast shot pretty much all of Besson's movies (think the glory days of Leon/The Professional and The Fifth Element), as well as the late-career Brian De Palma masterpiece Femme Fatale, Emir Kusturica's wacky Black Cat, White Cat, the absurd but compellingly watchable Penélope Cruz/Salma Hayek megacleavage western Bandidas (admit it, didn't that description tempt you to add it to your Netflix queue?), and, uh, cough, the Halle Berry Catwoman.
Variety also cites Gilles Lellouche's performance as the hapless Inspector Caponi as "amusing" and notes that Mathieu Almaric (the villain from Quantum of Solace) is "practically unrecognizable with pasty makeup and buck teeth."
And boy, they just can't get enough of Mademoiselle Bourgoin:
"...what frankly saves pic from its convoluted plot and boilerplate villains is Adele herself, thanks in no small part to the all-consuming performance of Bourgoin (who made a noteworthy debut in Anne Fontaine's 2006 The Girl from Monaco). Delivering lines with screwball timing, while sporting an assortment of disguises like a sexed-up Lon Chaney, she dominates practically every scene and makes us regret the ones without her."
No U.S. distributor or release date yet, but I'd be awfully surprised if it hasn't been grabbed by the time Cannes finishes up late next month.
Every six months I get to read a full two years' worth of Peanuts strips in preparation for writing blurbs for our next Complete Peanuts edition, beginning with the "In our next volume" telegraph-style paragraph for the one headed off to the printer. And even though I thought I'd read pretty much every Peanuts strip ever done I always come across something previously unseen, or surprising, or jaw-droppingly weird. Like, who knew there was a recurring Peanuts character called "Crybaby" Boobie? Not I, until last year!
Well, this time around, prepping our 15th volume (covering 1979 and 1980), I may have been startled at the sequence in which Peppermint Patty gets her hair cornrowed, Bo-Derek-in-"10" style (with a shout-out to Ms. Derek, no less)... and the daily strip (not Sunday strip, which itself is odd) where Charlie Brown tries to kick the football and Lucy doesn't pull it away (he doesn't get to kick it anyway, but you'll have to read the book to find out why)... and the strip where Marcie takes off her glasses and we see her eyes... but this is what really made my jaw drop this time.
Yes, Charles Schulz brought back the mostly-retired Pig-Pen for a Valentine's Day blind-date romance...with Peppermint Patty! Even weirder for a Peanuts romance (at least the human ones), it did not go unrequited. It doesn't last long (although there's a nice little "sequel" to it a couple of months later)... but still.
The Complete Peanuts 1979-1980 will be released in March 2011. Mark your calendar.
Not sure exactly what the provenance of this clip is [ed. note: it's an official promotional behind-the-scenes video; Kim came across an unauthorized re-posting on YouTube, hence the mystery], but it starts off with some clever juxtapositions of ADELE BLANC-SEC panels and pages with clips from the movie version, and segues into some nifty behind-the-scenes shots, including a set visit by Jacques Tardi (you see him first at 0:48 watching as his wife Dominique Grange chats with Adele).
I can report that I have finished the translation of ADELE BLANC-SEC VOLUME 1 (which comprises the first two books in the series) and am just waiting to get the digital files from the publisher so we can start lettering. Sell your copies of the NBM version on eBay and reserve your copy at San Diego Comic-Con now!
Here is a very long series of blog posts about HUMBUG by our good friend Jean-Pierre Dionnet, whom Eurocomics-philes will recognize as a founding member of METAL HURLANT and Les Humanoides Associés, and whose list of achievements in the field of la bande dessinée is as long as your arm. Enjoy...if you read French!