[In this installment of our series of Editors Notes, Kim Thompson interviews himself (in a format he's dubbed "AutoChat") aboutLike a Sniper Lining Up His Shotby Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette, now available to pre-order from us and coming soon to a comics shop near you. – Ed.]
Okay, if I already have West Coast Blues, why should I buy Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot?
My promotional tagline for Sniper is, “For those who thought West Coast Blues wasn’t violent enough.”
Seriously? West Coast Blues was pretty brutal.
Sniper mops the floor with it. It was the last novel Jean-Patrick Manchette completed before he died in 1995, and to some degree it’s an exercise in technique. He himself said this, and he also said he wanted it to feel like the Aldrich movie version of Kiss Me Deadly, I assume in terms of velocity, brutality, and the sheer amount of virtuoso set pieces. That’s a high standard (Kiss Me Deadly is one of my top five favorite movies ever), which I think he hits. It also ends with an apocalypse, albeit just inside the protagonist’s brain.
It’s also probably the most extreme example of what Manchette called his “hyperbehaviorist” style, which is a complete refusal to go inside any of the characters’ heads: It’s all purely observational. “He does this. He does that. Then this happens.” It sounds alienating, but your own conjectures as to what’s going on in every character’s head become far more interesting than anything Manchette could have written. The blankness of Tardi’s character faces adds immeasurably to it, by the way, which is one reason they’re such a good team.
What does the title mean? Why is the protagonist “like” a sniper lining up his shot, isn’t he a sniper and doesn’t he line up his shots? Isn’t that that like calling a boxing movie “like a guy about to punch another guy in the face”?
It’s the very last sentence of the novel, and the last sentence of the graphic novel. Trust me, it makes sense.
This is Tardi’s most recent book, right?
Yeah. At this point in his career Tardi is a zen master. Every panel is designed with such confidence, every line laid down with almost arrogant unfussiness… I can’t praise it enough. I know there are people who pine for the more anal, detailed, “clean” look of some of his earlier books, and it’s not an unreasonable aesthetic preference to have. But to me this is just pure cartooning. And it adds another level of dark wit to what is already a blackly funny book.
There’s a four-page scene where the protagonist, Martin Terrier, catches up with some poor patsy who’s shadowing him, tortures the information out of him, and kills him, and the sheer nonchalant professional viciousness of Terrier (as rendered in one of those inexpressive mask-like Tardi faces I just mentioned) and squirm-inducing nature of the scene topples over into funny… as I’m absolutely sure Manchette intended. If you’re reading a noir interrogation scene set in a car and the sentence “he pushed in the cigarette lighter” comes up, your “Oh, NO…!” reaction is supposed to be overlaid with a nervous giggle.
Sounds like the infamous “fingers” interrogation scene in Man on Fire.
I would not be at all surprised to learn that Brian Helgeland, who wrote Man on Fire — one of the more satisfyingly uncompromising revenge thrillers of the past 20 years — had read the original novel, which is available in English (under the title The Prone Gunman). Am I the only one who found that scene in Man on Fire funny too?
Blecchh. Maybe you and Quentin Tarantino. I hope to God so, or I despair for humanity. Let’s end with a double-barreled “what’s next?” question, namely what’s the next Tardi book you’re doing and will there be any more Manchette/Tardi books?
The next Tardi book we’re committed to is the second Adèle Blanc-Sec book (collecting the third and fourth French volume), and while my current plan is to follow that with the “expanded” Roach Killer (i.e. with three or four short stories also set in New York added to it, including “Manhattan” from RAW Vol. 1, titled New York Mon Amour), this may change. As for Manchette/Tardi, there is of course Griffu which we serialized in Pictopia and could throw out there as a graphic novel some season when I’m feeling lazy and not up to adding a translation to my schedule, but I think we'll be able to make another Manchette/Tardi-related announcement soon.
One more thing: Those who would like to read an actual Manchette novel should be advised that New York Review Books just recently released an English-language edition of Manchette’s Fatale, which is a nifty hitwoman thriller. (Tardi started an adaptation of it back in the 1970s and abandoned it.) Go here to order it on Amazon.com.
I would also add that Manchette’s prose is the most fun to translate. I’m not saying it’s the best (nor am I saying it’s NOT the best) in terms of quality, I’m saying it’s just a blast. When I’m working on a Manchette book I can barely wait to finish dinner to run down and knock out a few more Manchette pages. Translation is sort of like literary karaoke and “singing” in Manchette’s voice is pure joy, even when the protagonist is ripping someone’s ear off for no good reason. Maybe especially when the protagonist is ripping someone’s ear off for no good reason. In fact I’m sad I’m done with this one.
One more thing, if you love cats… uh, never mind. There are a lot of cat lovers out there and I’ll just let them have their own little surprise.
Martin Terrier, ice-cold mercenary-turned-contract-killer, has his future all mapped out: He has just executed what he intends to be his final job and is ready to move on to the next phase of his life, which involves discreet retirement accompanied by a long-lost girlfriend. But Terrier’s employers are emphatically not pleased with his decision, old enemies begin to re-emerge, and soon Terrier is forced to once again ply his brutal trade.
Five years after West Coast Blues, his acclaimed adaptation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s Le Petit bleu de la côte ouest (a.k.a. Three to Kill), Jacques Tardi returns to the world of guns, crime, betrayal and bloodshed with this stunning, grisly, and remarkably faithful interpretation of Manchette’s last completed crime thriller. Manchette himself claimed to have written the novel in an attempt to emulate the ultraviolent, hellbent-for-leather, pitch-black ambiance of Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly, and Tardi matches him bullet for bullet and blow for blow. As The Village Voice noted of the original novel (La Position du tireur couché, released in English under the title The Prone Gunman by City Lights in 2001), “Thirty pages before the finale, it’s hard not to wonder how the book could possibly end... But the book does end, in circumstances far worse than you might easily imagine, on a note of extraordinary bleakness.”
• Review: "Jacques Tardi is pretty awesome, y’all. But then, you already knew that.... This sucker [The Arctic Marauder] is from 1974. Sadly, it looks more avant-garde and progressive than a lot of comics that are released today.... The entire book is an absolutely gorgeous piece of artwork." – Greg Burgas, Comic Book Resources
• Review: "Joe Daly tells stories about slackers with an obvious love and a clear eye; he's attuned to the oddball notions and unlikely turns that their lives take, and crafts stories about quirky people that don't turn into catalogs of quirks themselves.... Dungeon Quest is a goofy, silly series, and it's not for readers who need their comics-format violence to be deadly serious and full of clenched teeth. But for those of us who have grown out of that limited conception of comics yet still want energetic adventure stories that know how silly they are, it's just the thing." – Andrew Wheeler, The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.
• Plug: "...I’ve recently read Fantagraphics’ gorgeous new printing of The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, which absolutely blew me away. I’m always impressed by people like Jacques Tardi, who can build these deep, rich worlds out of really loose, simple linework. It’s definitely not a skill I have. The book also has pterodactyls menacing early-1900′s Paris, so it’s pretty much required that I love it." – Aaron Alexovich, guest Robot 6 "What Are You Reading?" contributor
• Profile: The Chicago Tribune's Christopher Borrelli catches up with Ivan Brunetti: "At 25, he started Schizo, a comic so caustic — and offensive and frantic, but with the thick black palate of classic newspaper strips — friends routinely asked if he would be arrested. It partly detailed his life as a copy editor at a local university press, and the homicidal daydreams that came to him while on the job. He declined to say at which press. 'It wasn't to shock,' he says. 'It was an unguarded look at how I felt, and I was probably losing my mind.'" (Via Spurge.)
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch concludes presenting Brian Heater's MoCCA panel conversation with Gahan Wilson: "You have to be straight with kids. Kids see right through you if you’re not. So you do your best—you get this little sweet kid and you’re telling them a story, and you want them to enjoy it, and it helps them. You’re this big grownup and there’s this little kid, and you’ve got to be gentle with them, because you’re this hulking thing. So that’s part of it. You do what any decent person would do with a kid, which is you be nice to the bugger. Because they need it. They can use it."
At Comics Alliance, David Brothers throws the spotlight on our ongoing series of Jacques Tardi translations, presenting 7 pages from The Arctic Marauder and writing "Jacques Tardi is a living legend in France, but is somewhat obscure over here. Thanks to Fantagraphics and their aggressive reprint schedule, Jacques Tardi is finally getting a proper American catalog.... The Arctic Marauder isn't what you think it is. I came into it with only the barest idea of what it would feature (high-sea antics, mystery, old-school diving suits), and while it fulfilled all those expectations, it went on to twist what I was expecting into new, and sometimes ugly, shapes. It's a pleasant surprise, really, and the twists and turns are not only believable, but genuinely interesting."
• Review: "This book in particular reprints a run where Mickey Mouse enters Pluto in a dog race and ends up getting mixed up with a banker who wants to foreclose on a friendly old couple, snooty society types, high-stakes gamblers and the mob. The mob, people. It's really great stuff, with a ton of adventure and action balanced out with the humor I was expecting, which really holds up even here in the next century, right down to the fun Vaudeville-style wordplay. I would've devoured this thing if I was a kid, and while it's ostensibly a teaser for the bigger reprint volumes -- which, at $30 for 300 pages are looking like an even better deal than I thought -- it's awesome for all ages." – Chris Sims, Comics Alliance
• Review: "Joe Daly's comics are an unequivocal delight. The second volume of his role playing/video game send-up and tribute, Dungeon Quest, is a visual feast from beginning to end. Of course, this feast may be mere junk food, but his sheer commitment to the adventurous reality that his characters encounter makes the reader care about the most ridiculous of scenarios.... While there are a number of alt-comics fantasy series being published these days (with Trondheim & Sfar's Dungeon the best), Daly's fusion of underground comics sensibilities with the blunt directness of the video game playing experience is unique and leaves the reader wanting more." – Rob Clough, High-Low
• Interview: At Under the Radar, Jeremy Nisen talks to Eye of the Majestic Creature creator Leslie Stein: "Right now I pretty much write out the comic like a movie script and then just attack the page. As I go along I change some of the dialogue or add different sequences I've thought of to enhance the story, like if there's something I draw in a background on a whim, I might like it and incorporate it into the story. This way it's exciting as I go along, and not just laborious drawing. As for the concept, it just pops into the old bean. Magic!"
• Plug: In a pre-TCAF Q&A at the National Post, comic artist Niki Smith talks about her most-anticipated comic of the year: "Wandering Son is debuting at TCAF (from Fantagraphics) and I absolutely cannot wait to add it to my collection and push it on everyone I know. It’s a wonderful story of gender and sexuality and growing up."
• Review: "It may seem hard to believe today, but Gottfredson’s strip was a fluid, rubber-limbed, sassy, slangy, breathless, seamless mix of absurdity and adventure. The proof is here. Fantagraphics intends to reprint the whole shooting match, and here in [Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse] Volume One are the first two years.... The various inkers and pencillers who worked on the strip are profiled, and intelligent remarks are made on the strip’s economic and cultural issues. We could only wish the reproduction on these dailies were larger; otherwise it’s pretty much an ideal volume. Rating: 9/10" – Michael Barrett, PopMatters
• Review: "...I am a complete sucker for history and particularly graphic biographies — especially when they are as innovative and imaginative as this superbly passionate and evocative account of the life of a groundbreaking sports star, quietly philanthropic humanitarian and culture-changing champion of ethnic equality.... Rather than a dry accounting of his life, author Wilfred Santiago’s tale skips forward and back, illustrated in a studied and fiercely expressionistic melange of styles which sketch in tone and mood, and feel the life of a true frontrunner and a very human hero.... Lusciously realised in sumptuous earth-tones and powerfully redolent of the spirit of Unjust Times A-Changin’, [21: The Story of Roberto Clemente] is a fabulous book for every fan of the medium and not simply lads and sports-fans." – Win Wiacek, Now Read This!
• Review (Video): The hosts of The Backroom Comics Podcast discuss Jacques Tardi's The Arctic Marauder (starts about 33:16): "It can't be denied that this is gorgeous, gorgeous comic... the artwork is incredible....[It's] incredible in its pacing, its artistry, its storytelling..." "It is an incredibly well-done book and the quality of it for the price — it's amazing, honestly.... Don't cheat yourself. Read the thing."
• Review (Audio): On The Savage Critics' Wait, What? podcast, cohost Graeme McMillan discusses Dave McKean's Celluloid (starts at 50:28): "Looking through it, I was like 'oh, this is really Dave McKean-y, but I don't really see it as porn' — until there was a part where I was like 'oh, yes it is.' There's actually a part where he manages to meld the two really, realy well, and in a way that I did not expect — from him, but also just in general. Like I was surprised to see it.... If you just like McKean, it's got some stunningly good work in there, and it's very much in keeping with a McKean-ness... so on that level, even if you have no interest in the story or the concept, just as a piece of McKean's work I think it's really worth seeing."
• Plug: "Taking Punk to the Masses: From Nowhere to Nevermind and Beyond... is not a graphic novel, it's more of a gallery/ cultural history book but it's published by Fantagraphics (mostly a comics publisher). Fantagraphics was every bit as important to the sub-culture scene of Seattle in the '90s as Sub Pop Records was. This book traces the history of Grunge and the punk sub-culture of Seattle from the '70s through the '90s. Did I mention it comes with a DVD loaded with interviews from underground luminaries?" – Benn Ray (Atomic Books), Largehearted Boy
• Review (Audio): On the inaugural episode of Boing Boing's Gweek podcast, co-host Mark Frauenfelder talks about Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Vol. 1: Race to Death Valley by Floyd Gottfredson: "Gottfredson really turned Mickey into this adventuring character who has really fun experiences... It's got that great '30s look to the art... It is very dense, but well-done, with a good sense of composition, so it flows along. The characters really have great emotion. There's nothing stiff about it — it's really lively... it's just beautiful. ...Carl Barks is always the first artist most comic book aficionados think of when they think of great Disney artists, but Gottfredson — this book might give him a chance to be up there with Barks and have people be able to fully appreciate how cool his stuff is."
• Review: "The story is spooky and confusing in ways that aren’t boring or stupid. Gilbert is one of the best people out there at telling stories with dream logic and this one bonks you over the head with it, so if you are a nut for dream logic then [Love from the Shadows] is right up your dream alley. This book reminds me very much of David Lynch’s movies Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. It also reminds me of Carnival of Souls. It might even remind me of those things too much. I’m not sure yet but I have yet to read a comic by either Jaime or Gilbert Hernandez that made me feel bored, cheated, or like I wasn’t given something to think about at the end. Gilbert’s art is simple but never generic." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Interview: Nick Gazin follows his Vice review above with a Q&A with Gilbert Hernandez: "Fritz is a character that rarely shows who she really is inside, and the characters she plays reveal bits of her we can’t normally see. She’s not necessarily passive aggressive, but there’s a lot of anger and viciousness that comes out in her roles. Fritz has become my favorite character to write and draw because she has no restrictions to where I can take her. And she’s willing to go the distance.... Dude, she’s nuts, I’m not shittin’ you."
• Review: "Johnny Ryan’s one of the best and only people making funny comics these days.... I don't know if he cares what people thought, but I do know that once you master something it gets boring. Johnny's modern comics are dark and based more in a mixture of Lovecraftian horror and certain manga sensibilities. What's in [Take a Joke] is the bend before the break.... It seems like Johnny has turned to the dark side and is trying to make comics that are more upsetting." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Interview: As above, Nick Gazin's Vice review is followed by a Q&A with Johnny Ryan : "Things just change, bro."
• Review: "There are many, many nicely taken photos of Kurt Cobain's guitars. I'm teasing a little because I think [Taking Punk to the Masses] is a goofy book but I like it and you probably will too. This book rules. It is very, very fun to read if you care about this stuff. I am not trying to tell you that this book isn't a good, easy read. There's something really silly to me about a full page photo of this shirt Kurt Cobain wore on the cover of Spin, lit dramatically like it's the Shroud of Turin.... I might be overthinking this. If you bought Fantagraphics' book about punk movies and have an interest in punk or the Seattle indie rock scene then you'll love this thing to death." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Tardi's a drawing and storytelling genius and a quote of me saying as much is quoted in the press release for this book. It's fun to see Tardi draw highly technical fantasy machines, but I think [The Arctic Marauder] had too much text and the wood cut drawing style that Tardi uses here turns me off. Tardi's still great but this book didn't grab me the way his other books have." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Perhaps the strangest revelation? In their own depraved way, the Bradleys have transformed into adults, with the interplay between Buddy and Harold especially heartwarming. Hate Annual #9, in fine, earns this column’s highest recommendation." – Bryan A. Hollerbach, PLAYBACK:stl
• Review: "I really think that Bagge’s artwork in this issue marks a high point of the series thus far, and I’m not just saying that. I actually dug out a few of my old issues of Hate, and a few of the annuals, and I swear that his style has become more and more refined over the years. Hate Annual #9 is a fantastic and unmissable chapter in the lives of Buddy, Lisa, and friends. Old feuds are put to rest, new friendships are made, and we are introduced to a slew of new characters and new storylines. I’m really excited to see were Bagge takes Buddy and co. next year! Here’s to another 26 years of Hate!" – Edward Kaye, Hypergeek
• Review: "Exuberantly expressive..., Santiago imbues his biography of famed Puerto Rican baseballer Roberto Clemente  with the furious energy of a Clemente triple. [...] Santiago evokes the world Clemente lived in, from the dusty Puerto Rican streets where he played baseball with bottle caps and tree branches to his years as a perennial All-Star. The art is scratchy and abstract when it’s dealing with home and homesickness, and then hardens into the stuff of superhero comics whenever Clemente steps to the plate." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "…The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980… features a touching intro by Al Roker — who conducted the one of the last interviews with Schulz — along with two years’ worth of strips that find Schulz still going strong as a documentarian of life’s simple pleasures and overwhelming anxieties." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Review: "Jacques Tardi’s 1972 graphic novella The Arctic Marauder... is a fine example of the French artist’s early work, which combines turn-of-the-century adventure stories with deadpan zaniness. It’s recommended for those who like submarines disguised as icebergs, world-domination plots, detailed schematics of bizarre inventions, heroic dowagers, and sudden reversals, as well as for those who’d like to see all of the above rendered in Tardi’s typically detailed linework, which looks amazing even when obscured by ice and snow." – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
• Interview:The Comics Reporter's Tom Spurgeon talks at length with Dungeon Quest creator Joe Daly: "I want to develop a dedicated fan base, even if it's a small fan base, and reward their dedication with my best efforts to entertain them. More than a 'comics guy' or a 'writer' or 'artist' I want to build a reputation as an entertainer. I feel that the value of sheer entertainment is often overlooked or dismissed in today's sophisticated and occasionally pretentious comics world."
• Interview: At TCM's Classic Movie Blog Movie Morlocks, Paul Gaita talks to Drew Friedman: "I’m going from freaks back to Old Jewish Comedians for the third and final book — and again, I had to leave some comedians out. I feel bad about that, but I’m not going to do a fourth book. That’s it. I’m done with the Jews. I’m becoming an old Jew myself — I don’t need to draw them anymore." (via The Comics Reporter)
• Interview:The Daily Cross Hatch's Brian Heater begins serializing a transcription of his MoCCA panel conversation with Peter Bagge: "I’m slowly turning [Buddy Bradley] into the crazy old guy who works at the dump. That’s why I gave him the Popeye look. Though I’m always on the verge of having him get rid of it. I keep thinking that I’ll have another character make fun of him for it. He doesn’t need the eyepatch, he doesn’t need to shave his head, and there’s no reason for him to be wearing a captain’s hat."
• Review: "Even though Peanuts's peak was sometime back in the sixties these books are still coming out and you know what? They're still good. I keep waiting for a sharp decline in quality to hit but I'm still enjoying seeing Snoopy blissfully living out his fantasies, Charlie Brown being unable to ever be happy, Lucy being a jerk, etc. [...] This book suddenly made me want to go back in time very, very hard. I want to live in Peanuts so bad. Fuck my life. Someone help get me out of this life." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Review: "Jordan Crane has a sweet skinny line and can draw like no one else. He can draw complicated scenes and it's clear that he never uses a ruler. There's something very friendly and reassuring about his drawing style. Jordan Crane is without a doubt one of the best guys in the alt comix game right now and my only criticism of him is that I wish he turned out more work. Jordan's making the comics that everyone else is trying to make but unlike them, he's succeeding at it." – Nick Gazin, Vice
• Coming Attractions:Library Journal's Martha Cornog spotlights a couple of our August 2011 releases. First, Like a Sniper Lining Up His Shot by Jacques Tardi & Jean-Patrick Manchette: "The fantasy grime of Manchette's noir thrillers may not equal the true-life grime of World War I, but both make pretty darn gripping reading when Tardi gets through with them. It Was the War of the Trenches made numerous 2010 best-of lists, including those of Booklist and Library Journal. Manchette and Tardi's previous collaboration on West Coast Blues didn't do badly either, being nominated for two Eisners. With Sniper, a pro killer wants to nail one last job before retiring to marry his childhood sweetheart. But of course it's no cupcake gig." Second, Cruisin' with the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Tooté by Spain Rodgriguez: "Here we have tales of the wild 1950s in muscular black and white, some memoir and some just tales, from take-no-prisoners Zap Comix veteran Rodriguez. [...] Expect this one to be adults-only: motorcycles, raunch, and rock 'n' roll and described as the unsentimental and hilarious 'anti-Happy Days.'"
• Commentary:On his blog, our manga editor/translator Matt Thorn weighs in on the damaging legacy left behind by TokyoPop
• Analysis: "Hey, Wait... presents a varied collection of strategies which help express emptiness and lack of meaning; the metaphorical use of silences and visual minimalism are two of these, and will become frequent in the author’s repertory in the following books. Meaninglessness, though, can also be expressed by adopting an aesthetics of visual excess (since both lack and overload can be equally menacing to the production of meaning). In this specific page, this is done at a typographical level." – Greice Schneider, The Comics Grid
• Blood & Thunder: "Why do you continue to publish Maakies? Is it intended to disgust people?" – Kevin Rutkowski, in a Letter to the Editor of The Austin Chronicle