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Category >> Jacques Tardi

Tardi Part IV: Meet Manchette
Written by Kim Thompson | Filed under Jacques Tardi 12 Mar 2009 7:28 AM

West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette

As you are surely aware by now if you've been following this blog, Fantagraphics will be releasing two graphic novels by the great French cartoonist Jacques Tardi this summer. Yesterday I discussed the first of the two, Ici même. Today I hit the other one: West Coast Blues, née Le petit bleu de la côte Ouest.

Tardi has always had a special affinity for detective-slash-crime fiction, so it was natural that he would pair up with Jean-Patrick Manchette. Aside from being the pre-eminent crime writer of his generation, with ten short, powerfully dark crime novels to his credit, Manchette happened to be an enthusiastic comics fan. (Those scenes in Tardi's adaptation of West Coast Blues in which one of the hitmen enjoys a French-language Spider-Man comic are not Tardi's comics-centric invention, in fact; they're in the original text.)

American Eurocomics fans with long memories may remember that back in the early 1990s, our own Pictopia magazine serialized Griffu, a hardboiled Tardi thriller from 1978 written by none other than Manchette. And hardboiled fiction fans may in fact already be aware of Three to Kill, released by City Lights in 2002, which in fact is the English translation of the original Petit Bleu novel. It's out of print (although you can find inexpensive copies at Amazon.com), but The Prone Gunman, which City Lights released the same year, isn't.

(New Manchette fans may be intrigued at the thought of the 1980 Alain Delon-starring film of Petit bleu, retitled 3 hommes à abattre, but as I understand it the film is neither particularly good nor particularly faithful to Manchette, nor were two subsequent Delon-starring Manchette adaptations, and they were a prime element in Manchette's ongoing disillusionment with the film industry.)

Anyway, Manchette passed away in 1995, leaving Griffu as his only graphic novel (although Manchette did place his imprint on French comics in one other important way, as the French translator of one of the seminal graphic novels of the 1980s: Watchmen). So for those of us who really liked Griffu, it came as great news when Tardi decided to give that book a new sibling, an adaptation of Le petit bleu de la côte Ouest, which was released in 2005.

Tomorrow: My concluding speech and exhortation, and a longish preview of You Are There.

Daily links: 3/11/09
Written by Mike Baehr | Filed under reviewsJacques TardiHumbugHarvey KurtzmanEsther Pearl WatsonBeastsAnders Nilsen 11 Mar 2009 2:17 PM

• Review: Bookforum says of the two volumes of Beasts!: "Covey’s brave band of 180 artists... put these mythological and folkloric beings on vivid display. The distinct and varied styles of the cartoonists, illustrators, and graphic artists give further evidence of each creature’s unique characteristics... The enthusiastically detailed evocations in these books give us all reason to believe."

• Review: Dear Stranger reads The End #1 by Anders Nilsen and declaims "It’s sad. In that way that things are only ever sad when they’re really honest, so it’s beautiful, but you feel a bit guilty for thinking so -- because under the beauty, it’s still sad, honestly so."

• Review: The Star Clipper Blog says "[Esther Pearl Watson's] Unlovable spares no degrading detail, but still remains an ironically loving tribute to the awkward protagonist... these monstrous depictions of early puberty could be found in just about anyone's high school yearbook... perhaps the perfect teenage girl experience."

• Preview: Publishers Weekly Comics Week covers our announcement of our new Jacques Tardi publishing project

• Profile: For Bookforum, Ben Schwartz examines the career of Harvey Kurtzman, with a look at Humbug, natch

Tardi Part III: A First Graphic Novel
Written by Kim Thompson | Filed under Jacques Tardi 11 Mar 2009 1:19 PM

You Are There (Ici même) by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Claude Forest

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.

Tardi Part II: Better Tardi Than Never
Written by Kim Thompson | Filed under Jacques Tardi 10 Mar 2009 10:38 AM

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.

Oh, and check out comicsreporter.com for an interview with me on this project, which gives a few more details.

Tardi Part I: I Love Tardi!
Written by Kim Thompson | Filed under Jacques Tardi 9 Mar 2009 6:53 PM

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.

Which leads me to...

Watch this space tomorrow.

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