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.
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