Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Interim Report

tintin pictureTo my legion of readers, I would like to explain why I have suddenly stopped posting. The truth is that I have also suddenly stopped reading books in english. I started a new job in March in a french office. This is wonderful and I'm loving it, but I found quite quickly that my french was not going to improve simply by me going to work. I need to buckle down, practice and drill on my own, listen to french and read french. I am therefore trying to immerse myself as much as possible in the french language and one of the first things that had to go was all the english reading I was planning on this year. This saddens me a bit, as I do love reading in my mother tongue. But there will always be a chance to read in english.

Since I read french novels at anywhere from 50% to 20% of the rate of english ones, it is unlikely that I will acheive the 50 books. Furthermore, reading in french can be a chore and I find that I slowly lose motivation. So I have decided to make a serious study of french comic books. The Bandes Dessinées as they are known have long been a source of interest for me, especially when I first went into a used comic store on St. Denis and saw just how fantastically extensive the industry is in Europe. They were just too expensive and I didn't know where to start, though I did begin, very slowly, to collect old Blake & Mortimer comics. Well, now I am happy to report that the Bibliotheque Nationale, the massive new library here in Montreal has a huge comics section and though it is often out of order, I am hitting it hard. I'm not quite sure how to 'score' bandes-dessinées for the purposes of the 50 books a year, but I will be bringing you reviews of some pretty interesting stuff, either series of a single character (probably the most common format), the work of a specific author or enclosed mini-series. I don't think I can justify a single album as a book. I have already started and I am extremely psyched! There are some ass-kicking french comics and I have barely scratched the surface.

Blake et Mortimer pictureFor the sake of an introduction, the bande-dessinée (which means "drawn strip") is considered in Europe and especially in french-speaking europe (Belgium is the primary source) as an aesthetic medium as relevant to art and literature as the film or novel. Comics cover a wide-range of subjects and are aimed at all different demographic groups (though there does seem to be a preponderance of books for young, male readers). They tend to be large format, hardback bound and 64 pages in length, generally of quite nice quality. They are also serialized in magazines that collect a bunch of different comics and then bound together later in complete volumes. Outside of Europe, the best known are Asterix and Tintin and if you've ever seen those, you will get an idea of at least how they are presented physically. Those are both great books, and both are responsible for significant trends in the medium, but they should not be taken as truly representing the incredible range of comics that exist today.

Obelix et co. pictureI can't say a whole lot more than that, as I don't know much more. But I hope to be able to share with you some of that incredible range in this blog. I have already learned a lot in the last month and I hope I can start to put together some ideas, theories and overall descriptions of la bande-dessinée. It's also a great opportunity to add lots of cool images! Very few of these comics are translated into english and I have yet to find a good web site for the anglophone, so we're kind of on our own here. Which is great. Stick around...


Jason L said...

I'm excited to hear about some of these graphic novels. I had a conversation in my local used bookstore today sparked by Corben's Mutant Worlds which spiraled on to Den and wangs, Heavy Metal & Metal Hurlant, Victoria BC comic shops and finally to your exploration of the Bandes Dessinées. I pointed him to your blog so there are at least 2 of us reading.

Jason L said...

These books are breaking all records!


Jason L said...

Some other links




OlmanFeelyus said...

Thanks! Those are helpful links. Not well organized, but that's what I've found with most BD sites and I think it's more of a function of the vast amounts of comics out there. I'm surrpised at how many have been translated into english. I've never seen them in the stores before. I wonder what form they were sold in.