Friday, June 21, 2024

36. Pascal Brutal by Riad Sattouf

June is Riad Sattouf month here at Olman's Fifty.  Since stumbling upon L'Arabe du Futur, I have pillaged the library for his previous work.  Pascal Brutal come out in the early 2000's in the earlier phase of his work, though he had already established himself, where he was less polished and way more edgy.  It was published regularily in Fluide Glacial, which I need to learn more about, and then released in 3 albums (and later a fourth), which are what I read (thanks again to the awesome bande-desinnée collection at the Montreal library system).

These are fucking hilarious.  I don't think they could be translated into english, unfortunately, and it took me a lot of looking things up on the internet to understand some of the jargon.  Much of the cultural in-jokes about the French, the Bretons, the underclass and Arab/north african French I could only surmise or missed entirely.  Though reading Pascal Brutal itself is an education in these subjects and I felt that I better understood that part of the material as I advanced in the volumes.

The parts that do come through to any reader, and especially of my generation, are the anarchic energy and amplifying of extreme virility.  Pascal Brutal pokes at that hilarious intersection where the straightest, machoest toughest guy is so manly that he may as well be gay.  There are several scenarios where this indeed happens. His animal dominance of all other males and sexual irresistability to all females is also a big theme and super funny.  

The setting is also quite a funny take on the neoliberal direction France and the world was heading in the early 2000s.  France is now a depressed near third world country of concrete apartment blocks and discount supermarkets (the Toutattiprix "all at a cheap price" chain is a running joke).  We get glimpses of the rest of the world as well.  Belgium is a fascist gynocracy, Russia a savage post-nuclear wilderness and the Arab states a super progressive and united utopia.  It's very fun but also a painful reminder that sometimes the only way to not lose it altogether in the shit hole we have allowed our planet and society to become is via humour.

Pascal Brutal is in a similar tradition to Red Ketchup and the less well-known Terror Assaulter (O.M.W.O.T).  It's a counter-culture parody and examination of manliness and violence from the perspective of nerdy comics creators who love the genre but aren't of it.  I wish there were more!

The first three volumes are rougher in drawing and the stories more straightforward.  The fourth volume, which came quite a few years after the first three, has a more polished style, richer colours and takes the concept of Pascal Brutal to a more meta-level, with hilarious movie concepts and him leading the French soccer team in the world cup.  

"I'm going to make love to all of you!"

This one where he is training his dog and
gets set up on by some old enemies is my favourite

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