Posts Tagged ‘Serge Ewenczyk’

France Tour Diary 2


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Thursday, February 11, 2010


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-I started thinking about how mainstream something like punk-as-fuck Nate Powell’s book could be in France. It was a surreal scene when Dash and I finally made our way down to the “mainstream” tent (Casterman. Dargaud, etc.) and in this high-ceiling circus to find Nate’s book displayed like a mainstream jewel. Kind of awesome. Seriously.

-Kaz Strzepek is a really interesting guy. Having completed two long installments of his serial Mourning Star, he’s sort of an an anomaly in the North American alt scene where the tendency is to produce 40 pages of fractured short stories every other year. He’s more like a French cartoonist in that he produces long adventure narratives. The subject matter and his drawing style kind of fit in to the Trondheim Dungeon school. So it makes sense that he’d be popular in France. He was pretty busy signing throughout the festival.

-Serge Ewenczyk, our publisher in France, really took care of us. He explained that it helped to sell books because we were there to do signings and meet the fans. He doesn’t publish any French artists so he’s carving out an interesting niche for himself in the big picture over there. Serge is publishing an anthology of American Splendor hits. Just think if Harvey Pekar would have made it to the festival this year? It would have been like being in a comic-book movie.

-Peter Kuper has amazing stories and has sort of seen it all. Peter’s been a hero of mine since the mid-’80s when I discovered World War 3. A total class act, Peter is the consummate pro who’s been to Angoulême like 7 times. So, sitting next to him discussing politics or Howard Chaykin was constantly entertaining. Also, did you know that his first comics job was inking Richie Rich?

-Dash is my brother and I love him dearly. The kid just kills it every time. Before he even arrived at the festival people of all ages were coming up to me and explaining to me how much they loved Bottomless Belly Button. Then I had to explain to them that I wasn’t Dash and that I was just sitting next to his pile of books for sale. They’d look disappointed but then happy when I told them that he’d be signing at the table Friday. So of course Friday was jammed with people lined up to get their Shaw books signed. Talk about performance art. Dash draws all over that brick of a book (Bottomless). It’s pretty cool. One time on Friday he was away from the table and a really pretty French girl came by to get a copy of his book. In a lovely accent she asked if I was Dash. I was like, “Yah, I’m Dash.” Just kidding. Okay, maybe for like a minute.

-Really awesome to see everyone from Fumetto. Das Fumetto Team, I mean. They are super excited for Dan’s big Kirby retrospective of sorts. More on that soon.

-Does anyone know the story about how Crumb’s Genesis went to auction and the prospective publishers had to write a letter and explain why they wanted to publish it? I heard one version and just want to hear someone else’s…

-Moebius booth. I could barely see him at his booth cuz there were so many people. I heard that there was a new Arzach book and was excited about buying it until I saw it. It looks like he colored it in, ah, color with Photoshop but printed it in grayscale. And there are no spreads. On the left hand page is the text of the story and on the right are comic panels. And the design of the book is awful. It was so disappointing I almost cried. It looked like a bad print-on-demand comic from a small press show. Black and white and gray. Arzach should be in color, no? I was so bummed out.

-Nice to see Mike Dawson’s friendly face. Still have never been formally introduced to Alex Robinson. They looked like they were having fun.

-Ex-Libres tent. It took me 5 minutes of looking at the word “ex-libres” to figure out it meant used books. Found some Corben hardcover albums for cheap. Dash snatched a Moebius collection that was right out of my grasp. Oof. Rain. Tons of used albums (meaning traditional BD-sized hardcover comic “albums” for all you riri’s out there) of crazy amazing adventure stories. It’s like being a kid in the 20th century in America before Spider-Man and Batman infiltrated our minds. It’s all Westerns and Sci-Fi and Adventure and Romance.

-We would sit for hours and hours drawing. Me, Kaz, Dash, and Peter. If we weren’t actually signing a book for someone, we were drawing in sketchbooks (Peter) or working on actual pages for a new book (Kaz) or just loafing about & shit talking (Me and Dash). Serge was like, “Frank, you’re a worse shit talker than Dash, haha”.

-L’Association books look weird. Sorry. Just had to say that. Communist? I mean, I get it. The mainstream BD albums are a little boring format wise after you see thousands of them. Most of L’Association’s small books look like Black Sparrow Press books, like an old Bukowski book and that’s cool, but then the interiors are usually black and white and it’s all a little too high/low for me. Row after row of same sized paperbacks with muted matte cover stocks bearing the names of bombastic auteurs. Faux grit. Forgive me for saying so, but it’s just weird. Sorry. Cornelius‘ books POP like comics should. Blutch’s Peplum book published by them is beautiful. It sizzles. To me anyways.

-Many leading American alt/art comics not as well known here. They say it’s because long stories are the way to go in France. The American tendency of short fractured narratives that comprise some sort of over-arching narratives don’t fly here. Even if those over arching narratives run into the hundreds of pages.

-I saw that Ben Katchor’s work got re-arranged when published here and it looked weird. They tried to make it more like a regular BD album. So the long wide book became a vertical album and skewed Katchor’s pacing. To me anyways. I think that’s the other thing here: They aren’t format crazy like we are in North America.

-And it was fun to just hang out at the bar every night. Met a lot of awesome people. It’s just a really pleasant atmosphere. I can understand French pretty well, so I think I had an easier time than most. But usually someone would step in and translate when we were all sitting around talking so it wasn’t too hard for the rest of the gang. (Hint to American cartoonists: just say “Enchante”—like this: “On Shawn Tay”—when you meet someone and then smile. Kaz put his foot in his mouth like every other hour trying greet a fan, haha.)

-Also fun to see some complete other culture that reads comics but without all the Marvel/DC bullshit. I mean, you’d see American mainstream comics here and there but it was like a blip on the radar. And I dunno, that’s kind of awesome. It felt very freeing.

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