RENÉ GOSCINNY and ALBERT UDERZO Astérix and Cleopatra, 2000. Círculo de Lectores.
In 1978 Will Eisner reinvented the medium after publishing A Contract With God, which is considered to be the first graphic novel. Designed with a book format, this comic comprises a series of short stories that take place in the Bronx during the Depression years. Eisner achieves the narrative and expressive strength of comics by breaking off the frames of both frames and balloons. More recently, this format has become very popular in Europe, enabling an adaptation of comic editions for an adult audience. Underground comics are also a noteworthy phenomenon. Emerging in the late 60s as a peculiar manifestation among other alternative movements, underground comics have Gilbert Shelton and Robert Crumb as their most recognized figures –the latter is said to be the Woody Allen of comics. In the last few years, independent comics in the U.S. have been kept alive and strong by such authors as Peter Bagge and his series Hate, Adrian Tomine, with his quotidian comics that are full of silence, Joe Matt and his wounding autobiographic frames, Chris Ware and his fascinating Cartesian narrative, or Seth, an author who sketches his characters’ mood through angst-ridden atmospheres.
Hurray for the BD! In Europe, the popularization of comics was made possible through satiric graphic humor publications and illustrated magazines for general or child audiences, in a tradition that dates back to the end of the 19th century. If we had to choose European comics’ biggest heroes, i.e. those who are recognizable for many generations of readers, two names would come to our minds immediately: Tintin and Asterix. Tintin’s adventures were first published on January 10, 1929 –narrating the brave reporter’s trip to the USSR. This comic first appeared in Le Petit Vingtième, a weekly children’s supplement of the Belgian ultraconservative newspaper Le Vingtième Siegle –which determined the series’ ideology in its beginnings. A note in the first frame warned: “Le Petit Vingtième, always eager to satisfy its readers and keep them informed about whatever happens abroad, has just sent one of its best reporters to Soviet Russia: Tintin! Week after week, our readers will be able to follow his adventures in these pages.” Indeed, this serial 14 · ARTECONTEXTO · DOSSIER
system generated a great expectation to follow Tintin’s weekly adventures and his denunciation of power abuses in the Stalinist regime. Nevertheless, far from creating an ideologized hero, Hergé managed to develop a new hero that would use his journalistic vocation as an alibi for traveling the world and living incredible adventures. However, Tintin wouldn’t be the same were it not for a number of secondary characters that eventually played important roles in the stories–among which we must first mention Tintin’s dog, Milú, or grumpy Captain Haddock. Through the years, Hergé’s comic suffered a process of maturation that reflected the author’s own mood shifts. Friendship between Tintin and Chang, which began in The Blue Lotus and was continued in Tintin in Tibet, constitutes one of the most emotive episodes ever depicted in comics. As for Asterix, it’s a trans-generational social phenomenon –its last book, The Sky is Falling upon Us, sold more than three million units. A masterpiece written by René Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo, Asterix became a francophone icon that was opposed to imperial invasions, both Roman and American, whose candid traveler protagonist rapidly made millions of friends around the world. Goscinny’s ingenious and humorous plots captivate the reader from the first frame. Even after Goscinny’s death, Uderzo continued the series, which is now a trademark that generates large incomes by selling its rights for movie productions or merchandising products. The most recent best-selling boom in France is Titeuf, a preteen created by Zep with a Bart Simpson-inspired life philosophy. This character also has its own TV cartoon show. The expansion of France’s editorial industry –the biggest in Europe–in the last decades has opened new channels for French authors to demonstrate the variety and quality of their fruitful creativity. Jacques Tardi has recreated Leo Malet’s noir series and portrayed the crudest episodes in French history in such albums as The Trench War or the saga The People’s Cry. Moebius has fascinated us with comics that boast plenty of fantasy, while Jean Giraud’s enticing westerns starring Blueberry have also captivated many readers. On another front François Bourgeon has established the basic traits of contemporary historical comics with his The Wind Travelers. Or, for acid humor about
Dossier: COMIC WORLD / MUNDO CÓMIC 2006