1. Frenchy-con Report

    I had my own private Euro comics convention this past week at various sites around Paris. I lived in Paris for a year when I was in college, but I wasn’t really into comics back then (I was studying comparative literature, so I was more into picking up books by Deleuze and Guattari that I now use as book weights in the Chance Press workshop). I’ve followed French comics in the intervening years, however, and I thankfully never fully lost the language. So, upon going back to Paris for the first time in 13 years, I made it a priority to go to as many bookstores as I could, and I’m coming back with what the French call a merde-ton of books. (I’m still on the road - for work now, not fun - but expect a deluge of pictures once I get home.)

    Here are some things that I’ve thought of while over here…

    1) The French love North American cartoonists, and not just Clowes/Burns/Ware*. I saw the Michael DeForge Lose collection everywhere, Joseph Lambert was all over the place (in multiple formats), Pompeii in both languages (and quite a few Storeyvilles), Anders Nilsen, Alec Longstreth, etc. Also (not North America, but whatev), Simon Hanselmann’s book is prominently displayed in the book shop at the Centre Pompidou, which would seem like a huge deal if it weren’t already common knowledge that he’s taking over the world.

    (*I may start using Cloburware as a catch-all term for “cartoonists who have been lovingly accepted by the international fine art crowd.” Feel free to use it as necessary.)

    2) With very few exceptions, French editions are nicer than North American editions. This even includes standard bearers of quality like D&Q and Fantagraphics. (When I say nicer, I mean: they’re usually in larger format, the hardcover boards are thicker, the paper is thicker, and the binding is more durable/less prone to cracking (if softcover).) That said, they’re also more expensive, with $25 - $45 being the norm, and fatter books pushing $60. Plus, with the restrictions on retailers discounting books, keeping up with current releases is awfully pricey. 

    3) Publishing houses have more sway in French shops, to the point that many shops shelve books according to publisher. It’s not uncommon for shops to have books shelved by author for the more famous authors, and then to group books from Futuropolis, Cornelius, Dupuis, Glenat, Casterman, etc. It makes looking for books really annoying, especially if you just want to find everything by an author who has published with multiple houses. 

    4) Even more annoying, many shops don’t shelve by author at all and instead shelve by title - I get why this makes sense with a series that doesn’t have a single creator, but is there a good reason why someone looking for Tardi books should have to remember N for Nestor Burma, A for Adele Blanc Sec, M for Manchette, etc?

    5) I still don’t like the “collection” focus of French publishing houses. I don’t like that a book’s design (and sometimes even trim size) needs to be adjusted to fit a house style, and I don’t like how it ends up looking on my shelf when books that seem like they have nothing to do with each other have the same look. 

    6) Of course, the flipside to this is that even books in a collection still look great, with quite a bit of focus put on producing a quality book object (see #2). Cornelius is at the top of the heap for me, with just about everything they put out looking like a work of art. I wish I could have bought more of their books, but there was just too much else I wanted, so Chester Brown, Blexbolex, Marti, Crumb, and a bunch of others will have to wait until the next trip.

    7) It’s pretty emblematic of the high place comics occupy in French culture that even mainstream/broad-appeal bookstores have excellent comics sections. And not just the standard “Album BD” mainstream stuff… Can you imagine seeing a book like Fremok’s Cowboy Henk collection shelved within spitting distance of the kids’ books at a bookstore in the US? Or going to the books section in a department store and seeing more comics (both independent and mainstream) than you see in some US comic shops?

    8) Going to as many bookstores as I did, I got a good sense of what’s popular right now in France, which is interesting, since I was unaware of a lot of it. (Oh, and that new Ruppert and Mulot book I’ve been blogging about is EVERYWHERE.) One book, Carnation by Xavier Mussat, slowly wore me down, showing up at just about every store I went to, enticing me with its beautiful design and Craig Thompson meets David B.-esque art until I finally bought it. Expect pictures soon. 

    9) The two best bookstores I visited were Super-Heros and Le Monte en L’Air. Super-Heros is just an all-around great shop, but what sets them apart are the bookplates that they offer as a bonus with many of their books. Since books are so expensive here, it’s nice to get a signed/numbered mini print for free (free!) when you buy a book. I even managed to get an ultra-rare Tardi bookplate to go with his most recent book from Casterman. Le Monte en L’Air is a little different, since it’s a multi-subject bookstore and not a comic shop, and it’s nearly overwhelming to try to digest the shop in one visit. I was there for a half-hour before even making it back to the comics section. They have a huge selection of Le Dernier Cri and other handmade art brut books (I would have gone broke here if that stuff was more my taste), as well as cool large-format/broadsheet stuff like what Blanquet is publishing under the United Dead Artists banner. I didn’t even know about this shop, but Anders Nilsen recommended it to me a couple days ago, and I decided to make the trip. Oh, and because it’s Paris, you see this church upon leaving the store. (Justine took this photo while she sat outside waiting for me to finish my endless browse.)

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    9.5) I should also add La Comete de Carthage, a small shop and somtimes-publisher (under the name 9eme Monde) that I spent some time at too. This shop is a little different, since it’s used stuff curated/sold by a single proprietor, rather than a full-line shop with current books. Still, it’s more of a museum than a shop, since his prices are (justifiably) very high, and many books are handmade or hand printed, signed, or otherwise very rare.

    9.75) And let’s not forget the booksellers along the river who sell who-knows-what out of their green wooden kiosks. I wasn’t expecting to find much of interest to me, but you do see tons of Tintin and other classic comics, as well as quite a few Tardi books. I made the find of the entire trip when I found a pristine first printing of C’etait la guerre des tranchees just sitting in a pile of books next to a bunch of little Eiffel Tower figurines.

    10) So, to sum it up, I’m sad that I’m going to be leaving and that any future French comics purchases will have massive shipping costs to add to the high prices. I’d love to be able to meet some of the artists whose books I bought in person, so I guess I’m just going to have to depend on Bill Kartalopoulos to keep bringing them overseas for conventions, or I’ll have to save my pennies and finally make the pilgrimage to Angouleme. 

    That’s probably more than anyone on Tumblr wants to read, but it’s my last night in Paris and I felt like recapping my week in comic book paradise. And it really is paradise - don’t let my nitpicky observations convince you otherwise.

     
  2. Another stop on my French comics pilgrimage: the Place de Clichy. Celine’s Journey to the end of the Night is one of my very favorite books, and the opening scene, which takes place at a cafe here, is an absolute masterpiece. To bring it back to comics, Tardi’s depiction of this scene in his illustrated edition of Journey was my first encounter with his artwork back when I was in college. That’s me standing in front of the statue, hopefully not acting like a modern day Arthur Ganate.

     
  3. Here I am on my pilgrimage to Librairie Super-Heros in Paris. This has to be the best comic book store I have ever been to - I did some damage here, that’s for sure. 

     
  4. When it comes to collecting, I’m most persistent about tracking down artwork by Luigi Serafini. It has been a constant presence in my life for almost a decade, and I’ve spent hours digging and digging to find his work tucked away under rocks and in obscure corners - especially for an American who doesn’t speak a word of Italian.

    So, one of my alerts alerted me to this book series, about which I know nothing except that Serafini contributed illustrations. I contacted the publisher asking for more info, and in the course of emailing about my collecting habit, he asked if I wanted him to get Serafini to sign my copies. Lucky break, right? Well, what I didn’t expect was full-page inscriptions bearing my name, rendered in Serafini’s made-up language from the Codex Seraphinianus. I was literally short of breath when I opened these books and realized what I had. That’s pretty much the moment every collector lives for.

    The books are very nice, too - the illustrations are printed on textured paper that is heavier than the rest of the pages, and most of these images are new to me, which is a bonus as well.

     
  5. Really nice signed copy of Widowpane #2 by Joe Kessler. I’m new to Joe’s work, but I’m really digging it. Great use of Riso printing in this comic, too - it’s neat to see certain artists (John Pham comes to mind as well) explore the possibilities that Riso offers.

     
  6. Two Kevin Huizenga originals that Chris Diaz was nice enough to pick up for me at TCAF. 

     
  7. Final fantasy burger comission from Jason Fischer. This turned out to be quite amazing, and it’s a prime example of why, when ordering commissions, I never get more specific than just a few words (in this case, those words were “rainbow burger”). My thinking is that, if I like an artist’s work enough to approach them out of the blue and give them money, I’ll probably dig whatever they come up with anyway, so sending detailed specifications about how I want a dolphin riding a skateboard while listening to an 80’s-style walkman secured to its dorsal fin with an elastic band, all set in front of the backdrop of Oslo in the 1950s is probably unnecessarily restrictive. 

     
  8. My friend and coworker Danielle Schroeder does these really cool illustrated cocktail recipes for a foodie magazine in Cleveland. I scanned this one for her, and I figured that I might as well post it here as well.

     
  9. Here’s Jodorowsky and Moebius with L’Incal Noir, specially printed and bound by Editions Hennebelle in France. Hennebelle’s books are unquestionably the nicest cartoon art editions ever realized - they’re entirely printed by hand or via a fine art inkjet printer, and they’re handbound in boards complete with a ribbon bookmark and silk headband. This particular book is is silkscreened in one color, except for a few panels that have been done in multiple colors (including one produced as a standalone print).

    Hennebelle is currently taking orders for a second volume that will be presented in a clamshell case sized to fit both books. I’ve already sent my deposit!

    (Apologies that these photos aren’t very good, partially due to the lighting, and partially due to the size of this book making it difficult to photograph.) 

     
  10. Here’s a video I made of the binding process for the deluxe edition of A Deitch Miscellany. I had already covered the outer edge of each board in cloth, so this documents the process of combining the boards into a case structure that will hold the book’s contents. (I sped this up a bunch to make it a tad less boring, too.)

    Here’s a summary of the process:

    1. The boards are attached to the spine piece. While I use the grid lines on my cutting mat to line up most of the components, I’m actually using guide lines drawn onto the spine piece for this part. (There’s a long entry I wrote a while back about how I figure out where to put the guide lines.) 

    2. Because the spine piece is made from very thick paper, it needs to be scored and then carefully folded to make sure that it creases in the right place. Then, once that’s done, I go over the back of the spine with my folding tool to flatten it out. I was very slightly off on this one (not uncommon with a book this large), so I had to trim some excess of the spine piece before moving to step 3.

    3. Then I cover the spine with cloth, taking care to make sure the spine still creases in the right place after the cloth has been applied. 

    4. Next comes the back cover (gray paper) - I line it up with the grid lines on the cutting mat and check it with my right angle tool before smoothing it out. A little bit of adhesive was sticking out from under one of the edges, so I picked up an adhesive eraser and cleaned that up.

    That’s it for this part - next comes the front cover and interior components, which I’ll document in another video. (I don’t actually have the front covers back from the printer yet.)