Monday, April 9, 2007

Cartoonists I'd Like to See Translated 4: David Prudhomme

When I was living in Paris, I was running a little early to my weekly French class and I ducked into a stationary store to buy a pen and kill a little time. In France, comics are sold in most stores that books are sold, and books are sold in more kinds of stores than in America, including stationary stores. However, most of the comics found in stores like this are pretty mainstream genre type stuff and not terribly interesting. With this in mind, I was pretty shocked to come across Etienne Davodeau and David Prudhomme’s La Tour des Miracles de Georges Brassens, printed by mainstream publisher Delcourt.

I guess the mainstream hook is that the book is about an extremely popular French singer/songwriter from the 50’s. Prudhomme’s artwork however, is something I would expect to see out of a L’Association book (if they printed in color). It is drawn in pencil, ink, color pencil, watercolor, and whatever else may have been near Prudhomme’s drawing table. One of the things that I just love about it is that elements of the drawing are not always handled in the same way. Sometimes Prudhomme lets some scribbled pencil underdrawing show through the painting, or he will have erased out someone’s face and let the rubbed out hole remained unfinished. At other times, he will draw over more opaque paint with color pencil or ink. It’s an approach that reminds me a bit of Picasso in that elements within a page or even a panel are fluctuating between translucent and opaque, very loose and more carefully rendered, areas of intense, busy linework, and more open spaces of pure color or blank paper. It takes a lot of skill to be able to bring together all of these various elements and not have a mess. It’s especially difficult in the context of a comic page where one has many self-contained pictures co-existing on a page. It is Prudhomme’s strength however to keep the chaos just under control; he benefits from the energy that the tension creates.

As far as what the book is about, I’m not very sure. I’m guessing that since the comic credits list Etienne Davodeau and David Prudhomme as adapting La Tour des Miracles, then I would assume it was originally a song or maybe a memoir. Brassens is a character who appears to be surrounded by a bunch of lunatic friends. Half the book takes place in Paris, the other half, I’m guessing, the south of France. I would think that since it is about a French singer that most people in English speaking North America haven’t heard of, an English translation isn’t coming any time soon, but if you find yourself going on a trip to France, hunt this one down. Its really fantastic.

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