Last night I went to the French Institute in London to hear a talk by two of France's top comics creators, Ted Benoit and Emmanuel Guibert as part of the Comica series. While I was in Provence a couple months ago, I saw lots of old copies of Blake and Mortimer series for sale in the markets, so I was a little bit aware of his work, but Guibert is a new find for me. There was a rush for seats at the start, so I sat at the back with tozocomic, rainboworchid and his wife Ellie, Maartje Schalkx, Sarah Lightman, a Scotsman named Euan and Catrina MacLeod, who's doing her PhD on women in comics. Since I could catch glimpses of the overhead screen but couldn't see the speakers from there, I did a lot of doodling in my notes:
Have a look at some of Ted Benoit's artwork here. I was interested by Benoit's fascination with 1950s America, and his assertion that 'Americans don't draw America very well', that their pictures are 'too dramatic', while he likes a more documentary style look at the landscape which he only finds in underground comics there. He cited American influences on his work, particularly Robert Crumb, and talked about his conscious decision to take on Herge's style of ligne claire drawing; he didn't see it as copying, more that Hergé's established style can be used as a tool, like a pen.
Guibert turned out to be a captivating speaker. (Read an article by Paul Gravett about him here.) I was very moved by his description of getting to know an old American soldier, Alan, and the depth of their relationship as Guibert listened to Alan tell stories of wartime, and later, his childhood, up to the time he died. Guibert has produced three books about the man, now compiled into one, La Guerre d'Alan, and he's also going to come out with a book about Alan's childhood. Here you can see a video of his strange but effective working technique for Alan's War with ink and water. (It's not clear what's happening at first, but it all falls into place at the end):
YouTube link here
(You can also see a video of Guibert with his guitar playing a song from Alan's War here.)
Both artists did signings afterward and I took some photos. Here's one Guibert did for Euan, a real masterpiece. Euan said, 'hey, I got two for one!' when he saw how it had bled through to the next page.
And another lovely one by Guibert:
And here's a rather blurry picture of Paul Gravett, the Man at the Crossroads, and the one who's made it all happen. And that's comics man David O'Connell to his left and Paul's website designer, Tim Webber, to his right.