Tentacle Tuesday: Franco-Belgian Edition, Part II

The world of tentacles is colourful and varied – and very much multi-lingual. For those of our readers who have no access to comics in French (or any idea where to start looking for them), we present this gallery of Gallic comics. For an earlier peek into ze tentacules, visit part I – Tentacle Tuesday: The Franco-Belgian Edition. In case you’re wondering what the heck are Franco-Belgian comics, An Introduction to Franco-Belgian Comics gives a good overview.

Sans plus tarder

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What a glorious scene! In this dream sequence, Philippe Caza’s protagonist (clearly a stand-in for himself) battles an octopus that wanted an easy meal and suffered the consequences. This story is called Épaves, which translates in much-more-prosaic-in-English to “shipwrecks”. It was part of Caza’s Scènes de la vie de banlieue cycle, published between 1975 to 1979. Visit Philippe Caza’s Surreal Suburbia for more information.

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Caza draws tentacles often and with pleasure. You can keep your Moebius.

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View at Medium.com

Going into slightly less obscure waters, we have a page from Joann Sfar‘s « Petit vampire» series, its 7 volumes published between 1999 and 2005. I deem it somewhat less obscure because part of it has actually been published in English, and that’s how success is measured these days, right? Only the first 3 volumes of Little Vampire have been translated, but that’s better than nothing. In France, Petit vampire is pretty popular, so much so that it has been made into an animated series.

The following page hails from Volume 4: Petit vampire et la maison qui avait l’air normale, or Little Vampire and the House That Seemed Normal, published by Delcourt in 2002.

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Here’s a rough translation of the text: « On the road, the soldiers had slaughtered everything they encountered. The Menitsnik, below, was hearing the sound of their boots. He was hearing the explosions. And for once, he wasn’t indifferent, for he knew that this army was heading towards his home. The soldiers began to descend into the lake. One by one, they were crushed by the tentacles. The Menitsnik was crazed with anger because the more soldiers he killed, the more there were to kill. »

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Speaking of Sfar, I’ll mosey along to the Donjon series (Dungeon in English), created by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim. The latter is another not-to-be-missed artist on the Franco-Belgian comics scene, at the very least because he’s one of the founders of L’Association. To explain:

« L’Association is a French publishing house which publishes comic books. It was founded in May 1990 by Jean-Christophe Menu, Lewis Trondheim, David B., Mattt Konture, Patrice Killoffer, Stanislas, and Mokeït. L’Association is one of the most important publishers to come out of the new wave of Franco-Belgian comics in the 1990s, and remains highly regarded, having won numerous awards at the Angoulême International Comics Festival. They were among the first to publish authors such as Joann Sfar and Marjane Satrapi, and also are known for publishing French translations of the work of North American cartoonists like Julie Doucet and Jim Woodring. »|source|

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 Excerpt from Donjon Zénith: Cœur de canard (Delcourt, 1998), written by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Trondheim.

I only stumbled upon Donjon, a sort of tongue-in-cheek parody of role-playing games, recently. It has a sprawling structure consisting of 5 sub-divisions into stories tied by a common theme – originally the authors were aiming to release 300 volumes (with the help of many contributing artists floating around L’Association), with 36 volumes published so far. It’s more than a handful for someone who’s just starting to read the stuff… but the world is compelling, with a rich array of appealing (if flawed) characters and a complex mythology. It may technically be a parody, but the stories are poignant and imaginative, the language is delightfully playful. Some of the themes are surprisingly dark… this is far from being another dumb Dungeons and Dragons spoof.

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Page from Donjon Zénith: Coeur de canard (Delcourt, 1998), written by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Trondheim. This volume is full to the gills with tentacles, thanks to the Cthulhian overlords (in pointy red hats) who want to take over the Dungeon.

« I am Octo! The chicken-octopus ninja!! »

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Panel from Donjon: La Princesse des barbares (Delcourt, 2000), written by Sfar and Lewis Trondheim and illustrated by Trondheim.

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Our last entry is from Valérian and Laureline, the stunningly influential French comics series created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières that director Luc Besson besmirched, besmeared and befouled. It can also be noted that a variety of movies “borrowed” from V & L’s rich science-fiction lore, most notably the Star Wars franchise. Should I be happy that more people now know about this series now that a shitty movie “based” on it came out? Nope, sorry. Besson claims to have fallen in love with Valérian et Laureline when he was 8 years old, but with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets he demonstrated quite thoroughly that he doesn’t understand the characters in the slightest and is only capable of seeing science-fiction through the lens of chintzy special effects designed to wow idiots.

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To which I’ll add that Valérian kind of transcends the science-fiction genre – or perhaps I should say that it’s science-fiction as it was originally meant to be, as an exploration of the possibilities of external and internal worlds. (Technologically upgraded cowboys shooting each other with laser guns in primitive, shallow battles between good and evil? We’ll leave that to crappy movie directors, thanks.) Its plots are elaborate (but they never defy their own internal logic), its characters complex but immensely likable.

In 2007, the series got renamed Valérian and Laureline for its 40th birthday, and I’m glad they renamed it, as Laureline is an integral part of both its appeal and its popularity. She’s every bit as intelligent and determined as her companion, and is certainly no maiden in distress, often sizing situations up quicker than Valérian and subsequently pointing him in the right direction.

~ ds

6 thoughts on “Tentacle Tuesday: Franco-Belgian Edition, Part II

  1. Krackles January 23, 2022 / 13:45

    I feel miserable tonight: The great Jean-Claude Mézières has just passed away.
    I know how much I will miss him, just like Jean Giraud, with whom I have closely associated him in my pantheon of comic book authors.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gasp65 January 23, 2022 / 20:48

      As fellow Mézières aficionados, you may rest assured that we share your grief. A tremendous loss, to be sure. But hey, a spotless career and a peaceful passing.

      Like

  2. Krackles January 24, 2022 / 08:22

    A memorable body of exemplary work, yes and more than worthy of an article dedicated to Mr Mézières, here.

    Like

    • gasp65 January 24, 2022 / 10:25

      Say, what am I — a DJ? 😉 Of course he deserves a fitting tribute, but the world will be full of them in the coming days and months, I strongly suspect.

      Like

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