Stephane Blanquet has been an active figure in the French comics field since the early 90s. He’s a prominent figure in a movement that’s been given various names: “baby art”, “art brut”, “visionary art”. In a comics context it’s one of those movements that difficult to define, but easy to recognise when it’s seen. It draws on illustrations in Victorian children’s books, underground comics, 1950s pre-code horror comics and the actual style of drawings made by children, and blends the lot into something typically rather grotesque and disturbing.
When Lorenzo Matotti’s Fires appeared 25 years ago, it was one those unexpected works that redefined what comics are capable of. It brought a painter’s sensibility to comics, and a sense of ambiguity that was rare in the medium. If I had to compile some sort of imaginary list of comics to take with me to a desert island, I’d still number it among my top ten. Since then, translations of his comics have been rare and, perhaps inevitably, none have recaptured Fires’ impact and unreal quality. Stigmata comes close to equalling that work though, and in some ways perhaps surpasses it.
Nicolas De Crecy has the naturalistic fluid line of a master cartoonist. His work in Salvatore is deceptively simple, but it suits the story with the hand of a master tailor. Although the plot appears lightweight and may be too low-key for some readers, the accumulative power of the book is tremendous.
The adventures of an alcoholic chain-smoking PI named Canardo. Closer to the work of Charles Bukowski than Walt Disney, this world weary duck has wormed his way into the clotted veins of millions of European comics fans.
An acclaimed series, taken from an award-winning series of European albums featuring the exploits of an introspective hitman, carrying out assassinations for political factions whose purposes he only slowly begins to understand. What could be better?
Another year, another slim Jason book. By rights, we should be tired of his shtick by now: poker-faced animal-humans go through the paces of a pulpy plot, with plenty of downtime for eccentric conversational digressions and an inescapable atmosphere of understated ennui.