Of new realism With biting satire, gritty black, and postmodern sci-fi, these are graphic novels that will stick with you long after the last page.
Comics (BD for short) are known as the “ninth art” in France and Belgium. The medium extends well beyond Tintin; Comics are read more by adults than by teenagers. BD is a vehicle for experimental ideas, nihilism, eroticism, melancholy and the occasional reinvented universe.
Here are 9 of the best classic French graphic novels:
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The world accepted Persepolis like a literary work like no other graphic novel since Art Spiegelman Maus. The autobiography of a young Iranian woman who speaks to both God and Karl Marx makes us laugh by dealing with torture, death, martyrdom and misogyny.
French Iranian author, Marjane Satrapi, has achieved the rare feat for a cartoonist to adapt his own work for the cinema – her current of conscience film was nominated for a 2008 Oscar. But read the book first. It is a powerful antidote to the hysteria and growing paranoia of the refugees. Satrapi herself almost died of hypothermia on the streets of Vienna as a homeless migrant.
The Incal series by MÅbius and Alejandro Jodorowsky
Jean Giraud was the Picasso of French comics. Fellini, one of his biggest fans, compared him to Matisse. At the time of his death in 2012, Giraud left behind a superhuman work spanning nearly 60 years. The realism of its humanist Blueberry western series – with an American hero modeled on the physical model of Jean-Paul Belmondo – have given way to some of the most surreal science fiction ever created. Under his pseudonym MÅbius, Giraud also invented worlds for cinemas, producing storyboards for Ridley Scott’s Extraterrestrial, Tron by Disney, The fifth Element by Luc Besson, and Star Wars, Episode V.
Jerusalem: Chronicles of the Holy City by Guy Delisle
For years, Guy Delisle was an expatriate father – his wife worked for MÃ©decins Sans FrontiÃ¨res (MSF) and he would accompany her, take care of their young children and put his pen to the pulse of places like Burma, Shenzhen and Jerusalem. His graphic travelogue, Jerusalem: Chronicles of the Holy City, made the The New York Times List of best-selling graphic novels and won France’s most prestigious animation award, the Fauve d’Or, for best graphic novel.
It was trench warfare through Jacques Tardi
“The only thing that interests me is the man and his suffering”, writes the French cartoonist in the preface, “and that fills me with rage”. Tardi’s drawings are in clear line, a style developed by HergÃ©, the creator of Tintin. Tardi portrays life in the trenches in gruesome, hyperrealistic detail, translating memories of his grandfather’s trenches into a store of horrors.
In the kitchen with Alain Passard by Christophe Blain
Two of the most talented French people in their respective professions, comics and cooking, worked for three years on this graphic non-fiction work. One of the greatest chefs in the world, Passard shocked the culinary world in 2001 when he announced he was “tired of cooking animals” and would devote himself to vegetables like beets and celery. Blain drew thousands of colorful Passard panels in his kitchen and gardens for the book while Passard contributed 15 recipes although he “never writes one”.
Asterix: Abodes of the Gods by RenÃ© Goscinny & Albert Uderzo
The fact that Asterix can be read on many levels (and by children of all ages) has obscured the brilliant political satire of the writings of RenÃ© Goscinny and the works of Albert Uderzo. âMansions,â written just a few years after the French riots of May 1968, is a ruthless critique of technocracy, horrific high-rise architecture, and senseless publicity. But what a happy ending! Roman soldiers and slaves form unions, go on strike and get better wages and conditions. Trees grow back as if by magic, preventing deforestation. A cinema version was rated “one of the best animated films of the year” in 2016.
Tintin in Tibet by HergÃ©
Of all the world adventures that HergÃ© created in half a century of drawing, this was his favorite. The reporter boy Tintin became the first fictional character to receive the Dalai Lama’s Truth of Light award (in 2006) for this book, in honor of the character’s quest to find a lost friend after a plane crash. in Tibet. There are no guns, violence or bad guys. But be prepared for deadly avalanches, sheer cliffs, plane crashes, rapids, and a not-so-abominable snowman. HergÃ©’s friendship with Chinese artist and sculptor Zhang was clearly an inspiration, although HergÃ© had not seen him for several decades when he wrote the story. They met in 1981.
The snowdrop by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette
This dystopian masterpiece reads as if it had been drawn yesterday. But it actually took over 30 years to finally publish it in English. The Transperceneige takes place in the not-so-distant future where climate change has killed almost all life on the planet. A few survivors managed to board the Snowdrop, a self-propelled train circling the frozen earth. The one percent travel in the front of the train, in luxury, while a mass of frigid people in the back of the train do unspeakable things to survive. Korean director Bong Joon-ho film version (starring Chris Evans and Tilda Swinton) was arguably one of the best movies of 2013.
ValÃ©rian and the City of a Thousand Planets by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude MÃ©ziÃ¨res
This most popular comic book series of all time in France is almost unknown to Americans. Thousand planets is the second of the adventures of ValÃ©rian, pilot of high-voltage space and of the beautiful Laureline, a medieval peasant woman who became a space-time agent. She may be redhead but she will remind you very much of Princess Leia. In reality, Valerian seems to have been a major influence to Star wars.