Today on the site, Cynthia Rose has our obituary for the French painter and cartoonist Alex Barbier.
Barbier was twice hailed with exhibitions at Angoulême: the first in 1994, the second in 2015. But his real moment of glory came in the late 1970s, via the pages of alternative journal Charlie mensuel. It was there he premiered a series called Lycaons (Wild Dogs). The stories appeared as an album in 1979 and were republished in 2003. Their title alludes to mythology, to Hesiod and Ovid's tales of God being served a slaughtered child (or children) for dinner.
What caused waves was less the story than Barbier's style. His tale did feature aliens, sex between boys, and animals in human form. But it steered as clear of narrative as it did of typical structures. Its text was hyper-cryptic, its chronology scrambled, and there was no space at all between the frames. Barbier's art, fluid and sculptural, was neither truly figurative nor really abstract – and it was drawn in something he called "ligne brouillée". While "brouillé" means "blurry" or "scrambled," the verb from which it comes can also mean "to be at loggerheads."
At the start of Lycaons, Barbier was 25. Before his obligatory year of army service, he had been working as an art instructor. But after one academic year, he was fired. (A telegram told him this was because of his "subversive attitude.") Was it really his red-dyed hair and his love of leopard-skin? "They may have fired me," he sniffed, "but they won't forget me."
Some of the ligne brouillée was derived from Barbier's first materials. Having purchased an inventory of vintage inks secondhand, he discovered that many had dried up in their bottles. He managed to dilute these with something called Correc-bille, a product for reactivating cranky ballpoint pens. The artist started to use these inks, as well as the fluid itself, almost like watercolor. The way he did it is now seen as an important early instance of "colour directe."
—News. The great cartoonist, illustrator, and author Tomi Ungerer died this weekend at the age of 87. We will have more coverage about this soon, but in the meantime, please read our excerpt from Gary Groth's interview with Ungerer if you haven't yet had the chance.
We also recently re-published David Mazzucchelli's great 2017 interview with the late Ted Stearn.
Local Pennsylvania newspaper the Butler Eagle has dropped Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur strip, after discovering a "hidden message" seeming to say "Go Fuck Yourself, Trump" written in one corner of the strip.
—Reviews & Commentary. Sally McGrane reviews Ally Fitzgerald's Drawn to Berlin.
ALI FITZGERALD’S Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe begins, wonderfully, with a drawing of the Plaza Hotel in New York. “Amira liked my book of Eloise’s misadventures in the Plaza Hotel,” Fitzgerald writes about a teenaged Syrian refugee who, along with her family, survived the harrowing journey to Germany in the early days of the refugee crisis that reached Europe in 2015.
Juxtaposed with the drawing of the Plaza’s turrets and flags is a picture of “the bubble,” the squat, inflatable emergency shelter for incoming refugees, where Amira lives — and where Fitzgerald, a Berlin-based American comic artist, volunteered to teach comic drawing classes. “I couldn’t imagine two more different places to spend your youth.”
Brian Nicholson reviews Kickliy's Perdy.
You can find pretty great sketches the artist has executed online, but working sequentially here it seems his intention was primarily to keep the forward momentum going, rather than give the reader images to pore over. This is normally a smart idea, cartooning 101, but actually reading the book, I wanted it to be shorter, more clever, and more concise, and all of those things seem like they would’ve resulted from a more considered approach.