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If I Was the Pope

Today we feature the return of Matthias Wivel's Eurocomics column, and it's been way too long. In this installment, Matthias writes in depth about the work of French-Beninese artist Yvan Alagbé, and his recent return to the characters from one of his key books. But Matthias also examines the artists' group Amok, the sociopolitical legacy of French colonialism, and much more. Here's a sample:

Alagbé’s brush-and-ink cartooning is alternately lush and sparse, scruffy and exacting, black and white, with echoes of Muñoz and Aristophane Boulon. He selectively lends texture to areas of focus, while leaving others defined only by contour. Although he makes selective use of symbolic passages, he is a realist at heart, attentive to facial and bodily expression. At times he errs on the side of the obvious, but he also occasionally catches real moments of ambiguity as well as emotional clarity—the combination of apprehension, skepticism, boredom, and impotence drawn on the faces of the siblings listening to Mario’s tales of African adventure; the genuine expression of affection shown by Mario as he speaks to his daughter on the phone; and so on, moment after moment.

Alagbé modulates his rendering skillfully. Everybody, whatever the color of their skin, alternately appears lighter or darker, and specific physiognomic traits, particularly those of the black Africans, are occasionally emphasized to contrast strongly with their white surroundings, reflecting the social context. The point, however, seems to be that in a graphic world consisting uniquely of black marks on white paper, everybody is black.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Interviews & Profiles. Chris Ware follows Robert Crumb as the second cartoonist to get major interview treatment in The Paris Review. They've posted an excerpt of Jeet Heer's talk with Ware online. Brian Heater at Publishers Weekly catches up with John Porcellino before the impending release of his Hospital Suite. The Atlantic talks to Pat Oliphant. Paul Karasik interviews Jules Feiffer in comics form. Alan Moore talks Lovecraft. Liz Prince talks about growing up a tomboy.

—Reviews & Commentary. Paul Constant on Jim Woodring's Jim. Robert Wringham on R. Crumb. Sarah Moroz on Quentin Blake. Robert Boyd on a variety of different comics.

—Misc. Michael J. Vassallo has more on Stan Goldberg. Gene Luen Yang gave a well-received speech on diversity at the National Book Festival. Small Press Previews may turn out to be very useful.


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