Who read comics (yeah, yeah, yeah)

Somehow I think it is quite apt that McCartney found some enjoyment from reading Jimmy Olsen

(thanks, Tom!)

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Hello / Goodbye bubble

With vaccination rates steadily growing (at least in my country), everybody seems to be preparing for the grand reopening of social life. Will we escape from our bubbles, or has our frame of reference shrunk so much that we can only talk about ourselves? Another inventive and funny illustration by Klaas Verplancke for Belgian weeklies Knack Weekend and Le Vif Weekend.

(And for a moment I thought that the speech bubble had lost its lustre!)

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Wilhelm Busch on stamps

I recently came across two sets of stamps dedicated to German comics pioneer Wilhelm Busch. I already knew, of course, of the numerous issues that the German post office made about this author. They started with what must be the oldest set in my collection, two little stamps from 1958, commemorating the 50th anniversary of Busch’s death, and ending in an issue from 2015 on the 150th anniversary of his most famous creation, Max und Moritz.

In 2008 the neighboring country of Liechtenstein did their own issue on the centenary of Busch’s death, with eight stamps featuring his most famous creations. The stamps have a nice silver finish in the lettering, but I can’t say I’m over the moon about the bland PhotoShop colouring. I understand the aim was to emulate the watercolours that were added to the illustrations, but this just looks lousy.

I’m more enthralled with this other little set of three sheetlets, each telling a short Max Und Moritz story in four images, complete with rhyming couplets in German and English. They are an issue from the Penrhyn Atoll, which is part of the Northern Cook Islands in the Pacific Ocean, smack on the official date line.

I guess those are the most exotic in my albums, or at least they’ve traveled the longest distance. And in these the colouring is spot on. Incidentally, they were issued in the International Year of the Child, 1979, which also was the year my dad gave me the new Tintin stamp, which started all this madness.

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Anima with Pieter de Poortere

When Pieter de Poortere creates the poster for a major event like next year’s Anima, the Brussels international festival for animated film, you know you’re in for a treat.

De Poortere opted to visualise the iconic Flagey building, which hosts the festival, almost completely submerged by the rising sea level. But don’t fear, this is not just a comment on the consequences of climate change, this is fun! His anti-hero Boerke looks on, rather fed up by the gulls that are defecating all over him, as other Brussels landmarks like the Atomium and the Media tower sink away in the background.

All the while sea creatures have a field day, flexing their muscles, having ice cream and enjoying a movie of their own. And have you tried to spot all references to animation classics?

(Illustration © Pieter De Poortere / De Hofleveranciers)

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Ever covers Kevin

Just when everybody’s talking about his splendid new book for Louis Vuitton, in which he guides you through the big buildings and petit histoire of Brussels, Ever Meulen just goes ahead and creates his first Humo cover in years. Just in time for Euro 2020, it features Kevin de Bruyne with his typical nr 7 and a rather atypical grin.

(Illustration by Ever Meulen, courtesy DPG Media nv)

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Who read comics again?

Even while making the uber cool polar Le Clan des Siciliens, Alain Delon kept it real when it came to his reading material. Mille sabords!

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Scouts are smurf!

The official UK Scouts store currently has a number of items for sale featuring Belgian creator Peyo’s little blue dwarves doing all kinds of scouty things. I picked the badges, because, well, scouts love badges, but they also have key rings, T-shirts, hoodies, and the like.

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Say it with pictures!

The Australia Council For The Arts commissioned a report on how graphic storytelling (comics, story maps, persona journeys) work, and how cartoonists, illustrators and comickers can make a difference in getting a message across.

Not only did the team (led by Pat Grant and Gabriel Clark) come up with some very interesting insights on how visual thinkers work and how their talents can be applied in a variety of processes and projects, they also present it in the only way that would fit the message : as a set of huge comics-like posters. All materials (including the actual report, a full A0 version of the poster, and a web friendly comic version) are available from the project’s website.

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LeVine is back!

Like I said before, the shelves in my office are filled with books by people that seem to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Once the words from gods on my Olympos, their often faded spines now seem to hide themselves behind their familiarity, invisible by just being there.

One of these books is Jef Levine’s The Days Go By Like Broken Records (Slave Labor Graphics, 1995), a collection of stories from his comics No Hope, Help and Life Makes My Head Hurt, that are often hilarious, sometimes painful or just silly, and fairly autobiographical (one assumes). Above all, it’s a pretty accurate depiction of what sociologists started calling Generation X, men and women in their 20s, stuck in menial jobs and boredom, without opportunities and, quite often, aspirations.

I must have read that book a thousand times. I can still recount stories from it by heart.  It was rougher, more on-the-nose than anything by Tomine, Matt or Porcellino (to name some other deities from said Olympos) were doing. It unsettled me to no end. But then comics grew up (and so did I), got fancy hard backs and covered a larger spectrum of subjects. And I forgot about LeVine.

But now he’s back. Like any survivor of the early aughts, he’s on Instagram, doing short autobiographical comics that seem to be made for this kind of medium. His artwork is more refined; he seems to have found a line that he is at ease with and that allows him to express himself without resorting to cartoony characters. And the stories too seem to be more relaxed, more — dare I say it — matured. This is an addition to my feed that will keep me going back for more.

(Thanks, Jeff, and thanks, Marc for the pointer!)

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Respect your elders!

I was notified of these panels from the quite excellent Les Routes de La Défaite (Le Merlu 1, Paquet 2019), a harrowing story from the early months of the Second World War in France, when fugitives roamed the land and control posts were all over. Rather than just present a group of anonymous extras in these scenes at the Demarkationslinie, artist Jérome Phalippou cleverly makes them look strangely similar to celebrated characters from classic comics in the Spirou tradition.

We see Fantasio, Benoît Brisefer, the mayor of Champignac (and the count), but also a guy on a bike that looks a lot like Frank Pé’s Brousaille.

Later in the album, another checkpoint has the whole crew from the detective agency from Maurice Tillieux’s Gil Jourdan held up by the Germans, including inspector Crouton.

I thoroughly enjoy it when cartoonists explicitly take their place in a tradition, a specific medium with its own history, its legends, its continuity. Cartoonists who nudge their readers with references, quotations or cameo appearances, show they are part of the same group, that they understand, and that we’re all standing on the shoulders of giants.

(artwork from Le Merlu 1Les Routes de La Défaite by Thierry Dubois and Jérome Phalippou, Paquet 2020, with thanks to Les Amis de Spirou, who keep the flame alive)

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