Sunday, May 28, 2023

L'Autoroute du soleil


L’Autoroute du Soleil, by Baru.

This graphic novel was published in 1995.

The story follows two young adults running from 

People trying to kill them. It’s a buddy road trip movie. The title of the book refers to the main highway that connects the south of France to the Northern part of it. ( not the ONLY road, but it’s a cool name. It translates to “ The Highway of the sun”

At the time, I hadn’t yet read a graphic novel like this.

Black and white, it was long too. Over 400 pages. It felt real.

I had known of Baru’s work for a while by then. He had done a book or a series, I can’t remember called “Quequette Blues” I think it was published in a magazine like A suivre or Pilote. I wasn’t interested in it. I was probably too young then to connect to stories that felt SO MUCH like real life.

But when L’Autoroute du Soleil came out, it felt like I knew the characters in the book.

Not only that, but it felt like this was a story that could’ve really happened.

Put back in the context of the time, most of the stories in graphic novel form I was exposed to were either super hero comics or stuff like Tintin and Asterix( I mean, not JUST that but mostly that). The OTHER type of comic form I would see in stores was adult only stuff.

So when I found L’autoroute du Soleil, it was a shock. It felt like a movie on paper.

Everything about it worked. The graphic nature of the characters, They were not pretty. Not all of them. Some were down right ugly, just like in real life.

People coming in and out of the story. Having an impact then disappearing, like a person you meet on the train and is gone at the next stop.
I grew up in the south of France and when the main characters stop for a while in the South, I thought I could hear the cicadas and feel the heat of long summer days

The staging, editing, the rhythm of the story felt like it was shot with a camera. The story itself was a very urbane, believable story with (almost) believable human reactions. There was just enough “extra” to make you want to read more. The night shots felt moody and real and the sequences where the characters relax on the beach feel breezy, sunny and fun. I wasn’t used to author who were so comfortable in light sequences as well as moody, tense moments. 

It was the beginning of an era where I could see graphic novels as a full art. Not for kids, not for bizarre stories that no one would read or care for, but for very mature, skillfully crafted movies on paper. This book didn’t have color and I didn’t even notice. It was that engrossing.

I re read the book a few weeks ago and I am STILL completely involved in the story.

I feel these stories are more common today.

I find similar real life feelings in some mangas. There are some American Graphic Novel artist that have been going down that road as well and I love it.

Baru has done other amazing books since then.

He did one about a boxer a little later that I find absolutely amazing as well.

I believe he is still active and whenever I get a chance to find some of his work, I’ll read it.

#Baru #L’autoroute du Soleil

Saturday, May 20, 2023

La nuit du chat

 La Nuit du chat is a graphic novel in the series “ Broussaille” by Franke Pe and Michel Bom.

I still remember reading this one for the first time, back in high school.

It changed my entire perception of what stories could be. To this day, it is still my all time favorite graphic novel because of the impact it’s had on me personally and my career( It doesn’t help that I’ve met Frank Pe a few years ago and he was just as lovely, charming and intelligent as his characters are).

There are a few things about this series and this character that impacted me.

First, it’s just beautiful. The simplistic characters in these gorgeous environments, the feeling of light and shadows is masterful. Every album is dripping with heat, mood, rainy weather. In the first book of the series, Les Balinese Publiques, the sky Is overcast and I could feel the wet pavement and the smell of petrichor. In the second one, Les Sculpteurs de Lumiere, the main character BROUSSAILLE goes to visit his uncle for the summer and the feeling of summer sun is incredible. 

But, the one that astounds me every time I re read it is La suit du chat with it’s voyeur like camera work. 

The second thing that broke and opened my mind was the story.

There are NO bad guys in this book. No big plot to save the world. It’s not a love story, not in the romantic comedy style at least. It’s just a simple story of a young man looking for his cat at night, in his neighborhood. There is a LOT happening in that one night and we meet interesting characters throughout.

One in particular stood out to me. A retired miner worker. One of the most extraordinary characters I’ve read in graphic novels.

There is a portion of the book where Broussaille is seeing inside people’s apartment. He’s outside on a wall looking at the facade of the building and sees through the windows. I realize how much of my work has been inspired by this and I didn’t even realize it till years later.

I bought this book when I was 15. I still have the original copy of that book and I take it with me every time I move. I re read it at least a few times a year.

I don’t know how easy it is to find in the US but if you could find it, I HIGHLY recommend it.