We’ve been very lucky here at the FPI blog – the more we have tried to expand our range (both in the webstore’s graphic novels and in terms of stories covered here) to include news about comics, books and animation from outside the UK-US markets we’re familiar with, the more we’ve found like-minded folks who have been happy to share comics news from their corner of the globe with us. Wim Lockefeer has been posting news and looking at comics in Belgium (and the rest of Europe) for some time on The Ephemerist, including a number of European works we don’t always get to hear about here. Kenny asked him nicely and Wim generously agreed to drop us some posts from Europe to share what’s going on, who’s got new work out we should be paying attention to and generally to expand our comics world that bit more, so please enjoy the first of Wim’s ‘Continental Correspondent’ posts here (with more to come, I’m pleased to say) and don’t forget to swing by The Ephemerist blog as well.
Joe the Eskimo
Every so often, books come out that are just screaming for attention, but just don’t get any. Recently, Bries published the new book by cartoonist Pieter De Poortere, arguably the best young humorist in Belgium. “Joe the Eskimo” tells the tale of “a funny thing happening on my way to Valentine’s Day”. Joe is an Eskimo, living on the North Pole and making a living battering baby seals. His life is a bore, really, full of traffic jams, police harassment and demanding bosses. Even his hopes for a Valentine’s Day date vanish when he ends up in prison for crashing into Santa Claus’ sled and tries to make a run for it with a polar bear. But everything ends up nicely. Don’t ask.
(cover to Joe the Eskimo by Pieter de Poortere, published by Bries)
Judging from De Poortere’s style, this book is for kids. It’s full of cuddly figures having all kinds of jolly adventures, and the art, even though the colours are muted, is very clear. Kids could as well read it, if they can stand a bit of violence (e.g. a walrus stuck in a meat grinder). However, they won’t get the little jokes that the book is loaded with (if you want to escape from a polar prison, pee against the walls), and especially the references to topical affairs, such as global warming or immigration. And even though De Poortere has toned down his venom compared with his previous books, it’s still very ironic and more of a grin than a belly laugh.
(preview page of Joe the Eskimo, borrowed from the Bries site)
Like I said, it’s in colour and, as is the case with every Bries edition, it’s beautifully produced, with a cardboard cover and all. And it’s (almost) without text, so monolingual island dwellers (that would be a lot of us in the UK – Joe) have no reason not to read it! So get over to the Bries site and also check out some cool retro patches (British readers can also pick it up via our own webstore, along with a number of other Bries titles – Joe).
I recently made the bold statement on my blog that the Belgian Post seems to be starting a new tradition of only celebrating comic book heroes on its stamps when they no longer have albums coming out, with Kramiske last year, and the gargantuan Tintin series announced for later this year. The actual case in point in my post was the lavish stamp dedicated to Jacques Martin’s roman hero Alix, a book that was a great success all through the sixties and seventies but currently only lingers on in a series of semi-historical “travel books” with very beautiful art but very little comics.
(Alix coin set offered by the Belgian Post)
Last week, however, Alix publisher Casterman announced their plans to revitalise the book, and Flemish daily De Morgen reported that that Flemish cartoonist Ferry Van Vosselen would take up the heavy burden of coming up with new stories. Ferry is a celebrated cartoonist in his own right: he is the creator of Ian Kaledine and the Panchrysia Chronicles both very popular in France and Belgium, and he was also awarded the Golden Adhemar, the Belgian comic book Oscar. Filling in Martin’s shoes, however, may be a daunting task, I’m afraid. Van Vosselen is very motivated, though. He wants to add a new dynamism to the, admittedly very static, Alix books, change camera standpoints and leave out the long descriptions. Stories for the new series will be provided by Patrick Weber, a French speaking writer working mostly for television and film. The first story will be set in Brittany.