Beaux livres for Christmas
If you, like me, have a deep love for classic Eurocomics and for beautiful books, the months before Christmas often seem designed to burn a deep hole in your pocket, not to mention straining the structural integrity of your bulging bookshelves. This year the menu is quite overwhelming. I’ve listed the most important ones, and I hope my family is reading along (hint).
Uderzo, L’integrale (1953-1955) is the third volume in what promises to be a long series in which Alain Duchêne and Philippe Cauvin collect every strip, illustration, advertisement and quick sketch that Astérix co-creator Albert Uderzo put to paper. Possibly inspired by the legendary series, Hergé, chronologie d’une Oeuvre by Philippe Goddin, these book are large (30 x 30 cm, 430 pages) and incredibly spiced with both important and lesser-known work. In this volume, we find the strips Uderzo created for Belgian dailies La Libre Belgique and La Wallonie (a.o. his first series together with René Goscinny).
If you collect all the title gags somebody created for a comics magazine, you might call it scraping the bottom of the barrel. However, if that certain somebody is André Franquin and the magazine is Spirou in the 1950s, you get 400 pages of vintage goodness. Spirou was a team effort then, and in addition to their regular assignments illustrators and cartoonists often provided content as necessary. For several years, Franquin created a short gag that highlighted the most important story of that issue, featuring Spirou and Fantasio fighting over their copy. Les Bandes Titres Du Journal Spirou may be a bit pricey, but it’s well worth it in my book.
Noir is the fourth volume, after Rock ‘n’ Roll, Phil Perfect and Science Fiction, in which Dupuis is painstakingly collecting the work of Ligne Claire and Atom Style Wunderkind Serge Clerc. Best known for his short stories full of stylish cool, ironic stances and loving references to classic genre fiction, Clerc took up the noir genre with his own flair, added a dose of ironic nostalgia and created numerous longer and shorter stories that mocked the genre, but always lovingly. This book contains 350 pages of comics, some of which never saw the light of day until now.
Will: Mirages is the latest in a series of “visual biographies” compiled and published by comic art dealer Daniel Maghen. Judging from previous books about Tibet and Maurice Tillieux, this will once more be a splendid combination of interviews and short essays, lavishly illustrated with meticulously reproduced original art. As Maghen is well known for tracking down unknown pieces of art, expect a few gems in this book, either from Will’s classic Tif et Tondu or Isabel series, or from the later, more adult-oriented work.
And finally, La Machine Jacobs by Belgian art critic Pierre Sterckx is the tenth volume in a series of books that highlight aspects of the life and works of Blake & Mortimer creator E.P. Jacobs. It is the first, however, to review Jacobs’ work as an oeuvre, looking for themes and tropes and analysing evolution in page layout, narration style and colorisation. Sterckx also highlights Jacobs’ methods, from research to sketches to finalised page. From what I’ve seen, the illustrations are magnificent.
Again, no pressure, but if you’re really looking for a present, look no further!