Gallery: Bande-dessinée |
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In France and Italy, to take only two European examples, the upmarket comic book, often bound in hard covers, is a recognized art form. In America, the creative upsurge that began so spectacularly with Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo continues into the present day: Art Spiegelmann is only one of the respected artists currently working in the genre, and his Holocaust allegory Maus was seriously reviewed. (The disreputable Little Annie Fanny, by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder, was never taken seriously, but it lasts as one of the more adventurous among the Playboy spin-offs that undermined the magazine’s ethos while taking Hef’s money.) In Australia, Emile Mercier’s Wocko the Beaut is still waiting to be discovered as a work of art. In Britain the pickings are thin at anything above the Viz level, but if Trog’s Flook compendia can be considered as comic books rather than as collections of strips, then they hit a mark that was unbeaten until the arrival of Posy Simmonds, who reset the standard on a global scale, with a wealth of text unheard of since Walt Kelly’s Pogo and the first glory of Jules Feiffer. Globally considered, indeed, the field is rich all round, and in some countries it is even the dominant form of fiction: the Manga books define the contemporary culture of Japan. Selecting from this planetary output, and securing permissions, won’t be easy, but the sheer intensity of creativity on display demands that the task be tackled, even if only bit by bit. There is, of course, a high proportion of pornography, which perforce must be dodged, although I would still love to run something by Manara. His rampant lust is no doubt deplorable, but I wish I could write the way that he can draw. Basically, that’s how a successful bande dessinée makes you feel: it’s a form of narrative that the reader can’t even be bad at, a gift from the gods.