Overview

And A Child Shall Rule Us All

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Legendary atomic style creator Yves Chaland steps to the fore with his sarcastic Young Albert creation while Blutch tackles his own puberty in his Little Christian collection. Children ahoy!

Young Albert

It’s no big secret to regular readers that I’m not a big fan of the ‘clear line’ style. On an analytical level, I can certainly appreciate the über-design sense that permeates it but the static approach to both emotions and the scene setting always left me a bit cold. As a youngster f.e., I never quite ‘got’ the appeal of Hergé’s Tintin or Joost Swarte’s extremely designed panelwork for example. Yves Chaland - though also a driving force behind the atomic style - is another matter altogether. 

At 21 years old, he landed a position at Métal Hurlant, producing one masterpiece after another. His Bob Fish serial is a superb example of his sadistic satirical approach to comics, wrapped in a classical & nostalgic fifties feel. While his Freddy Lombard series is more straightforward adventure serial, his Young Albert gags launched in 1982 is Chaland firing on all cylinders! A spinoff of Bob Fish, Young Albert features Chaland’s worldly views on humanity quite explicitly. As Jean-Luc Fromental notes in his afterword, Le Jeune Albert is nasty, cruel, argumentative, smart and possesses a truly ‘Brussels’ attitude. Chaland’s territory is the battleground of the human soul. Through Albert and his proletarian soundboard Fifi, he explores not only his own inner soul - Young Albert contains a lot of autobiographical details - but also the inner workings of his fellow human beings. Themes like treachery, cowardice, honesty, a class society, egoism, authority, self delusions etc. all pass the revue in the one page gags.

Young Albert is not an easy comic, it takes some getting used to and is best digested in large chunks because it is not your traditional laugh-out-loud comic strip. It is a rather confrontational masterpiece that reflects the darker side of human nature utilizing the half page comic setup and a young protagonist to make it all digestible, like a darkly comical mirror. 

Humanoids’ complete Young Albert collection is published as a beautiful landscape hardcover with thick quality paper. It is an oversized format displaying Chaland’s expert linework as a graphical work of art. To the contrary of f.e. fellow contemporary Edgar P. Jacobs’ work, Chaland’s clear line style still displays an energy in his figure work and backgrounds that Blake & Mortimer lack. His scene settings are not overworked and overly designed like Joost Swarte’s comic work but reflect the needs of the story and are never distracting, never dissolving the figures in their graphics.

Young Albert is limited to 550 copies so I urge you to run to the bookstore and immediately get this volume for your collection! Highly recommended!

Young Albert is published by Humanoids Inc. It is a deluxe hardcover with a limited print run. It counts 80 pages and retails for $89.95. Preview.

 

Little Christian

Ye olde comics sale, how I love thee. Expect to see some older stuff turn up in this column amidst the newer releases since I acquired some ephemeral comics stuff going from a Tripwire Annual to weird L’Association comics. First up is this little gem: Little Christian by French comics master Blutch.

An alumna from the French comics magazine Fluide Glacial, home of such legendary creators as Moebius, Franquin and François Boecq. Blutch is an artists’ artist and one of the spearheaders of the ‘Nouvelle Vague’. Never all that well known among the general public - perhaps because he has never put out an actual series of books - but a favourite among creators. He handles the brush like a wild swordsman without ever forgetting about composition and figure. His brush is vivid and lively and not afraid to combine different media and styles of drawing in one panel if it fits the mood of the story or expresses the characters’ feelings better. It is this combination of experiment and traditional storytelling that endears him so much to the creative community.

Le Petit Christian has won the Grand Prix of Angoulême 2008 and is one of the five essential reads of 2008 according to the jury. How this lead to this book winding up in a sales bin beats me but I’m all the richer for it.

Little Christian is the autobiographical tale of the young Christian Hincker aka Blutch. This neat little bundle of short stories (the Dutch volume I bought collects both volume 1 & 2) is a celebration of the imagination of the young and the search for role models. Christian spends his time emulating his movie and tv heroes like Marlon Brando, Steve McQueen, dr. Benjamin Justice - a martial arts doctor from French comics - and John Wayne. Apart from trying to find his own place in the world, there’s also the question of … girls. What are they? How do they look like under those clothes? And what happens when you fall in love?

All is told through the eyes of Christian and with great comedic result. Blutch lets us dive into Christian’s fantasy world with Christian transforming before our eyes into Steve McQueen in the old west, walking down his street or we see dr. Justice sitting at the dinner table with his parents etc. The same setup is used in Bill Watterson’s Calvin & Hobbes and it works beautifully. You empathise with the protagonist and you can find yourself relating to this 12 year old kid standing in between just plain being a kid and the dizzying heights of a puberty to come.

Blutch renders it all in a loose and sketchy manner, switching styles often in the same panel. Little Christian is an hommage to a time when you’re turning out to old to be a kid but too young to be seen as an adolescent. It is a superb artistic feat containing a lot of laugh out loud moments and it is just begging for a translation into English.

This review was based upon the Dutch edition of Little Christian. It is published by Oog & Blik. It is a black and white softcover counting 112 pages and it retails for €19.90.

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