Crossing Borders: Growing Up Is Hard To Do


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This week we travel from straight up kids comics to satire to a short story by Lorenzo Mattotti’s featuring stigmata.

The energy of youth

Belgian comics maker Charel Chambré is probably the closest you can get to a mainstream professional comics artist and writer that not only is in touch with his inner child but also with the outer world of children and how they perceive their surroundings. Utilising energetic linework and body gestures with sublime facial work in a contemporary setting, he represents the best of kids comics meaning 6-14 year olds. Strip 2000 recently re-published one of his first works Streetkids about Ket and Dolf, two as close as friends can be little rascals having adventures at school, at home or in the neighbourhood.

Done in a solid Franco-Belgian style (think Yakari or Billy & Buddy) this is older work by Chambré, predating his most popular comic for young adults Jump, all the energy is already present. I would even dare say that Streetkids is a bit more likable with slightly dirtier inking than the clean style Chambré uses in Jump. Tackling topics like love, computer games, authority, peer pressure etcetera, he firmly keeps his finger on the pulse of the microcosm of kids. I even quite enjoyed it myself. Highly recommended.

Streetkids by Charel Chambré is published by Strip 2000 in Dutch. It is a full colour softcover album retailing for €8.95. 

The satire of the teenager

Stories thrive on genres with their own specific trappings, scene setting and cliches and are therefore ripe for the plucking to spoof. Guess what genre Marq Van Broekhoven tries to spoof in Jodocus The Barbarian? Jodocus is a project of love for Van Broekhoven and is published once a year, part 2 entitled The Blue Crones has just been published.

Jodocus the barbarian helps princes Yazine to escape from her father the evil magician Azaroth. Yazine however mistakenly believes Jodocus to be her beloved prince Folio who is in fact being held captive by Azaroth. Meanwhile, the mythical Blue Crones terrorize the countryside that Jodocus and Yazine are escaping to.

Much of the humour is derived from the setup of Jodocus - being not the brightest of the bunch - constantly trying to keep in character as a refined prince for princes Yazine while writer and creator Van Broekhoven plays with the genre conventions of the barbarian fantasy tale. It’s a bit of a mixed bag though, on one hand some jokes fall a bit flat due to timing issues, on the other there’s not enough over the top humour and playing around with the genre trappings to convince the parodic nature of Jodocus. It’s part adventure serial and part parody but neither side never really convinces. The semi-adult language used stands opposite the straightforward action-adventure tale (but with some nudity involved?) while at the same time all the proceedings come off as rather … innocent. I must admit that I’m at a bit of loss as to who the target group(s) actually is. Van Broekhoven’s art is certainly accomplished and dips from both the commercial franco-belgian tradition as from the underground cartooning of the seventies which I really like but again, it muddles the premise and target group a bit.

I would say this certainly has potential but it needs a tighter focus and a more severe editorial hand before we have another Groo The Wanderer on our hands.

Jodocus The Barbarian 2: The Blue Crones by Marq Van Broekhoven is published by Strip 2000 in Dutch. It is a full colour softcover album retailing for €8.95.

The redemption of the old

Italian artist Lorenzo Mattotti is a creative centipede. Mostly known for his striking colour work, I’m especially a big fan of his black and white drawings of which Stigmata is a superb example.

He lives day to day and hand to mouth, this shambling lug of a man, wrestling with his demons, picking up work where he can, and drinking himself into oblivion. Until one days his palms begin to bleed… These newfound stigmata lose him his job, and he ends up as part of a traveling carnival, where he even finds love. But his past catches up with him -violently so. Has he lost his last chance at redemption?

Written by Claudio Piersanti, Mattotti grabs the bull by its horns and employs a mad graphic style with expressionistic swirling lines covering the pages, forming fore- and backgrounds that the characters inhabit. His figure work is a perfect extension of his swirling brush that is equally present in its atypical hatch workings as in the fluid contours of the characters. The story is a nice allegory of redemption and religion but the main attraction is Mattotti’s artwork. I found this one in a 1 euro-bin so I hope you’re just as lucky as I was in acquiring this little gem of a comics master.

Stigmata by Lorenzo Mattotti was published in Dutch by Oog & Blik in 1996. It is a preview soft cover album counting 24 pages in black and white and retails for €3.99. The english language hardcover full album is published by Fantagraphics and retails for $19.99.

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