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BD 2020: Year of the Comic

“BD 2020” was supposed to see a roster of events dedicated to graphic novels in France and abroad throughout the year. To this end, French Ministry of Culture imagined the hashtag #toutelafrancedessine to promote the French year of comics. Unfortunately, most events have been postponed for the time being but we could certainly use this time to (re)discover the vast offering of a genre. In a rare piece of good news, it was announced that the season will expand by a few months. In the meantime keep reading!

Graphic novelists have a lot to offer to their readers via illustrations, punchy dialogues, fascinating journeys, epic scenes of human life…

Many digital platforms are currently offering a wide range of comic books and documents dedicated to graphic novels and illustration with associated and augmented materials from podcasts, to audiobooks, videos and drawing lessons by illustrators themselves. About 300 graphic novels are available on Culturethèque, the Institut Français’s digital library and more can be found on the publishers website and independent bookstores near you eagerly looking forward to receiving orders from their cherished customers.

Historical, adventure, classics, comics for your kids… you will find enough material to make you and your family escape without leaving your couch. Here are some titles to start your exploration. Have a nice reading!

READ

When Illustration Teaches You Something About History

Travel in time and in different countries with this selection of documents, mixing fiction with reality. You may be surprised what you discover!

  • Un Maillot pour l’Algérie, Rey, Kris, Bertrand Galic : 

FRENCH: Dupuis, 2016 - LINK

On the eve of the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, twelve First Division soccer players leave France clandestinely and join the ranks of the NLF (National Liberation Forces). In the midst of the Algerian War, the group aims to create the first national Algerian soccer team and to make it the Ambassador of its independence. 

If you like sports and History, this one is for you!

  • Once Upon a Time in France, Fabien Nury, Sylvain Vallée 

FRENCH: Glénat, 2016 - LINK

ENGLISH: Dead Reckoning, 2019 - LINK

Based on a true story, Once Upon a Time in France follows the life of Joseph Joanovici, a Romanian Jew who immigrated to France in the 1920s and became one of the richest men in Europe as a scrap-metal magnate. For some, he was a villain. For others, a hero.

An international bestseller with over 1 million copies sold, the French series Once Upon a Time in France, has won the BDGest’Arts Best Scenario Award, BDGest’Arts Album of the Year, and Angoulême International Comics Festival Best Series Award, among many others.

Antsy for Adventure?

  • Contes ordinaires d’une société résignée, Ersin Karabulut 

FRENCH: Fluide Glacial, 2018 - LINK

Borrowing from Edgar Allan Po’s poetry, darkness, and imagery, writer and illustrator Ersin Karabulut draws the portrait of a Turkish society that renounced its illusions towards family constraint and political and financial powers. A collection of poetic and disturbing anticipations, testifying to the Turkish comic's vivacity. 

  • Story Without a Hero, Jean Van Hamme, Dany

FRENCH: Le Lombard, 1997 - LINK 

ENGLISH: Cinebook Ltd, 2019 - LINK 

A plane from a South American company crashes in the jungle. Only half of the passengers and crew survive. A few businessmen, a university professor, a steward, an aging movie star, a banana republic general, a young boy and his nanny... They will have to find a way to unite and work together to survive. But who should they listen to? Who should they follow? Who can they trust? And is relief even on its way?

Kids comics: Quiet Time Guaranteed For Parents… 

Give your kids a chance to discover these wonderful stories. 

  • Quatre sœurs, Malika Ferdjoukh

FRENCH: Rue de Sèvres, 2014 - LINK

Follow the incredible adventures of the Verdelaine sisters. Aged 9 to 23 years old, Enid, Hortense, Bettina, Genevieve and Charlie’s parents have passed away in a car accident two years before the beginning of this story... Enid, the youngest one, has trouble finding her place. Especially with a ghost roaming the house...You won’t be disappointed by the Five volume saga full of surprises. 

  • La Guerre de Catherine, Claire Fauvel, Julia Billet

ENGLISH: HarperCollins, 2020 - LINK

FRENCH: Rue de Sèvres, 2017 - LINK

1941. Rachel is a student at the house of Sèvres boarding school, where her parents have sent her for safety. There, she builds beautiful friendships but, above all, discovers her passion: photography. Soon, the laws against the Jews are intensifying; safety is becoming rare in the occupied zone. A network of resistants organizes the Jewish children's escape. Rachel becomes Catherine. Your kids will discover the daily life of a Jewish teenage girl during the War, her encounters, her fears, but also the few moments of rest and grace photography will bring her. 

Exploring Society

  • Paroles d’honneur, Leïla Slimani, Laëtitia Coryn

FRENCH: Les Arènes BD, 2017 - LINK

Rabat, Summer 2015. Following the publication of her book In the Garden of the Ogre (Faber & Faber, Limited, 2019), a crude and audacious novel on the theme of sexual addiction, Leila Slimani goes and meets her Moroccan female readers. Not shying away from difficult questions, the Franco-Moroccan writer deals with sexuality without taboo. The author collects personal and harrowing testimonies, revealing the society's uneasiness with sexuality, in which a woman can only be virgin or wife, and where every practice outside of marriage is denied: prostitution, live-in partnerships, homosexuality...

  • Sociorama – Les Nouvelles de la jungle (de Calais), Lisa Mandel, Yasmine Bouagga

FRENCH: Casterman, 2017 - LINK

Beyond distraction, illustration is a great tool to convey analysis about the society we live in. Published in the collection Sociorama, (in which a social scientist teams up with an illustrator), Les Nouvelles de la jungle (de Calais) is a touching journal of the life in the migrants' enclave in the North of France. 

  • The Wind of The Things: Uncertain Manifesto, Frédéric Pajak

ENGLISH: New York Review Books, 2019 - LINK 

FRENCH: Editions Noir sur Blanc, 2012 - LINK

The utterly original book that writer and artist Frédéric Pajak produced is a memoir born of reading, and a meditation on the lives, ideas, motivations, feelings, and fates of some of his heroes: Samuel Beckett and the artist Bram van Velde, and, especially, Walter Benjamin. 

Between word and image, the reader is drawn into a mysterious space that is all Pajak’s as he seeks to evoke vanished histories and to resist a modern world more and more given over to a present without a past.

Classical Comics (Revisited): 

The Smurfs, Spirou & Fantasio, and The Marsupilami Adventures have been with us throughout the years. Some are still being produced, picked up by different artists, some are getting a second life through tributes by younger generations of artists.

  • L’Homme qui tua Lucky Luke, Matthieu Bonhomme

FRENCH: Dargaud, 2016 - LINK

One stormy night, a lonesome cowboy arrives in the muddy village of Froggy Town. As in many Western towns, some men here pursue the crazy dream to find gold. Lucky Luke can’t refuse to lend a hand when he’s asked to find the precious metal stolen from poor miners. Assisted by Doc Wednesday, he embarks on a dangerous investigation, and confronts the merciless Bone brothers, who are calling the shots in Froggy Town. Matthieu Bonhomme pens a beautiful tribute to Morris. 

  • Le Groom de Sniper Allay, Tome 54, Fabien Welhmann, Yohann

FRENCH: Dupuis, 2014 – LINK

A terrible civil war is ending in Aswana, with the physical elimination of the local dictator. The entire world is celebrating, especially don Contralto, a mafioso sentenced to 634 years in jail. Do not miss this new adventure of Spirou & Fantasio! 

An even wider range of interactive contents is also available online. Here are some ideas to explore to get your mind off things.

A Few Catchy Podcasts to follow

  • Le Chat du Rabbin, Joan Sfar - IN FRENCH

LINK

Adapted from Joan Sfar’s comic book published by Dargaud, Le Chat du rabbin is a colorful series of 10 episodes presenting Sephardic Jewish culture with numerous eccentric and endearing characters. 

  • Victor Macé de Lépinay’s Le Rayon BD - IN FRENCH

Victor Macé de Lépinay’s Le Rayon BD is a half hour segment in which you’ll discover the new and not-so-new faces in graphic art. Get to know illustrators Pénélope Bagieu, Catherine Meurisse as they pay tribute to Claire Bretécher and Albert Uderzo.

  • Tintin podcasts - IN FRENCH

Listen to four Tintin adventures, produced by France Culture, la Comédie-Française, Moulinsart avec France’s National Orchestra: Les Cigares du Pharaon, Le Lotus bleu, Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du Soleil.  

If You are Inclined to Try Your Hand at Art

Here are a few activities and games: 

  • Follow the hashtag #toutelafrancedessine on French Ministry of Culture’s Twitter account. Two comic strips illustrated by comic books authors are posted every week; the beginning of a story you can continue! Selected contributions will be exhibited at the International City of Comics and Image (Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l’image) at next year's International Festival of Comic Books in Angoulême, France. 

  • Draw your children's favorite comics heroes with them: Billy and Buddy, The Wolf in Underpants, Lucky Luke, Kid Lucky, Garfield… Dargaud offers free coloring workshops on its website, as well as new free comic books every week. https://www.dargaud.com/Le-Mag/Actualites/Atelier-jeunesse-coloriages-et-autres-surprises-nouveaux-coloriages-

  • Follow French illustrator Pénélope Bagieu on Twitter. The author of Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, published by First Second Books in 2018 launched the idea of an exquisite corpse for her and her fans: #coronamaison. She also offers colorings for children, and so does Riad Sattouf (The Arab of the Future, Metropolitan Books). 

  • Take a look at the app BDnF, with free access on your computer, tablet and mobile phone. With it, you can make your own comics, graphic novels and any other illustrated tales. The app is available both in French and English!

BDnF App A Creation Tool For Everybody, When Comics Meet Heritage

At first designed and dedicated to an academic public, the app was born from a collaboration of the Bibliothèque nationale de France and French teachers, to create a pedagogical tool. Deciding to go beyond the academic framework, BDnF adjusted it to address a wider public for recreational use. The tool aims at facilitating passionate users’ layouts thanks to innovative formats. BDnF app offers the possibility to make your  own comic books, thanks to corpuses of original visual elements from the Library heritage collections. 19th Century opera sets, photographs of mysterious medieval characters or from the Belle Epoque

Still want to explore?

Here are a few exhibits to view online:

  • The Galerie Barbier in Paris is presenting a free digital exhibition on comic books illustrator Blutch (Peplum, New York Review Comics).

  • The Society of Illustrators in New York offers online exhibitions in times of quarantine. The exhibition Women in Comics: Looking Forward and Back features more than 50 female cartoonists, from the early 20th century trailblazers to plus-size superheroes, queer graphic novels, wartime romances and flapper-era cartoons, all of which go outside your typical superhero format.

Take also a look at their special events with their series Art Out Loud Online, where illustrators take over the Society of Illustrators’ instagram and offer live demos and studio tours!

 

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