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Interview with Boulet

French webcomic sensation Boulet recently embarked on a whirlwind tour of North America, which included stops at the Chicago CE2E and the Portland Stumptown Comic Festival. In a conversation with fellow comic artist Gabrielle Bell at the Society of Illustrators in NY, he talked about the evolution of his weblog, the benefits of being a cartoon character, his love of standup comedy and the importance of improvisation in his work.

Boulet refers to his work as autofiction. “Things always go wrong,” he told Bell, “it’s never completely true.” Perhaps you can find the tools to tell truth from fiction in this interview with American comic artist Jim Benton and critic Scott McCloud. And make sure to get your copy of his 24 hour comic, Darkness, before it sells out at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival.

Jim Benton :  I'm speaking for all artists, I believe, when I say that we are all terribly jealous of your work. Sometimes I think I see a slight Moebius influence in your art. Is he a favorite of yours?

Boulet: You are very kind! :-D
About the Moebius influence, you're absolutely right... I had given up a bit about comics after high-school, and after that my friends showed me Moebius's work.
It was kind of a shock for me! Since then, he has always been one of my major inspirations.

Jim Benton:  You're rightfully proud of your red hair. Besides Boulet, who are your favorite redheads?

Boulet: Haha what a strange question!
Ok, let's see... I have to talk about Zack Weinersmith, the author of the website SMBC... And his friend Phil Plait aka "Bad Astronomer," whose work I love to read so much!
Three actresses: Felicia Day (who I was so happy to meet briefly in Chicago), Christina Hendrix (I’ve loved her in shows like Firefly, Life, and Mad Men) and also Karen Gillan from Dr Who.
A British actor/director: Simon Pegg, and also the great Joss Whedon.

(Quite a lot of great gingers, when you think about it!)

Jim Benton: We delight in seeing the depictions of your apartment. When does the cleaning lady arrive?

Boulet: There is a lot of exaggeration of course. The mess is just funnier to draw!

Jim Benton: Who are some of your favorite cartoonists? And don't say Kate Beaton merely because she is intensely attractive. (I know how you French guys are.) She is also quite talented.

Boulet: I was totally fan of her work before I knew that :-)
I follow a lot of them! In French I would say my favorites are Bastien Vives, Libon, Capucine, Marion Montaigne, Malec (a must see! He uses small flash animations, it's really great)... Zviane, and of course my friend Domitille Collardey, who's now living in New York.
For the US, I would say the same as earlier (Zack & Kate), Gabby Schultz, Oglaf, Xkcd, Erika Moen, Lisa Hanwalt, Scott Lava, Jim Benton of course.

Jim Benton: I regret that I couldn't meet you when you were in NY. How do you like the U.S?

Boulet: It was a long trip with so many different cities! Everywhere I met wonderful people who were very kind and very interested in my work. Even if I’ve already been here for a month, people have been so nice I’ve never felt homesick once.
However my two big crushes so far are on New York and Portland. I was really terribly sad to have to leave them.

Scott Mc Cloud: Your characters, to me, seem very alive and convincing. What do you think are some of the ingredients of lively cartooning, or some of the things that can prevent that sense of life?

Boulet: This is a tough one!
Let's see...
In my latest album (coming soon, in June) I drew one or two pages about this...
For me, the key is to always link the drawing to an emotion, a memory. For that, I would say that observational drawing is the most important. For example, I once tried to draw a scene from the subway from photos, and it wasn't any good, but I couldn't tell why.

I went to draw directly there and I realized that the attitude of the people was really important to make the scene convincing: the way people rest against the windows or the poles, the way they hold their bags against them... These details were essential and couldn't be invented. And even for a drawing in stick figures, they can make a huge difference.

And practicing this kind of observation becomes useful for me afterwards, because then, even if I draw an imaginary scene, I try to extrapolate the attitude of people from what I learned!