The gods of Bande Dessinée come to Strasbourg

Soon after we moved to France my interest in Franco-Belgian comics was reawakened, partly due to the necessity to master the language. When there are pictures to go with words and dialogue it really helps you to understand the context and meaning of a language – as well as introducing you to the everyday verbalisation of phrases (not necessarily grammatically correct) and new vocabulary.

The last time I’d delved with such aplomb into works by the likes of Goscinny and Hergé was a good decade or more previously, and in English.

Initially I started where I’d left off – with second-hand Asterix books picked up for 5€ at the regular book market in Place Gutenburg, then shortly after joining Alsace Bande Dessinée (the local association for fans of comic-strip) I was introduced to more authors and titles than I could get a handle on.

In similar fashion to French music, little of this popular art makes it’s way across the channel – which means upon arrival in France comic-book fans like myself are overwhelmed not just by the current output of BD (which is on a par with the literary market) but also by the back catalogue of works produced over the past 80 years.

So, events like last weekend’s European Festival of Comic-Strip in Strasbourg provide us foreigners with the opportunity to discover more about this popular artform.

For me, it was a highly enjoyable and informative weekend. I had the good luck to spend some time with the Festival Patron “F’Murrrrrr“, his nom de plume being a play on words, ‘fumeur’ meaning smoker, reflecting his ever present pipe; a genius of the absurd and surreal known for his strips involving a herd of alpine sheep.  We shared a couple of beers outside the restaurent de la Bourse while discussing the culture of Northern Europe. Then later on he did me the honour of a signing

Note: when BD/comic authors sign a book it can take a while. Unlike their literary counterparts they usually take a good 10-20 minutes on each signing, drawing an image or character from one of their publicaitons to go with their signature.

I also spent some time with Phil Jimenez, who had flown all the way from New York, care of DC Comics, to be at the festival … and took the opportunity to introduce him to a restaurant where they served horse steak and snail butter. Not something you’d find in Manhattan apparently, but perhaps something he can include in his next X-men assignment? He returned the favour with a amazing sketch of Judge Dredd – thanks Phil!

Other highpoints included: talking parenthood with affable spanish author Tirso Cons (who also drew for me); gobbling down roast boar at the Gaulish Banquet with local author JF Cellier; watching Sylvain-Moizie‘s performace of the “The night of the mysterious Were-dog” (not unrelated to his book of the same title); talking geography with François Walthery; and watching the various other authors and artists colour and draw at close hand.

The results of ‘The performance’, the winning strips from the festival competition and the ‘Gazette’ are also worth a mention – all of which will be published on the festival website very shortly.

Safe to say that if you’re even the slightest bit curious about comics or cartoons then the Strasbourg festival is worth etching into your diary for this time next year, when it will no doubt be even bigger and better!

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