Tuesday, 5 April 2011

To France and Back

Leo here! I've just returned from a trip to Caen in Normandy, France to attend the 10th comic festival, "Des Planches et des Vaches", at the kind invitation of organiser and perpetual dynamo of bande dessinée enthusiasm, Eric Le Pape. I went with a small British contingent of fellow fantasy art and comic creators, Manon (Emily Hare), Kev Crossley and Dave Kendall.

After disembarking the ferry we were whisked away to the venue, La Fonderie, and the first of many fabulous meals cooked freshly, consumed with quantities of wine and great conversations with our hospitable hosts. After supper we looked around the extensive and beautifully presented exhibition of the star artist of the festival, Vincent Mallié.

Every year the festival highlights a single artist whose contribution to the art form has been particularly notable. The black and white originals showed beautiful line work and compositions, along with numerous patched corrections and changes that displayed how Vincent constantly changed his work to find the very best outcome.

Saturday morning saw us nervously take our places in La Fonderie, a large community hall on the outskirts of Caen, along with the 47 other artists. The doors opened and trickle of visitors was soon followed by a flood as the morning progressed. Dave, Emily, Kev and myself were soon drawing for the excited crowds. It quickly became apparent that there was no easily defined "type" of French comic enthusiast. We drew for children, teenagers, parents and grandparents, everyone of them delighted and respectful of our drafting skills. While we had a steady stream of interested customers the artists already established in bande dessinée had long queues of fans, so dedicated that they had brought fold out chairs and flasks of coffee.

I took a little time out to look through the bookstall selling hundreds of the "Albums", the hardcover large format favoured in France. As always I wanted to buy the lot, but had to settle for as many as my fist of euros would allow. What joy! What a broad selection of stories and art styles, from crime to fantasy, thrillers to love stories, full of every character you could imagine except, thankfully, lycra-clad superheroes.

I only had a couple of samples of Mirabilis as the UK hardback version published by Print Media hasn't quite emerged. (More news on this in just days now!) It was a shame as there was a great deal of interest in Mirabilis, and I was forced to turn away the proffered Euros. The conclusion, was that Mirabilis would be a perfect fit on any French shelf, and so Dave and I will be working hard this year to find European publishers and get it translated not only into French, but other languages too.

We returned to Portsmouth too soon, but full of inspiration and excitement, and a little despondency that the pure delight for "BD" is only fractionally evident on this side of the channel. I sit down now to work on the next set of roughs for Mirabilis with my Level 1 Idiot's Guide to French playing on the mp3. Viva Des Planches et des Vaches!

Next stop, Kapow! This coming weekend. See you there!


  1. Hey I get to comment for once! I guess I'll have to search even further for a country where comics *writers* get the movie star treatment :) but definitely Leo and I are going to get moving on a French version of Mirabilis - watch this space.

  2. What a fantastic photograph - it's really life affirming stuff particularly if you think of the endless hours that creatives need to put in just to get to the point of having something as lovely as Mirabilis to show.

    And I am not the least surprised to read about the offers of Euros and enthusiasm shown by French publishers, it just confirms my gut feeling that France is going to be a far more receptive market for this kind of enterprise than the UK.