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Drawing France

Drawing France: French Comics and the Republic

Joel E. Vessels
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Drawing France
    Book Description:

    In France, Belgium, and other Francophone countries, comic strips---called bande dessinee or "BD" in French---have long been considered a major art form capable of addressing a host of contemporary issues. Among French-speaking intelligentsia, graphic narratives were deemed worthy of canonization and critical study decades before the academy and the press in the United States embraced comics.The place that BD holds today, however, belies the contentious political route the art form has traveled. In Drawing France: French Comics and the Republic, author Joel E. Vessels examines the trek of BD from it being considered a fomenter of rebellion, to a medium suitable only for semi-literates, to an impediment to education, and most recently to an art capable of addressing social concerns in mainstream culture.In the mid-1800s, alarmists feared political caricatures might incite the ire of an illiterate working class. To counter this notion,proponents yoked the art to a particular articulation of "Frenchness" based on literacy and reason. With the post-World War II economic upswing, French consumers saw BD as a way to navigate the changes brought by modernization. After bande dessinee came to be understood as a compass for the masses, the government, especially Francois Mitterand's administration, brought comics increasingly into "official" culture. Vessels argues that BD are central to the formation of France's self-image and a self-awareness of what it means to be French.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-445-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  5. Introduction A Force to Beckon With
    (pp. 3-16)

    In the middle pages of its 2008 year-end issue, the BritishEconomistmagazine offered a detailed discussion, an explanation really, of the popularity of the Franco-Belgian comic strip—or bande dessinée (BD)—Tintin. If the magazine’s readers, particularly those across the Atlantic, truly wanted to understand the long-standing appeal of the eponymous boy reporter they “should look at him through the prism of post-war Europe.”¹ An easily discernedoldEuropean sentiment—the gentlemanly hero almost cavalierly capable in nearly all things—commonly runs through the stories; Tintin, for instance, carries no gun himself but is a crack shot when necessary...

  6. Chapter One Stirring up Passions Politics, Bande Dessinée, and Images in the Nineteenth Century and the Late Third Republic
    (pp. 17-37)

    Drawing from Europe’s palette but pushed by profit, the developmental history of the comic strip/bande dessinée in the United States is fairly straight-forward despite its variegated forms today. In the urban and largely immigrant settings of Hearst’s and Pulitzer’s publishing enterprises, the daily comic strip was a colorful and eye-catching balance to the staid rows of type—especially for those who might not have the firmest grasp of the English language. By the early 1930s, the pollster George Gallup had issued a report that “the only parts of a metropolitan newspaper consistently ‘read’ by over forty percent of both men...

  7. Chapter Two What Your Children Are Reading Bande Dessinée, Catholics, and Communists
    (pp. 38-73)

    On May 21, 1927, Charles Augustus Lindbergh’s specially designed single-engine airplane, the Spirit of St. Louis, split the night’s clouds and landed gently at le Bourget field outside of Paris under the wary gaze of a massive throng numbering over one hundred thousand people.¹ After two false reports and mistaken sightings had filtered through the crowd, shaking their sense of expectant jubilation and sowing it with pessimism, the lanky aviator with only five years of flight experience touched down at 10:24 P.M. Disheveled but smiling, Lindbergh closed the adventure begun across the ocean in Roosevelt, New York—then some 3,600...

  8. Chapter Three Notre Grand-Papa Pétain The National Revolution and Bande Dessinée in Vichy
    (pp. 74-107)

    On June 17, 1940, after a winter of “Phony War” and little more than six weeks of actual fighting, the aged Marshal Pétain, named head of the government for barely a full day, announced his intention to seek an armistice with Germany in a radio address to the French people. The French nation had known defeat before, even on a grand scale as was the case in 1870, but this was different both quantitatively and qualitatively; this was a complete collapse and an utter humiliation of not the army so much as the entire Republic. The fighting along the ever-shifting...

  9. Chapter Four Vive la France! Now Who Are We? Reconstruction, Identity, and the 16 July Law
    (pp. 108-142)

    In the first months after the Liberation, a curious illustrated album appeared that intended to offer France’s children an understandable and palatable history lesson on the country’s experiences during the Occupation and the still concluding war.¹ WhileLa Bête est morte!drew on the tradition of anthropomorphized animals to spin its tale, the illustrations of Edmund-François Calvo owed as much to (the earlier and French) Rabier than to Disney’s catalog of animal characters.² The principle belligerent nations were depicted as specific animals, that is, the Americans were drawn as buffaloes and Russians as bears, the English appeared as (very Churchill-like)...

  10. Chapter Five The Commission at Work Saying “Non” to Microcephalic Hercules and Determining What Makes for a Good French BD
    (pp. 143-173)

    The first task of the new commission, according to Jacqueline Meinrath writing inÉducateursin the fall of 1949, would be to act wisely and moderately; “to attack … big scandals where it will find the most support, not only from ‘specialists’ in child development, but across the country.” By doing this, “it will … gradually pull children” away from those exerting an undue “influence” over them, “not because they have a message to bring to [the nation’s youth], but because [children] are a good bargain commercially.” The task of those outside the government, but possessed of the necessary tools,...

  11. Chapter Six Culture Becomes Policy Bande Dessinée as Monumental Architecture
    (pp. 174-215)

    In 2009, the Oversight Commission remains an active governmental body and in recent years has been involved in the debate over Japanese-inspired manga-styled journals, pressing for a ban on some of the most violent examples of a genre known for near outrageous levels of violence and sexuality. The decade of the 1950s and the first years of the 1960s, however, should likely be recognized as the commission’s acme point. Increasingly, from the 1960s on, its task became one of enforcement of a norm that was losing its relevance and cultural traction in the midst of the country’sles trentes glorieuses...

  12. Epilogue A Sous-Produit Littéraire No Longer
    (pp. 216-236)

    State recognition and valorization of BDs as an important part of a vital cultural policy hardly ended with the construction and dedication of the CNBDI in 1991. In the years after Lang’s 1982 speech at the Angoulême festival there was a broad celebration of the medium and fostering of other salons and fêtes at both the national and local levels. Since 1984 theCentre National du Livre(CNL) has maintained a specific commission dedicated to fiscally subsidizing select(ed) BD artists and authors, the promotion of BD translations and “fanzines” and the development of the BD holdings of public libraries. The...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 237-276)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 277-296)
  15. Index
    (pp. 297-305)