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Gone to the Movies
French gay BD (3): Hugues Barthe
So Super Duper #5

 

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Entries for July 2008:
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Blog review
If you don't see the images of a review, it means that I've transferred it to the new site.

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Gone to the Movies

Category: erotica, illustration.
Author(s): HvH.
Year of publication: 2008.


The Wizard of Cocks! Hotferatu! Night of the Horny Dead!...This collection of gay mock film posters is the kind of joke that could wear thin rather quickly, but in the hands of Portuguese artist HvH, it only gets funnier with each entry. Provided the reader knows the originals, I guess.
HvH has taken well-known films from the whole history of cinema and turned them into something that looks like high-grade gay porn, but with humor. He obviously had fun imitating the posters down to the typography used (and with actors names, taglines, etc.). While some posters turn out to be simply hot and sexy, others acquire a camp quality that's priceless (like his version of The Sound Of Music, for example). I'd almost wish he didn't show so much naked cocks, so as to be able to show the book to more people. As it is, even if your mother is a film buff, you might not want to give her a copy (yeah, I'm thinking of my own mother). Anyway.

Tarentino goes gay Isn't the diamond belt absolutely lovely?

So, in this book, you get about 60 parodied film posters, done in HvH's very recognizable style, which lends itself very well to the kind of big, bold art often used on film posters. I particularly like his Scarface (or Straightface, as he calls it), which is even more iconic than the real one. Of course, the art on contemporary sci-fi/horror films is already iconic (or tries to be), so sometimes, you don't feel like HvH has parodied anything (like his Aliens vs Predator page, with its somber colors and limited palette), only that he's pushed it to its logical conclusion--and I won't even comment on the version of 300, a film adapting a graphic novel that managed to be both homoerotic and homophobic. That one was a bit too obvious. The Jurassic Park one is totally cute though, showing a dick with little hands that looks like it's begging to be turned into a stuffed toy.

Gone to the Movies is the kind of book that should be given to friends, if only to see if they have the necessary film knowledge to remain one's friends. I scratched my head a couple of times, by the way...
The artists had a blog, as does the publisher. You can find the book at Amazon.


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Friday, July 25, 2008
Blog review
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French gay BD (3): Hugues Barthe

Category: autobiography, coming-out, humor, slice-of-life.
Author(s): Hugues Barthe.
Year of publication: 2004-2008.


Back in 2004, I'd written an overview of French gay bandes dessinées, where I'd included Hugues Barthe's first album, Jean-François fait de la résistance. Since then, Barthe has published four other books, from complete fiction to autofiction, with the latest having just been published (see the cover on the left), which gives me the opportunity to present all the books from one of the very few French gay BD creators.

The first album Miss Come Back Le Petit Lulu

Barthe's debut book focused on a young gay guy living in the sticks who goes to Paris to live his life, and discovers things aren't that easy, especially for a chronically weak-willed guy. The humor was deliciously bitter and unsentimental, as well as very funny in a bleak way, and the art rather simple. Most of the other books would work the same themes, with tighter art.
The son and his boyfriendThe second book, published in 2006 by small publisher Le Cycliste, is the odd duck of the bunch. Miss Come Back is an all-out comedy, where an aging singer has-been uses her gay son to relaunch her failing career (because she knows who her audience is...). Drawn by Caro, a female artist with a strongly expressive style, this farce is for me a complete success, managing as it does to lightly touch upon many serious issues like child/parent relationships, stereotypes of gay people (of course, we all love female pop singers), white and non-white (the son has an Arab boyfriend, who doesn't want his family to know he's gay). It's a clever, entertaining piece, and I wish Barthe would try something else like that.
Hugues reminisces about LuluLe Petit Lulu (Little Lulu, where "Lulu" is short for "Lucien", a man's first name) is the third book, and was published the same year by Les Requins Marteaux, another small publisher. Barthe is back to depicting the life of (some) gay people in France, this time with what seems to be a strong autobiographical bent. The narrator is named Hughes and lives in small town, with an underground gay life. He's in his early twenties, works for a bookshop, and has an on/off relationship with a rather weird guy named Lulu. The 90-page book covers a few years of the narrator's life, with a structure making good use of flashbacks, which enables the author to present his main themes little by little: Lulu is Hughes' first love, the bookshop is his first job, and to these markers of his becoming a grown-up is added another one which might have had the strongest effect on him, the long, lingering death of his mother. With this book, Barthe writes what is in my opinion his strongest work: the solid storytelling and the more assured, more Ligne Claire art enable him to tell a more mature story, in a way that's never weepy nor self-pitying. That one would definitely deserve to be translated in English.

Dans La Peau d'un jeune homoBarthe's two most recent books, published in 2007 and June 2008 by the very large publisher Hachette, are Dans La Peau d'un jeune homo (In The Shoes of a young gay) and Bienvenue Dans Le Marais (Welcome to the Marais, the Marais being one of Paris' gay parts, amusingly right next to the Jewish neighborhood). At 90 pages each, they follow the life of Hugo, a young gay guy, from his teenage years to his early twenties, from his denial to his acceptance of being gay, from his small town (yeah, that again) years to his "going up" to Paris, as we say in France for someone who leaves the "province" and goes to live in the capital. Somehow a compulsory path for gay men, it would seem (I'm happy to say there are other towns in France where one can live quite openly, but that's another subject).
Hugo talks to his imaginary friend about fantasizing about menThis time, the author's project is openly militant: Dans La Peau intends to be a kind of guide for young gays and their families, dealing with a lot of stages we've all gone through, hopefully helping everybody involved to avoid the mental anguish that young gays often have to battle. Dans La Peau is strongly pedagogic, even though Barthe never forgets to tell a story (explicitely inspired by his and his friends' life). For example, teenage Hugo develops an imaginary, openly gay friend, with whom he "talks" about important matters, in a humorous way that expresses a lot about the doubts Hugo feels about himself. In fact, a significant part of the book is played inside Hugo's head, from what he could have done with a cute guy in his class but never dared to, to his dialogue with a gay man from the 50s looking like something out of Proust (and purposedly anachronistic, we're safe to assume) who shows him (and the reader) how far we've come, and including the gentle ribbing from the voice-over that prods him on the path to self-acceptance. Between 14 and 16, Hugo goes a long way in that direction, his first steps with furtive masturbation leading to meeting his first lover, in a wonderful scene that's for the character as free from sex guilt as can be.
This is definitely a book with a mission, and we do need books like that, books that schools can include in their libraries.
Bienvenue dans le MaraisLe Marais is a continuation of that, though with a different tone from its predecessor: Hugo is now a young adult, and leaves his family behind to go to a Paris art school--or is it to share a flat in the Marais with Manu, his cousin who's become an archetype of the cute, young, happy-go-lucky gay guy? It is less pedagogic than Dans La Peau, and more documentary, it seemed to me--and it's also far more explicit, sexually speaking. After all, Barthe states that, again, this is a fictitious story inspired by real people and events: we get to see guys in saunas, tricking and talking about their tricks, going to bars, and generally enjoying gay life in the big city. Hugo and Manu in the Marais streetsThe relationship between Hugo and Menu is interesting: at first, Manu is a kind of big brother for Hugo, a model to emulate; little by little, Hugo begins to wonder about Manu's way of living his life, whether that's what he wants for himself. While Manu does enable the author to comment on some aspects of urban gay life that aren't that admirable, like the refusal to think about AIDS, he remains a real character, with his qualities and shortcomings. The same thing is true for Hugo, who doesn't become unduly wise over the course of the book. He's just not exactly in the same place at the end as he was at the beginning, in more ways than one.
For those two books, Barthe uses a looser style than in the Lulu book, giving them an immediacy that the more formal style on Lulu didn't bring--which isn't a criticism, since, as I said, I think Lulu is Barthe's strongest work. It's always interesting to see an artist work in varied styles, after all, and these two books, because they're so close to real life, could find a place on a lot of gay people's shelves.

Over the last four years, Hugues Barthe has already built a body of work that's quite unlike anything else done in French BD. From what I've read, he's now working on a long-form sequel to Le Petit Lulu, which couldn't make me happier, though it will probably be a couple of years before it's published. Maybe by then, at least one of his books will have been published in English.

You can find the artist at his website, http://www.huguesbarthe.fr, and the books at Amazon France.


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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Review update
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So Super Duper #5


Author(s): Brian Andersen.


coverSo Super Duper, Brian Andersen's sweet tale of a cute, oh-so obviously gay (but self-closeted), largely ineffective super-hero, gets a fifth issue, and it's full of character development.
Psyche gets saved, gets gay panic, gets kissed (by whom, I won't tell)...and gets it together, unexpectedly. Psyche's blindness toward his own buried feelings has been infuriating in previous issues--if rather funny, of course, especially coming from someone who's an empath--but Andersen puts that particular plot to rest, opening up his story for even more comedy, with potential boyfriend Comet being led to believe Psyche isn't interested in him. Misunderstandings and thwarted love, here we come!
Something else I enjoy more and more with this comic: the body language of the characters, very effective at conveying emotions, and the expressive faces, where a little line for the mouth and two large, moving eyes do a lot for character identification (but then, the manga authors have known that a for a long time).
Will Psyche and Comet find true love? Will we learn the secret behind the mysterious powered woman who almost snuffed the title character's candle? I can't wait to know.
You can buy this comic from the Indy Planet site or Prism Comics, and the author's site is here (with previews of the issues).


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