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April 22, 2008

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Katherine F.

Great review! Just a point of information: according to the French edition, Vampire Loves (or Grand Vampire in the original) is technically a prequel to Little Vampire. Big Vampire wanted to experience childhood and had himself magically reduced to the form of a child. I haven't read any of the Grand Vampire books, so I don't know if that makes any sense psychologically.

I have to say, I generally prefer reading the French originals of these books, because, as you say, the English-language editions tend to be squashed down. Sometimes it doesn't matter much, but Petit Vampire is so rich and detailed that it seems a pity to lose a thing. (Not to mention the lettering is inevitably changed, and French comics have seriously wonderful lettering. I think French schools emphasise handwriting more than elsewhere, which results in gloriously clear and characterful hand-lettering in French comics.)

David

I think the Grand Vampire (Vampire Loves) "prequel" thing is more of a joke than anything else. You're certainly not missing anything if you read this series first. But Grand Vampire is among his best work, so it's worth reading anyway.

Ben Towle

"...what are said to be "children's comics" (from my POV, an important genre newly re-emergent in the US..."

Children's books are obviously your area of expertise, not mine... but, I'm curious about this statement. Do you genuinely think this is a re-emergent type of kid's book? I'm a new dad, and consequently MY parents have been sending me the children's books I read when I was a kid and I'm amazed at how many of them are comics (or comics-like enough for anyone other than maybe Scott McCloud). I've been wondering if there's really a resurgence of kid's comics, or whether maybe what's really the case is just that people who have been making potentially kid-friendly comics for the direct market have suddenly realized that there's a whole 'nother market out there for their work... and likewise that perhaps publishers of kid's books have realized that there's a big talent pool out there of cartoonists who've been toiling away trying to sell Fone Bone to guys who'd really rather be reading The X-Men.

Thoughts?

CharlesWHatfield

"I've been wondering if there's really a resurgence of kid's comics..."

Good question, Ben, thanks. Briefly, yes, I think we ARE seeing a resurgence in children's comics, in three senses:

1. Publishers are interested. I mean not only comic specialty publishers, but also, and perhaps for the first time, a number of children's book publishers. Witness Scholastic's Graphix line, the new TOON Books project, etc. The fact that publishers think something is afoot is a sure sign that something IS afoot (that's something in the nature of self-fulfilling prophecy, yes?). Publishers are packaging and re-packaging a lot of work "for" children right now.

2. Creators are interested, and, for the first time in a long time, a significant alternative exists to the too-narrowly focused direct market. There are quite a few cartoonists out there who are mixing work "for adults" with work "for children," and some who might be content to continue working "for children" for a long time.

3. Librarians and educators are interested, in unprecedented numbers. This is resulting in some interesting, and at times inadvertently ironic, new forms of attention to comics, indeed to a spirit of boosterism in heretofore unexpected quarters. Children's literature and culture scholars are also newly interested.

I take your point, that lot of things that might qualify as comics have been published in children's books, often without anyone officially invoking the term "comics" to explain them. A lot of stuff happens without being noticed by the gatekeepers of children's culture. But when the gatekeepers do notice, that's important. Labeling is important. So are institutional efforts to notice and support things like comics.

It's in that institutional sense that "children's comics" are making significant gains right now. I remind myself every so often that genres are socially (as well as aesthetically) founded, and that, therefore, changes in social reception are changes in the genre. In a very real way, because children's comics are now being recognized as such within the boundaries of children's literature, we might say that the "children's comics" genre is just now being willed into existence. I say this with reference to the USAmerican scene, of course; we may be tardy in this respect.

In institutional terms -- among publishers, librarians, and educators -- children's comics can now make claims that couldn't be made previously. Even though the roots of this are partly in the direct market (witness BONE, for example), the emerging children's comics paradigm has little to do with the direct market and everything to new with new markets. That's not only a resurgence, it's a re-directing. Paging TOON Books, subject of a forthcoming TB post! :)

Oh, and allow me to plug here my review essay, "Comic Art, Children's Literature, and the New Comic Studies," from THE LION AND THE UNICORN 30.3 (Sept. 2006), as well as my introduction to the special ImageTexT issue on "Comics and Childhood," at: http://www.english.ufl.edu/imagetext/archives/v3_3/introduction.shtml

jeffk

I can't thank you guys enough for bringing Sfar to my attention. I got back into comics about a year and a half ago, and I'm still very much in the discovery phase. This post got me to pick up Little Vampire, which led me to Vampire Loves and the first two Dungeon books (the Rabbi's Cat is next, and there's more Dungeon on the way). This new breed of "all-ages" comics is really inspiring for me as an adult - it's the kind of work I'd like to create, if only I were that creative.

CharlesWHatfield

Thanks for the good words, Jeff! Glad that we've been a signpost, of sorts. :)

Man, oh man, am I looking forward to finally digging into Rabbi's Cat Vol. 2. Especially after doing the Little Vampire review, which got me going back to the bookshelf for what few Sfar books I actually own (note to self: too few). He has leapfrogged into my list of favorite cartoonists lately, and the beauty of this is that there are still a few translated English volumes I haven't read.

At the moment, I'm trying to translate for myself, just for the challenge and the fun, a volume in Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert's LES OLIVES NOIRES.

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