2 abr. 2018

Il était une fois à Angouleme

(English version below)

Ya hacía demasiado tiempo que tenía pendiente esta entrada, contando mis últimos progresos en las procelosas aguas de la creación independiente de cómics. Pero antes, quiero hacer una parada, volver dos meses atrás, y compartir la maravillosa experiencia de asistir por fin al Festival Internacional de la Bande Desinée (como llaman los franco-belgas al cómic) en la encantadora ciudad de Angouleme, allá en el sudoeste francés, del jueves 25 al domingo 28 de enero.

Desde que empecé a estudiar en la Joso que era consciente de lo cerca que caía la ciudad (desde luego mucho más que San Diego, a donde el verano pasado había intentado infuctuosamente conseguir entradas para la Comic-Con). De hecho, todos los años la Joso organiza un viaje-aventura con motivo del festival, recorriendo en bus la distancia de Barcelona a Angouleme. Y mi intención original había sido la de apuntarme a este viaje en mi tercer curso (y último, calculaba yo; como así ha sido...) en la escuela, y confiando en que alguno de mis compañeros del curso de cómic se apuntarían a la experiencia.

Pero finalmente se dio la circunstancia de que ninguno de mis colegas de la Joso iba a viajar a Angouleme (ni por supuesto la pandilla de vagos con los que iba a clase de color digital este año) y que uno ya no tiene el cuerpo para estas marchas, ni para dormir en un autocar, ni para compartir dormitorio común en un albergue. Así que junto a mi mujer, que siempre es la mejor compañera de aventuras, nos organizamos para llegar a Burdeos desde el miércoles, volver desde allí el domingo a Barcelona, y alojarnos allí en un hotel junto a la estación, donde cada día tomaríamos un tren que nos llevaría cómodamente a Angouleme y de regreso. Todo muy en plan burgués, pero es que uno ya no está para tonterías, y que para esto tenemos un trabajo.

Lo divertido es que el mismo trayecto que hacíamos nosotros de Barcelona a Burdeos y al revés, y de ahí a Angouleme, lo hacía mucha otra gente del mundo del cómic, con lo que cual compartimos ambos aviones con gente (que yo reconociera) como los autores David Rubín, Marcos Prior o Guillem March, el editor de La Cúpula Emilio Bernárdez, y un nutrido grupo de otros profesionales del medio, incluyendo por supuesto, los (todavía) no famosos Gonzalo Asencio, Juanfran Mota y mi compañero de fatigas de los últimos 15 años Enric Pujadas.



Mientras la mayoría de susodichos acudían a Angouleme por motivos profesionales (promocionar sus obras o entrevistarse con editores posiblemente interesados en sus proyectos) mi propósito con este viaje (al menos esta vez) era el de entrar en contacto con la, para mí, mayormente desconocida industria europea del cómic, en particular la franco-belga.

Si seguís este blog con asiduidad, o mi selección semanal de cómics en Instagram, sabéis que mi preferencia es claramente el cómic americano, mientras que mi conocimiento de la obra de autores europeos se limita a los cómics de Astérix y Tintín que leía cuando de pequeño, y al ocasional autor español como Paco Roca, David Rubín o Antonio Altarriba. Aunque quede mal reconocerlo, no conocía ni siquiera la obra publicada en Francia de autores de aquí que, además, eran profesores de mi escuela, como Jordi Lafebre o Salva Rubio.

El caso es que logré mi objetivo a medias. En un festival del tamaño de Angouleme hay mucho por ver, y aunque tres días sean un tiempo más que suficiente para recorrerse todos los espacios y exposiciones, uno termina planeando los autores a los que prefiere conocer en base a sus preferencias... y terminé en los encuentros con Matt Kindt, Sean Phillips o Dave McKean, famosos por su trabajo en el mercado americano (y que además hablaban en inglés, porque de francés iba un poco oxidado).

Pero aunque no pudiera disfrutar tanto, por desconocimiento, de lo que la industria europea podía ofrecer, sí que me llevé de Angouleme una grata impresión de lo que es el cómic en Europa, como medio, arte e industria, por contraposición al cada vez más homogéneo mercado americano.

No me malinterpretéis, me encanta el cómic americano y fuera de la gran industria orientada a los superhéroes, uno encuentra infinidad de temas y géneros tan diversos como sus autores, des lo más comercial a lo más alternativo. Lo que me fascinó de Angouleme es que si ampliamos esa diversidad a lo que el cómic europeo abarca, el espectro de lo que se puede contar en cómic, y sobre todo cómo contarlo, es casi infinito.

Narrativa histórica, retrato costumbrista, crónica social, además de todos los mundos fantásticos o futuristas que uno quiera imaginar, recogidos en los centenares de novedades que publica la industria europea (sobre todo la franco-belga) todos los años. De esto era más o menos consciente (después de todo voy al salón de Barcelona todos los años) pero los dos detalles que más me impactaron fueron la altísima calidad del material, y la enorme diversidad del público.

De lo primero, vamos a ser claros: en el cómic americano uno puede encontrar de todo, y no faltan ejemplos de obras, grandes y pequeñas, que sin perjuicio del esfuerzo puesto en ellas, dejan mucho que desear en su acabado, a menudo por culpa de la presión de las fechas de entrega. La sensación con la que me quedé en Angouleme es de que el cómic europeo tiene, general, un nivel altísimo de acabado y presentación. Y al menos por la pequeña muestra que tuve ocasión de adquirir y leer, también de contenido.

(Otra cosa por supuesto es el material expuesto en la zona de autores independientes y experimentales, el pabellón llamado Nouveau Monde, y que aunque estimulante, oscilaba entre lo bizarro y lo lisérgico, el equivalente a las muestras de cine iraní o hindú que solían llenar el cartel de los festivales de cine unos años atrás)

El otro aspecto que me fascinó fue comprobar la diferencia con el público que llena el salón del cómic en Barcelona. Mientras que aquí los que ya tenemos de 40 para arriba nos empezamos a sentir viejos nostálgicos, en Angouleme pasábamos completamente desapercibidos. La consecuencia natural de la diversidad temática y el nivel de exigencia es que el público francés es mucho más diverso (en edad, sexo y preferencias) que el que tenemos costumbre de conocer aquí. Para empezar en España se lee poco, y aún menos cómic, que sigue cargando con un cierto estigma cultural, mientras que en Francia la bande desinée es parte integral de su cultura de país, valorado y apreciado por toda clase de lectores, desde el lector casual a los más inquietos y exigentes.

Por supuesto como autor aspirante a profesional, no fui indiferente a nada de todo esto. Para empezar, tuve que reconsiderar mi visión del medio tras tocar de cerca lo que representa el cómic para el aficionado europeo, más maduro y exigente. Y luego, tuve que reevaluar mis opciones de publicar viendo la calidad y estilo de mis proyectos por comparación con la clase de obra que triunfa en los países vecinos.

Porque seamos sinceros, me bastó un vistazo a los proyectos que jóvenes de media Francia traían para presentar a los diversos editores reunidos en Angouleme para saber que aún estoy a mitad de camino. Que sí, que he hecho grandes progresos y empiezo a tener cuatro trucos bien aprendidos, pero si de lo que se trata de convencer a un profesional por cuyas manos pasan literalmente cientos de propuestas todos los años, aún estoy definitivamente en una liga inferior.

Como consecuencia, el primer resultado de mi largamente aplazada visita a Angouleme no se hizo esperar. El pasado mes de febrero fue mi último como alumno de color digital en la Joso, donde no sentía estar haciendo el progreso esperado (sobre todo porque la actitud de mis compañeros estaba muy alejada de mis inquietudes y no hacía más que desmotivarme). A cambio, desde este pasado marzo estoy cursando clases de cómic en la escuela FemArt, donde he podido volver a trabajar todas las semanas en mis proyectos, además de (espero) mejorar mi técnica. Si habéis estado siguiendo mi progreso en Instagram, veréis que he estado afilando mi hacha, y esta vez es con el objetivo claro de empezar a buscarme un hueco en el mercado.

Parte importante de ello fue ver como mis colegas Enric y Gonzalo volvían de Angouleme con la satisfacción de haber hecho buenos contactos con editores, y un acuerdo cerrado para la publicación de un proyecto (no diremos cuál hasta que sea oficial), lo cual como alguien que ha visto a Enric crecer y evolucionar como escritor me llena de especial satisfacción (en cambio de Gonzalo era de esperar, el cabrón tiene un talento espectacular y cada una de sus páginas e ilustraciones ofende mi frágil ego por su maestría; te odio).

Y así fue como he terminado volviendo a trabajar en un nuevo proyecto de cómic, a la espera de que Enric entregue sus guiones comprometidos y encuentre tiempo para escribir un nuevo número de Huérfanos. Y como he comprobado como los fragmentos que he empezado a publicar en las redes están empezando a levantar cejas, quizá os estaréis preguntando en qué ando metido ahora.

Pero esa es otra historia...


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This post was long overdue, recounting my latest progress in the stormy waters of the independent creation of comics. But first, I want to make a stop, go back two months, and share the wonderful experience of finally attending the International Festival of the Bande Desinée (as the French-Belgians call comics) in the charming city of Angouleme, up there in southwest France, from Thursday 25 to Sunday 28 January.

Since I started studying at Joso School I was aware of how close the city was (certainly much more than San Diego, where last summer I had tried to get tickets for the Comic-Con). In fact, every year Joso organizes a trip-adventure on the occasion of the festival, traveling by bus the distance from Barcelona to Angouleme. And my original intention was to sign up for this trip in my third year in the school (and my last, I calculated, as it has been...), and trusting that some of my classmates in the comic class would also sign up for the experience.

But finally none of my colleagues from the school was going to travel to Angouleme (nor of course the gang of bums with whom I was attending digital color class this year) and that one no longer has the body for these adventures, neither to sleep in a coach, nor to share a bedroom in a hostel. So together with my wife, who is always the best companion of adventures, we organized ourselves to get to Bordeaux from Wednesday, return to Barcelona from there on Sunday, ​​and stay there in a hotel next to the train station, where each day we would take a train comfortably to Angouleme and back. All very bourgeois, but I wasn't in the mood for adventure nonsense, and this is why I have a job.

The funny thing is, the same route that we made from Barcelona to Bordeaux and vice versa, and from there to Angouleme, was done by many other people from the spanish comics industry, with whom we shared both planes with people (that I recognized) such as authors David Rubín, Marcos Prior or Guillem March, La Cúpula publisher Emilio Bernárdez, and a large group of other media professionals, including, of course, the (still) not-famous Gonzalo Asencio, Juanfran Mota and my writing partner of the last 15 years Enric Pujadas.



While most of them went to Angouleme for professional reasons (promoting their works or meeting with publishers possibly interested in their projects) my purpose with this trip (at least this time) was to get in touch with the, at least for me, mostly unknown European comic industry, in particular the French-Belgian.

If you follow this blog regularly, or my weekly selection of comics on Instagram, you know that my preference is clearly American comics, while my knowledge of the work of European authors is limited to the comics of Asterix and Tintin that I read when I was a child, and the occasional Spanish author such as Paco Roca, David Rubín or Antonio Altarriba. Although it feels wrong to admit it, I did not even know the work published in France by local authors who were also teachers at my school, like Jordi Lafebre or Salva Rubio.

The fact is, I achieved my goal halfway. In a festival the size of Angouleme there is much to see, and although three days is a more than enough time to go through all the spaces and exhibitions, one ends up planning for the authors who'd rather know based on their preferences ... and I finished in the meetings with Matt Kindt, Sean Phillips or Dave McKean, famous for their work in the American market (and who also spoke in English, because my French was a bit rusty).

But even if I could not enjoy so much, due to ignorance, of what the European industry could offer, I did take from Angouleme a pleasant impression of what comics is like in Europe, as a medium, art and industry, as opposed to more and more homogenous American market.

Do not get me wrong, I love American comics and out of the big industry oriented to superheroes, one finds endless themes and genres as diverse as their authors, from the most commercial to the most alternative. What fascinated me about Angouleme is that if we expand that diversity to what the European comic covers, the spectrum of what can be told in comics, and above all how to tell it, is almost infinite.

Historical narrative, portrait of everyday life, social chronicle, in addition to all the fantastic or futuristic worlds that one wants to imagine, collected in the hundreds of new books published by European industry every year. Of this I was more or less aware (since I attend to the Barcelona comics show every year) but the two details that struck me the most were the high quality of the material, and the huge diversity of the audience.

From the first, let's be clear: in American comics you can find anything, and there are examples of works, large and small, that without prejudice to the effort put into them, leave much to be desired in their finish, often because of the pressure of deadlines. The feeling I got from Angouleme is that European comics has, overall, a very high level of finishing and presentation. And at least for the small sample that I had occasion to buy and read, also of content.

(a different story of course is the material exhibited in the area of ​​independent and experimental authors, the pavilion called Nouveau Monde, which even though it was stimulating, it went from the bizarre to the lysergic, the equivalent to the samples of Iranian or Hindu cinema that used to fill the poster of film festivals a few years ago)

The other aspect that fascinated me was to see the difference with the audience that fills the comic convention in Barcelona. While here those of us who are already 40 or up begin to feel old and nostalgic, in Angouleme we went completely unnoticed. The natural consequence of the thematic diversity and expectations is that the French public is much more diverse (in age, sex and preferences) than the one we are accustomed to knowing here. To begin with, in Spain few people actually read, and even less read comics, which continues to carry a certain cultural stigma, while in France the bande desinée is an integral part of its national culture, valued and appreciated by all kinds of readers, from the casual reader to the most restless and demanding.

Of course as an aspiring professional author, I was not indifferent to any of this. To begin with, I had to reconsider my vision of the medium after touching closely what comics represent for the more mature and demanding European fan. And then, I had to reevaluate my options to publish seeing the quality and style of my projects by comparison with the kind of work that triumphs in neighboring countries.

Because let's be honest, I had a look at the projects that young people from half of France brought to present the various editors gathered in Angouleme to know that I am still halfway there. Yes, I have made great progress and I'm beginning to have a few tricks up my sleeve, but when it comes to convincing a professional whose get in their hands literally hundreds of proposals every year, I am still definitely in a lower league.

As a result, the first consequence of my long overdue visit to Angouleme was immediate. Last February was my last month as a student of digital color in Joso School, where I did not feel I was making the expected progress (especially because the attitude of my classmates was very far from my interests and did nothing but discourage me). In return, since this past March I am taking comic classes at the FemArt school, where I have been able to return to work every week on my projects, as well as (I hope) improve my technique. If you have been following my progress on Instagram, you will see that I have been sharpening my axe, and this time around it is with the clear objective of finding a spot in the market for myself.

An important reason for this was to see how my colleagues Enric and Gonzalo came back from Angouleme with the satisfaction of having made good contacts with publishers, and a agreement for the publication of one of their projects (we won't reveal which one until it's official), which as someone who has seen Enric grow and evolve as writer fills me with particular pride (whereas for Gonzalo it was expected, the bastard has an amazing talent and each of his pages and illustrations offends my fragile ego for his mastery, I hate you).

And that's how I ended up working on a new comic book project, waiting for Enric to deliver his compromised scripts and finding time to write a new issue of Orphans. And seeing how the fragments that I have started publishing on the networks are beginning to raise a few eyebrows, maybe you are wondering what I'm working on now.

But that is another story...

2 ene. 2018

My favorite 2017 comic books

As the year ends, multiple lists are crowning the best authors and titles of this year in comics. Unfortunately for me, I haven't been on top of everything being published as much as last year, so I can't make a reliable selection. Also I took the time to catch up on pending readings from years past, so I've been following many releases mostly through online reviews.

This is also the year I practically went all-digital so I'm usually behind on my reading, waiting for Comixology sales to make the most out of my budget (since I also made the effort to go legit and pay a fair price for all the comics I follow).

But! I still follow quite a few series week by week, as you can see every Wednesday on my Instagram account, and I have my say on the year that was in comics.

IMAGE

 
 



Sadly I didn't pick up many new series this year, but instead stuck to my regular picks: Saga, The Wicked and the Divine, Paper Girls, Outcast, Sex Criminals, Kill or be Killed, Wayward, Descender, Deadly Class, Black Magick.

Two series I love that are currently on hiatus from their original creative teams: Lazarus and Bitch Planet, released underwhelming spin-off series that I personally could live without, after checking their first issues. I'd rather wait 8 months as I did for Sex Criminals coming back than settle for an inferior placeholder.


The best new Image series I found was The Old Guard, by Rucka and Fernandez, which was absolutely stellar both in writing and art. I also caught up on Injection by Ellis and Shalvey, which is now on my pull list as I eagerly wait for each new issue.

Other Image titles on my radar that I expect to check soon after reading so many recommendations were: The Fix, Extremity, Curse Words, God Country, ... Expect to read from me about them next year.

DARK HORSE, ONI, BOOM, IDW...


It was a good year for comics out of the mainstream and superhero stuff. From Dark Horse I stuck to the excellent and now Eisner-awarded Black Hammer, with guest artist David Rubin excelling at his work, and then being promoted to official artist on the spin-off miniseries Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil. This was also Rubin's year with the excellent Ether series also releasing its first arc. Harrow County remained a reference of horror comics (and probably the best of Cullen Bunn's many books).



 

Finally, from Dark Horse I also caught up on the already finished The Massive, a series as good as Brian Wood gets, and of course my beloved Groo by Sergio Aragonés, which remains my favorite humor artist of all time.

 

From Oni I'm really hooked with Chris Sebela's Heartthrob, a crime drama like nothing I've read before. Oni seems to have an impressive and really well curated lineup of creator-owned titles that I really need to check as soon as possible. Oh wait, there's a Comixology sale now... 😋

From Boom I haven't been following any current series, but I have an entire Humble Bundle in my backlog featuring collections of fan favorite series like Lumberjanes, Giant Days or The Woods.

From IDW I'm still in the process of reading through an entire Humble Bundle including such gems as the entire runs of Darwyn Cooke's Parker, The Maxx or Locke and Key. Definitely reading those soon.

DC

For the past year, probably my most anticipated titles have been from DC, not because of some stubborn loyalty to the characters but because they have been really good, and honestly, they have the best star creators of the industry.


  

Tom King remains definitely the best writer in comics, with Batman and Mister Miracle making themselves into instant classics with every new issue, taking the character in unexpected directions - don't want to spoil it, but BIG things happened. Having such talented artists as Mitch Gerads, Mikel Janin, Joelle Jones and Clay Mann on your staff doesn't hurt either. The last Batman annual by King, with artists Lee Weeks and Michael Lark, is an absolute masterpiece.


 

I also love the other Batman family titles: Detective Comics (though it suffers when it's not Eddy Barrows or Alvaro Martínez on art duties), All-Star Batman (already finished, but a masterful work by Scott Snyder and his team of rotating artists) and Batwoman.

Deathstroke remains as strong as last year, although still uneven in the art department. But the main Superman series definitely went down after its third arc, and seems to be still struggling. By comparison, Action Comics has been consistent in its sense of adventure, although I have mixed feelings about the big reveal in The Oz Effect.

Wonder Woman kept struggling after the departure of Greg Rucka but I at least I'm enjoying the current run by James Robinson, not as good as you'd expect from the writer of Starman, but still pretty good thanks to the excellent artwork.

I've just started to follow Justice League since Christopher Priest took over the book (I didn't care for it before) and almost caught up on Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps, which is a really entertaining adventure book. Also checked, and loved, the Aquaman series since Stjepan Sejic stepped in as artist, and it's been a real charmer.


 

But for me the real winners of the year that was at DC were the Young Animal titles. Doom Patrol, Cave Carson has a Cybernetic Eye, Shade the Changing Girl and the just finished miniseries Bug: the adventures of Forager. They were fun, fresh, and they felt different without feeling completely outlandish - I'm currently reading Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol which must be the gold standard of weird superhero comics. Definitely check them out, each has its own style and appeal, I'd be surprised if you don't love at least one of them. (but ignore Mother Panic, which for me is the exception to confirm the rule)

Sadly, the Vertigo imprint seems to be at its lowest, with only two titles still running (and one is Astro City, which feels like a genre of its own). I'm hoping 2018 brings some of the old greatness to the brand, that this year released excellent, but short-lived, titles like Clean Room, Unfollow and Everafter.

Regarding the two biggest events that started at DC this year: Metal and Doomsday Clock - loving both so far, but I want to see where all this is going before giving a verdict. So many events started out great and ended up terribly that I'd rather wait till the jury comes back.

 
MARVEL

OK I'll try to be generous. I'm currently catching up on some series from the last few years of Marvel and you have to admit that some really good stuff came out if there, and some of it is still going.


 

Thor by Jason Aaron remains one of the best superhero titles around, going strong for 3 years straight with the female Thor. The Asgard / Shiar War was, probably, the best saga of the year. Other excellent titles from the pre-Legacy era I can totally recommend: Doctor Strange also by Aaron, Charles Soule's Daredevil, Moon Knight by Lemire, the entire Captain America run (both Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers) by Nick Spencer. And definitely the core Star Wars titles. Probably a few other series (Silver Surfer, etc) but the bulk of Marvel's lineup is made of less than decent products.

Contrary to many people's opinions, I absolutely loved Secret Empire, which made the effort to take the publisher and its most iconic character, to some really dark place. But the end of that event felt rushed and almost fake, not at all what we had come to expect from Nick Spencer, and one can't help but wonder how much editorial interference was there.

Then along came Legacy and all my big expectations came crashing down. Nothing really new on the horizon, old characters getting resurrected just because, and barely any exciting news about the future. This has really been a tough year for Marvel as a publisher, where almost every month there was some new embarrassing story coming from them - paradoxically at the same time Marvel Studios was making even better and more successful movies.

 

Still, there is always a silver lining and I can recommend a few excellent series still coming from the publisher: the new Captain America is the annual dose of goodness from the Waid-Samnee factory. Hawkeye starring Kate Bishop is a charming mix of superhero, detective and young adult narrative... that unfortunately couldn't find a bigger audience and just got cancelled. Doctor Strange is back with Cates and Walta seamlessly filling the big shoes left behind by Aaron and Bachalo. Above the general mediocrity of the mutant books, Astonishing X-Men by Charles Soule and a rotating team of artists keeps the mutant flame alive. Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man by Chip Zdarsky brings back the fun to the Spider-Man titles. And of course, there's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which remains my favorite Marvel title for the third year in a row. As I said, it can't be all that bad, and I'd probably find even more hidden gems if I cared to dig (or Marvel to give them more visibility).


So that was it. Not exactly a Best of the Year list, since I'm not really qualified to do that, but I hope at least some of my recommendations intrigued you enough to give a try to a new series or two.

So I wish you a happy new year full of excellent comics. And now if you'll excuse me I have a bunch of 90s classics pending to read. Feel free to ask me about those: magarciascomics@gmail.com and keep up with my pull list on Instagram.