By Noël Simsolo & Dominique Hé, translated by Matt Maden (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-296-0 (HB) eISBN: 978-168112-289-2
Graphic biography is now a mainstay of graphic novel publishing: so much so that distinct styles and approaches have evolved, ranging from primarily factual reiterations to predominantly fictionalised accounts, with events and actions extrapolated and dramatized in search of some higher truth.
In this superbly gripping exploration of filmmaker and self-created celebrity Alfred Hitchcock, authors Noël Simsolo & Dominique Hé have chosen – most fittingly – to stage manage facts, achievements and accomplishments to craft a beguiling mystery.
In addition to scripting comics series such as Saladin, Napoleon and Lodewijk de Heilige, French writer Simsolo is a film director, novelist, comedian and cinema historian who wrote a biography of Sergio Leone.
Dominique Hé is an illustrator and comics veteran who got his start in 1973 after chucking his intended career as an astronomer. Apprenticing by limning Jean Giraud stories for Pilote, he moved on to Metal Hurlant, compiling material for two albums of short tales dubbed Voyages, before creating ghost-busting, weird science specialist Marc Mathieu. In 1988 he drew Alex Lechat for Le Journal de Mickey and went on to craft many more adventure serials like Tanatha, Moonfleet, Sophaletta and Sécretes Bancaires. Here his delightfully moody gifts stage a spooky, foggy monochrome greytone movie experience as we follow the life and career of a master not just of suspense but also personal brand management…
The epic unfolds through intercut flashbacks, focusing simultaneously on different time periods, pinpointed and highlighted via his 55 official film releases and other works. Throughout, “Hitch” is used as his own narrator, in frighteningly candid and revelatory conversations with glittering associates (because you will come away realising that – other than his wife Alma and mother Emma – he had no close friends) and such actors as he could bear to talk to, such as Grace Kelly, Carole Lombard and Cary Grant.
We open in 1960. Paris in November is rapt with the debut of Psycho – just like every other city on Earth. As Hitch and Alma continue their prickly but utterly honest and committed life of success, thoughts wing back to Cannes in 1964 as ‘Honni soit Qui Mal Y Pense’ finds the director regaling Grant and Kelly with tales of a unique childhood…
That’s pretty much all you’re getting here. This is too good a book and too well constructed to give away anything. However, in keeping with the Master’s whimsical humour and the assurance of a superbly entertaining time, here’s a tantalising list of chapter titles to spark your imagination. The eventual delivery will not disappoint you…
His ‘Apprenticeship’ is pretty self-explanatory, but progress is not assured in ‘The Young Man With the Mind of a Master’. ‘Silence and Cries’ lead to ‘Highs and Lows’ before attaining the ‘Summit’, whereafter ‘The Temptation of Departure’ heralds ‘The French Connection’ and ‘A New World’.
The success and security of later life afforded little protection from Hitch’s driving hunger for validation. He spent much of his life failing to make the one film he always wanted to, always distracted by the immediate and instead just making better and better movies. He did find time to conquer the new medium of television though. ‘The Killers Are Among Us’ sparked ‘Descent into Hell’, but always he pursued ‘Experimentation’; never finding his ‘State of Grace’. Settling in the USA, ‘Citizen Hitchcock’ found ‘Apotheosis’, and encountered further ‘Turbulence’ as advancing age signalled one ‘Final Role’…
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE was a brilliant creator who changed the way cinema worked and how tales are told. A tireless traveller and resident of many nations, he was a manic homebody with a vast appetite for domestic comfort. He was a devout catholic trapped by his upbringing, guilty and anxious his entire life. Simultaneously sexually obsessed and painfully chaste, he was a voyeur who utilised his peccadillo to build a new means of seeing and telling stories, adroitly using his methodical planning skills and graphic design talents to storyboard films – and manipulate people in the exact same manner. Like the creators of this book, he knew how to nest stories within stories and how to satisfy an audience whilst leaving them hungry for more.
This wonderful tome includes scholarly appendices too: an ‘Alfred Hitchcock Filmography’ spanning 1922-1976, detailing his entire oeuvre broken down into Director, Assistant Director and Screenwriter, a Select List of abandoned film projects and his signature Cameos. There’s also an extensive Bibliography of books about the man, his works and his legacy.
Sublimely layering fact, mythology and critical appraisal, Hitchcock: Master of Suspense offers a fulsome exploration of an iconic legend who made his own life as much an artwork as any of his films. Furthermore, it does so in a manner supremely befitting the attributes and inclinations of the man for whom storytelling was a way of life, fear was food and drink, and mystery a blessing.
© 2018 Dargaud-Benelux. © 2020 NBM for the English Translation. All rights reserved.
© DUPUIS 2020 by Rubio, Efa. All rights reserved.
Hitchcock: Master of Suspense is scheduled for UK release June 2nd 2022 and is available for pre-order. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats.