Giant


By Mikaël, translated by Matt Maden (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-253-3 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-254-0

As a purported land of promises and untapped opportunity, America has always fascinated storytellers – especially comics-creators – from the “Old World” of Europe: an inclination and interest that has frequently delivered potent and rewarding results. This continentally-published yarn – by self-taught, multi-disciplined, multi award-winning French-born Québécois auteur Mikaël (Junior l’Aventurier, Rapa Nui, Promise) was first released by Dargaud in 2018 as two European albums and now breaks into English via a monolithically oversized hardback (229 x 305mm) edition that gets the entire story done-in-one.

Everything about this stylish Depression-era drama is big and powerfully mythic. In March 1932, with poverty wracking the nation and the world, and Herbert Hoover dreading the upcoming Presidential election, immigrants and natives flock to Manhattan and the bustling, dangerous construction site that will one day be Rockerfeller Center. Casualties are high as we focus on the Irish contingent rushing daily into the skies to rivet and weld a concrete and steel colossus into New York City’s ever-changing skyline.

The story unfolds through the eyes of fresh-off-the-boat new recruit Dan Shackleton who joins the crew after the death of “high-steel” man Ryan Murphy. Dan is a garrulous, easy-going son-of-the-sod, but even he has difficulty befriending the taciturn, thoughtful, barely-human behemoth everyone calls Giant. A formidable worker, Giant lives in a grubby flop-house and keeps to himself, but affable Dan persists and eventually the big man almost-imperceptibly thaws – at least enough that Shackleton becomes unwitting witness to a strange ritual…

Hiding a tragic secret that dates back to the recent Irish War of Independence, the Big Man is a solitary creature of fiercely controlled passions who keeps his every opinion to himself. A dutiful worker, Giant was given the task of informing Murphy’s widow in Ireland when he died. Instead, he began impersonating the dead man in a string of letters containing the bulk of his own carefully-hoarded wages and savings. Over months, a bizarre one-sided relationship develops that metastasizes into a full-blown crisis after the silent bruiser falls foul of organised crime. When the letters and money stop, Mary Ann Murphy and her children take ship for America to be reunited with her beloved husband. As the wounded colossus recuperates, he has no idea of the troubles that are heading his way…

Tapping into a wealth of powerful socially-crusading movies that have immortalised pre-WWII America and packed with period detail and mythology, pungent political commentary, a broad cast of moving characters and timeless drama, this is a human-scaled tale playing out amongst mighty edifices – both human and architectural – with warmth, passion, humour and beguiling humanity.

Supplemented with an Introduction by Jean-Louis Tripp and a stunning selection of production sketches, covers and other art, Giant is a stunning saga of uncommon folk in perilous times and one no lover of grand stories could possibly resist.
© 2018 Dargaud-Benelux. © 2020 NBM for the English Translation. All rights reserved.

Giant is scheduled for UK release April 23rd 2020 and is available for pre-order now.
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads go to NBM Publishing at nbmpub.com.

Phoolan Devi: Rebel Queen


By Claire Fauvel, translated by Montana Kane (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-251-9 (HB)

Born in 1988, award-winning graphic novelist Claire Fauvel (À la recherche d’Alvaro Dolor; Sur les pas de Teresa, la religieuse de Calcutta [w/Marie-Noëlle Pichard]; Une Saison en Égypte; Catherine’s War [w/Julia Billet]) studied illustration at Paris’ l’école Estienne and animation at l’école des Gobelins before beginning an illustrious career in bande dessinée. She’s particularly adroit and adept with female historical figures and her latest tome gives her plenty to work with…

Phoolan Devi: Rebel Queen is that rare event, a history that has all the energy and impetus of a great action adventure and pioneering, political tract. Despite being a factual graphic biography, this is the stuff of legend and grand drama, detailing the astounding, appalling, tragic and triumphant life of a woman who bucked India’s ancient, all-pervasive caste system. Victim from birth of poverty and inequality, she sought change through bloody deeds and ultimately political action in a country where prejudice is institutionalised: expressed via cultural violence, and which fostered for millennia a tyrannical social system of inherent, inbuilt corruption where gods and birth status forever dictate one’s position in life…

Phoolan suffered a double blow at birth: born both poor and female. Never educated, she remained illiterate all her life. A life of being shunned and grinding poverty was exacerbated when she was married off at age 11, starting a harrowing pattern of slavery and sexual abuse lasting until she was rescued by a troop of the legendary bandits infesting Uttar Pradesh at the time. They were actually more decent – and heroic – than most respectable citizens (men), civil authorities and police officers of the region. Becoming lover to one of the gang, she suffered even greater abuse when he was murdered by a rival from a different caste.

Surviving these assaults, Phoolan organised an infamous vengeance massacre at the village of Behmai. That slaughter was picked up by the press, who recast her as a rebel queen and her lover a martyr. The public began using the honorific “Devi” for her and, after a mythic career, she surrendered to authorities in 1983. Over eleven years of imprisonment, 48 capital charges including murder, plunder, arson and kidnapping were incrementally dropped before a trial that never came. In 1994, the state government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party withdrew all charges and she walked free. Joining the party, she was elected to national office twice, becoming a strong advocate for radical change, in the caste system and the patriarchal treatment of women. Regarded as the “voice of the oppressed”, on 26th July 2001 her past caught up with her when she was assassinated by relatives of the bandits killed at Behmai.

Fauvel took her inspiration from acclaimed 1996 autobiography Moi, Phoolan Devi, reine des bandits by Phoolan Devi & Marie-Thérèse Cuny, and although not all of those events are included in this stunning and uncompromising account, the supremely enticing and engaging art manages to mix in a few moments of hopeful aspiration, happy romance and family unity to offset the revolting iniquities Phoolan and other women had to survive on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, this brilliant tale is grim and unflinching in the portrayal of the constant assaults and abuses she endured, so you’d better gird yourself for plenty of righteous indignation and outright anger at the catalogue of venality and casual intolerance civilised folk still seem capable of…

Potent, unmissable, and primed to continue the fight, this is a book you must read.
© 2018 Casterman. © 2020 NBM for the English translation.

Phoolan Devi: Rebel Queen will be published on March 19th 2020 and is available for pre-order. NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads go to NBM Publishing at nbmpub.com

Chloe & Cartoon volume 1: When Chloe First Met Her Cat, Cartoon


By Greg Tessier & Amandine, translated by Joe Johnson (/Charmz/Papercutz)
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0430-8 (HB) 978-1-5458-0431-5 (TPB)

Let’s close cat week (not an actual thing… yet) with another superbly inclusive and entertaining European import, debuting under Papercutz’s new Charmz imprint aimed at a Pre and Early Teen female readership (let’s go with 9-13, but I don’t register on any of those metrics and still enjoyed it immensely).

Chloe & Cartoon is actually a prequel, set before Charmz’s splendid, school series Chloe which originally began in 2017 and 2018 as French series Mistinguette & Cartoon. When Chloe First Met Her Cat, Cartoon compile first two Euro-tomes Chat Arrive! and Deuxieme Chat Pitre into a bold and charming collation of consecutive vignettes detailing how the ever-so-tense Blin family take possession of a 3-month old kitten. Chloe is still in elementary school and her brother Arthur is just a toddler, it’s nearly Christmas and tetchy Mr. Blin is about to reluctantly capitulate to a sustained campaign by his wife and first-born to get a cat. He is NOT KEEN.

Knowing when to give in, he scopes out three likely candidates and make the rookie mistake of picking the chubby, lazy sleeping one, on the absurd assumption that it will cause the least mess and trouble…

Dad learns his lesson over the following months as the little tyke settles in with the exact opposite of the minimum of fuss and destruction. Nevertheless, Cartoon changes Chloe’s life and the family dynamic forever. Days pass in a flurry of little adventures as the girl learns responsibility, how to let go, and patience while dad becomes more and more of an ogre before admitting his own affection for the fuzzy brute….

These short strips are not only fun and supremely entertaining but also subtly reinforce ideas of proper pet care and are augmented by ‘Tips from Chloe’: illustrated text features ‘Welcoming a Kitten to Your Home’ and behavioural hints in ‘Understanding a Kitten’.

Available in Hardback, Softcover and digital editions, When Chloe First Met Her Cat, Cartoon is the brainchild of author Greg Tessier, a relative newcomer who spent much of his career as a cultural and historical development specialist, overseeing public reading projects in France, and veteran illustrator Amandine. She’s been active in the business since 2006, with alternative projects as part of the Nekomix collective; mainstream illustration work for Disney, Hachette Presse, Playbac, Fleurus Presse; children’s series Valentin, and since 2011 Mistinguette.

As well as being a delightful comic for readers of all ages, Chloe & Cartoon is a wonderful argument for the proposition that every kid should grow up a with a pet. If that’s a quandary currently vexing you, consider this as definite tick in the “pro” column…
Mistinguette [CHLOE] & Cartoon volume 1 “Chat Arrive!” © Jungle! 2017 and Mistinguette [CHLOE] & Cartoon volume 1 “Deuxieme Chat Pitre” © Jungle! 2018. All rights reserved. User license. English translation and all other material © 2020 by Papercutz. All rights reserved.

Madame Cat


By Nancy Peña, translated by Mark Bence (Life Drawn/Humanoids)
ISBN: 978-1-59465- 813-6 (PB Album)

Churlish men have joked about women with cats for eternity. Here’s a superbly irrepressible cartoon collection BY a woman about her own cat. It’s hilarious, extremely addictive and among the top five strips about feline companions ever. Laugh that off, guys…

Toulouse-born Nancy Peña probably caught the comics bug off her father: a dedicated comics collector. She studied Applied Arts and became a teacher while carving out a sideline as a prolific creator of magazine strips and graphic novels such as her Medea series, Le Cabinet Chinois, Mamohtobo and many more.

Hectic as all that sounds, she still found time to invite a companion animal to share her life…

Madame is a cute little kitty who shares her house and converses with her. The bewhiskered treasure (Madame, right) has a vivid interior life – probably swiped from a number of deranged mad scientists and would-be world conquerors – and is the mischievous stuff of nightmares all those legally responsible for a pet know and dread. There is nothing the tiny tyke won’t attempt, from drinking artists ink to exorcising the artist’s long-suffering and utterly unwelcome boyfriend.

Madame knows what she is and what she wants and will baulk at nothing – not even the laws of physics – to achieve her aims…

The engaging bombshell bursts of manic mirth are rendered in engaging duotone (black and blue, but I’m sure that’s not symbolic of anything) with titles such as ‘Madame flirts’, ‘Madame suggests’, ‘Madame insists’, and ‘Madame smells’ as the wee beast moves in, makes allies of the other felines in the area and promptly takes charge: wrecking the life and house of her carer and only giving in return permission to be adored. Every cat person alive will identify with that…

Available in paperback and digital editions, Madame Cat is a sparking example of domestic comedy. Mixing recognisably real events with potent imagination and debilitating whimsy, Peña has introduced a classic cartoon character who is charming, appalling and laugh-out-loud funny. If you’ve been thinking of getting a cat, along with all the medical and pet-care books, get this too. You won’t be sorry. Well, not with the book, at least…
“Madame” © 2015-2016 La Boîte à Bulles & Nancy Peña. All rights reserved.

Brina the Cat volume 1: The Gang of the Feline Sun


By Giorgio Salati & Christian Cornia, with Erika Turbati, translated by Olivia Rose Doni (Papercutz)
ISBN: 978-1-5458-0425-4 (HB) 978-1-5458-0426-1 (TPB)

As I believe I’ve already mentioned, there’s an awful lot of cat comics around these days. As owning the internet is clearly not enough for the hairy little blighters, here’s the gen on another one I think might be worth your time and money…

Originally published in 2017 as Brina e la Banda del Sole Felino and another newly-translated all-ages gem from the astute folk at Papercutz, the first volume of Brina the Cat is an engaging tale of ownership versus liberty in the grand Walt Disney manner. That’s not surprising as it’s scripted by Italian Disney Academy veteran and professor Giorgio Salati (Topolino, Disney Hamlet; Il lato obscure della legge) and painted by his college colleague Professor Christian Cornia (Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, When Unicorns Poop) – assisted by co-colourist Erika Turbati.

The story is delicious and bittersweet, and preceded by a delightful comics Foreword from Frédéric Brrémaud & Federico Bertolucci before the main feature begins, revealing how pampered city housecat Brina accompanies the young human couple she lives with on a summer vacation to the mountains. Once there, she has the run of their chalet and the gardens and discovers her inner apex predator, as well as how annoying dogs can be…

All too soon however, she meets the seductively free cats of The Gang of the Feline Sun, and strange stirrings are provoked within her…

Pack leader Vespucci is particularly convincing and before long Brina has broken her ties with her beloved humans and reclaimed her heritage. Running free with the gang, she leaves her heartbroken humans to go through all the motions necessary to retrieve a lost cat…

Although not without qualms, Brina quickly adapts to her life of liberty, but as the summer passes the unity of the gang is slowly eroded and Brina comes to a shocking conclusion about Vespucci and is forced to reassess her decision…

But can she decide before the humans dejectedly return to the city…

Available in hardcover, paperback and digitally and augmented by illustrated poem ‘Brina’s Tale’ this is a superb yarn blending charm and wit with plenty of fun and imagination and like all the best kids’ stories is not afraid to mix a bit of terror and heartbreak into the mix. It can also be readily enjoyed by cat-loving adults… as long as they have tissues handy…
© 2020 TUNUÉ (Tunué s.r.l.) – Giorgio Salati & Christian Cornia. All other material © 2020 Papercutz. All rights reserved.

Cat & Cat volume 1: Girl Meets Cat


By Christophe Cazenove, Hervé Richez & Yrgane Ramon, translated by Joe Johnson (Papercutz)
ISBN: 978-1-54580-427-8 (HB) 978-1-54580-428-5 (TPB)

There’s an amazing abundance of comics about cats being sent to me these days, so – in anticipation of our furry feline overlords finally taking full possession of the planet – I’m thinking of an imminent solid week of cat-themed coverage. Until then though, let’s make do with this recent addition to the genre, courtesy of those fine folk at Papercutz and pray that it’s enough to hold the cute little brutes at bay (the cats, I mean, not the all-ages readership)…

Debuting in Europe as Cath et son chat in 2012’s in initial volume Virus au bahut (they’re up to 8 books by now), the series details the grudging accommodations made by a single-parent father, his naively optimistic daughter and a rather strong-willed, painfully adventurous cat they name Sushi

Girl Meets Cat sees young Catherine gradually getting to know the newest addition to the household, although dad isn’t really acclimatising that well to the hairy third wheel. In this delightful paperback or digital catalogue (tee hee) of short strips, you’ll see the hapless humans discover Tomcat Sushi’s darling little tricks – such as shredding carpets, wallpaper, drapes and furniture (“broderie de chat” as actor Leslie Phillips once dubbed it), shunning expensive cat-toys, sleeping for eons and utterly failing to understand the principles of cat doors or the off-limits sanctity of Christmas trees and decorations…

Enthralling episodes cover where cats sleep, opening the fridge, food, litter trays, learning to use pet-carriers, professional cat groomers, holiday provision, fishbowls, what cats do to tech – especially computers – the joy of cardboard boxes, hiding, marking territory and presenting prey (generally garden gnomes in this case).

These commonplace activities are often complicated by the fact that Sushi has a rich and imaginative dream life which frequently has painful real-world repercussions. He’s been an astronaut cat, polar explorer, pirate, ghost and Victorian detective Catlock Holmes and is particularly partial to those five-hour long sessions of vigorous violent exercise cats compress into six minutes – generally known as “the Rips”. Most importantly, he is implacable in the never-ending war that ensues over who gets to sit in the best spot in the house…

In this tome you will also learn of Sushi’s nine lives through the length of human history from Jurassic times to WWII, and understand humanity’s true place in the Grand Scheme of Things.

Rendered by Yrgane Ramon in a frantic and frenetic modern animation style, and scripted – probably from painful personal experience – by veteran comedy scripters Christophe Cazenove (Les Pompiers; Les Fondus; Les Petits Mythos) and Hervé Richez (Buzzi; L’Effaceur; Les Poulets du Kentucky), this a wonderfully bright and breezy sitcom cat lovers and cartoon connoisseurs will adore.
© 2012-2020 Bamboo Édition. All other material © 2020 Papercutz. All rights reserved.

Goblin Girl


By Moa Romanova, translated by Melissa Bowers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-68396-283-0 (HB)

Scandinavian artists and authors seem to have a real knack for combining comics with therapy and producing truly memorable books you really want to tell your friends about. Here’s another…

Stockholm resident and dog-lover Moa Romanova was born in 1992. She’s an artist and musician who studied painting at the Gothenburg School of Fine arts and is a graduate of the wonderful Malmö Comic Art School. She’s probably done a whole bunch of other stuff too, if her debut graphic novel Goblin Girl is anything to go by. Already available in seven languages, it started life as Alltid Fucka Upp when first published in Sweden…

The Goblin in question is a young woman of artistic temperament and ambitions who suffers from panic attacks and other insecurities. Despite being broke and stuck in a grotty squat over a shop, she’s getting by, thanks to mum, friends and a counsellor I personally wouldn’t give house room to. Looking for love – aren’t we all? – she hooks up online with a minor TV celeb who’s far too old for her, but at least he seems to listen. It’s not undying passion, but in the absence of anything better…

He seems to want nothing, but validates her life and even offers to sponsor her art career. Are things finally looking up?  Aren’t there always strings attached?

And so, her life progresses: drink, panic attacks, other people, concerts, social services, work, no work, body issues, relationships, fraught travel, psych evaluations and admissions: all the crap that makes up a modern life if you’re not born perfect but still have a brain to be unhappy and discontented with…

Dealing with contemporary life, mental health issues and the inescapable problem of unequal power dynamics in all relationships in an uncompromising but astonishingly steady – if not upbeat – manner, Goblin Girl (available in breathtaking oversized hardback or digital editions) is a remarkable testament to modern living, beautifully drawn in a deliberately ugly way and deeply moving. You won’t all like it, but those of you who do will read it over and over again and still come away wanting more…
© 2020 Moa Romanova. English translation © 2020 Melissa Bowers. This edition © 2020 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.

Muhammad Ali


By Sybille Titeux de la Croix & Amazing Améziane, translated by Nicole Seguin-Morris for Studio Cutie (Dark Horse Books)
ISBN: 978-1-50670-318-3 (HB) eISBN: 978-1-63008-899-6

Fuelled largely by European comics, there’s a superb wealth of graphic biographies and auto biographies around for us mere English-speakers and I’ve reviewed a fair few of them. One of the best is this redoubtable treat from 2016, crafted by all-round artist and musician Sybille Titeux de la Croix (L’Apparition, Dostoyevski’s Gratte Moi La Puce) who studied at the École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs. Her tag-team partner and illustrator here goes by Amazing Améziane: a multi-disciplinary creator, screenwriter and avowed child of the 1970s. He started crafting comics in 2001 and his other efforts include Clan, Bagmen and Cuatro Manos.

Their subject certainly needs no introduction. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. on January 17th 1942, he rose to fame through professional boxing during the most turbulent period in American history. Smart, incredibly fit and ferociously determined, he used his fame to become an activist, philanthropist and political and social influencer long before the term was coined or even possible. You don’t need me to tell you how important he was: history does that perfectly well and this superb appreciation and distillation of his life – available in hardback and digital editions – adds stylish gloss and polish to it all.

Following the Introduction from author Titeux de la Croix, the potent blend of narrative art and calligraphic declamation begins with ‘Equality’, relating the early days in Louisville, Kentucky, describing the day to day hardships of segregation, racist atrocities such as ‘The Murder of Emmett Till’ and how little Cassius Clay accidentally falls into boxing after his bike is stolen…

Grit, determination and focus carry him to the Olympics where he wins gold, and back to America where he still can’t ride some buses or eat in any diner he chooses…

‘Islam’ relates the days of political and religious awakening, meeting Henry Cooper and Malcolm X, proving he’s “the Greatest” and changing his name…

Diverting for a detailed and comprehensive analysis of ‘Ali’s Technique’, we follow the champion’s major bouts and landmark fights in and out of the ring (with specific reference to FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover’s obsessive investigations) and the time when pro civil rights advocates started being assassinated, leading to a quest for ‘Justice’

The increasingly famous fighter becomes a figurehead through the late 1960s and spokesman in the 1970s, all the while combatting other boxers, media persecution and the aging process, before the later years of ‘Freedom’ culminate in 1984’s ‘Diagnosis: Parkinson’s’ and the long, slow unwinnable fight that ultimately claimed his life on June 3rd 2016…

Remarkable and uncompromising – the book, as well as the man – Muhammad Ali celebrates a unique life and unmatchable achievements with compelling effect. Even if you don’t like biographies or sports, this is a story and graphic treat every comics lover will want to see…
Muhammad Ali, Ali the Great © ÉDITIONS DU LOMBARD (DARGUAD- LOMBARD S.A.) 2015 by Amazing Améziane, Sybille Titeux de la Croix. All rights reserved.

750cc Down Lincoln Highway


By Bernard Chambaz & Barroux, translated by Joe Johnson (NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-245-8 (TPB)

For such a young country, there’s an astounding amount of vibrant – almost self-perpetuating – mythology underpinning America. Cowboys, Indians, colonialism, Manifest Destiny, gangsterism, Hollywood, food, Rock ‘n’ Roll and even names and places have permeated the imagination of the world. This last even created its own sub-genre: tales of travel and introspection ranging from Kerouac’s On the Road to Thelma and Louise via almost half the “Buddy movies” ever made.

Somehow, these stories always seem to particularly resonate with non-Americans. Scottish, French and Italian consumers are especially partial to westerns and Belgians adore period gangster and tales set in the golden age of Los Angeles. I must admit that during my own times stateside there was always a little corner of my head that ticked off places I’d seen or heard of in film, TV or comics (Mann(Grauman)’s Chinese Theatre, Central Park, Daly Plaza, Empire State Building) or uniquely American moments and activities (pretzel cart, bag of potato chips bigger than my head, bar fight) as I experienced them myself. That’s the true magic of modern legends.

It’s also the theme driving this beautiful travelogue depicting life imitating art…

Available in oversized (288 x 214 mm) paperback and digital formats, 750cc Down Lincoln Highway reveals how a French competitor in the New York Marathon takes a cathartic life detour after getting a “Dear John” text from his apparently no-longer significant other an hour before the start.

Understandably deflated, he hits a bar, discovers bourbon and strikes up a conversation with one of life’s great survivors…

Ed’s barfly philosophy hits home – as does his description and potted history of the Lincoln Highway – and before long our narrator has hired a motorbike and decided to cross the USA down the historic route from East Coast to West…

Rendered in a dreamy, contemplative wash of greytones, his ride becomes a shopping list of transitory experiences confirming – and occasionally debunking – the fictive America inside his head and his preconceptions of the people who live there.

Putting concrete sounds, tastes, sights and smells to such exotic ports of call as Weehawken, Princeton, Trenton, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Pittsburgh, Zulu, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Dekalb, Mississippi, Central City, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Eureka, Reno, Lake Tahoe, Berkeley and so many other places before reaching the highway’s end at Poteau Terminus, the rider regains his life’s equilibrium and gets on with the rest of his life, happy that the trip and the anonymous people he met have rewarded him with perspective and fresh hope…

Backed up by an extensive map of the trip and garnished with suitable quotes from Abraham Lincoln, this is quite literally all about the journey, not the destination…

Written by award-winning novelist, poet and historian Bernard Chambaz (L’Arbre de vies, Kinopanorama), this beguiling excursion is realised by multimedia artist and illustrator Barroux (Where’s the Elephant?, In the Mouth of the Wolf) and serves as a potent reminder of the power names and supposition can exert on our collective unconsciousness.

It’s also a superbly engaging, warmly inviting graphic meander to a mutual destination no armchair traveller should miss.
750cc Down Lincoln Highway is published on February 17th 2020 and is available for pre-order now. For more information and other great reads go to NBM Publishing at nbmpub.com

Horizontal Collaboration


By Navie & Carole Maurel, translated by Margaret Morrison (Korero Press)
ISBN: 978-1-91274-001-7

World War II – with its world-shaking reordering of society and all the consequent, still-felt repercussions – is very much in people’s minds at the moment and I’d like to offer up this new translated European tale as a counterpoint to the commemorative bombast, and the much-delayed honours finally being paid to the ever-dwindling last of “The Few”.

At least now, as well as the valiant men, we’re finally acknowledging the commonly disregarded contributions of women also caught up in the conflict, not to mention the unsung heroes of all nations who were drawn into the horror.

This particular hardcover, however, is not about heroes. Horizontal Collaboration deals with people: civilians and fugitives, women and invading occupiers: the ones who are seldom celebrated but who also confronted the triumph of global darkness, all in their own small, unnoticed ways…

France fell to the Germans in 1940. The country was occupied and partitioned on June 22nd, with the Germans holding the industrial north and central regions whilst Marshal Philippe Pétain’s puppet protectorate Régime de Vichy was allowed to govern the south and pacified colonies such as Algeria. When the nation was liberated in September 1944, a vicious wave of retaliation began against those who cooperated with the conquerors in ways great and small.

A sordid time of scores settled (real, imagined or fabricated) and cruel abuses almost arbitrarily inflicted on guilty and innocent alike plagued France for years afterwards. The most telling indignities were perpetrated upon women – wives, mothers, sisters or strangers – accused of fraternising with or giving comfort to the enemy.

Such liaisons were called “Collaboration Horizontale” and even the most nebulous or unfounded accusation of such betrayals carried a heavy and immediate price…

Just about now, a grandmother listens to her granddaughter unload about her current amour and her mind drifts back to the war and a secret she has never shared with anyone…

In 1942, a large apartment house on Passage de la Bonne-Graine is filled with families, all dealing with the German conquerors in their own way. Despite the change in their fortunes, they have not found any way to overcome the petty grudges and ingrained social difficulties that kept them at odds with each other even before war broke out…

Surly aged crone Madame Flament is rude to everybody, and spends all her time complaining or disappearing into the cellars to feed her cats. What secret is she really hiding?

Old Camille is deemed the man of the house, but he is gentle, ineffectual and blind; blithely letting life go on around him and apparently noticing nothing. His wife is the building’s concierge. Brusque matron Martine Andrée is a snooping busybody loudly championing decency and family values, but her home life is nothing to envy and her sharp tongue scores points off family, friends and foes indiscriminately.

She despises the younger women and their families in the building, especially pretty Joséphine Borgeon who makes ends meet through her theatre act. Everybody knows what she really does to survive…

Also viewed with suspicion is young mother Rose. Her husband Raymond has been taken away to work for the Nazis, so his friend and neighbour Leon – a gendarme – has been keeping a “friendly” eye on her, even though his own pregnant wife Judith keeps clumsily falling and hurting herself and surely needs proper supervision…

Strangely boyish artist Simone keeps to herself as much as she can and – originally – there was also a Jewess called Sarah Ansburg and her son Anaël. They somehow disappeared before the Germans could find them. That must be the reason Abwehr intelligence officer Mark Dinklebauer spends so much time in the building. It couldn’t possibly be that he has fallen in love with one of the occupants, or that this most forbidden of passions is dangerously, illegally reciprocated, can it?

Crafted with deft incisiveness by media writer and historian (Mademoiselle) Navie and rendered in a beguiling style (powerfully reminiscent of Will Eisner in his later years) by seasoned illustrator and author Carole Maurel (Luisa: Now & Then, Waves, L’apocalypse selon Magda), this is a meditative and uncompromising glance at ordinary lives under relentless pressure: an ensemble piece of human drama that takes as its heart and centre point an unlikely flowering of true but doomed love…

Moving, beguiling and evocatively rewarding, Horizontal Collaboration is a beautiful tragedy and potent reminder that love takes no prisoners while enslaving all it touches.
© Editions Delcourt – 2017. All rights reserved.

Horizontal Collaboration will be released on 18th June 2019 and is available for pre-order now.