Omigosh, I’m in love. I always loved the inking in French and Belgian comics, but I never spared the time to to really sit down and appreciate it as a resource until now. I first encountered the loveliness as a student on a study abroad trip to Paris in 1997. On the cobble stone hill above Rue de Gobelins heading toward the Seine, there are comic shops with Spirou, a French language comics journal, that featured a Belgian and French world’s “Homer Simpson” known are Gaston le Gaffe. Who predates Homer Simpson by about 20 years, but you get the idea. He’s the French fuck up, but without a hot wife. Actually, Gaston le Gaffe is French’s answer to Jerry Lewis in the sequential art form.
Regardless of the content of the comic, it is beautifully inked and the characters have a flow to their construction that similar to my own. The line action dictates the structure, not the other way around. I dig it.
However, there is a mainstay in French comics that is the preference when you ask a Europen what is the French ( or the whole of Europe as some circles would decree) equivalent of Mickey Mouse. That character is Asterix!
Asterix is a “Belgian school” style comic by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo about a steadfast village in Gaul that refuses to fall to Roman Conquest. It’s a comic version of post-Iron Age history and pokes a great deal of fun at Roman occupation and expansion. Think of it as Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe that centers around the point of view of a single region and it’s two heroes.
The stories are rather pedestrian. They are products of their time, but still charming, so you have to be in the mood to read them. However the ART is something to revisited 100x over! Albert Uderzo’s staging and solid drawings is everything the studios are urging that everyone accomplishes on storyboard tests. Stage at 3/4 and remember that layout is crucial no matter if there IS a layout department overseas. The staging is also tight if not cramped which is something television animation tends to do unless you’re on a Genndy or Crain project. Had I drawn from Asterix as preparation for the Nick tests I took, I probably would’ve passed, for the staging parallels Sherm Cohen’s advice.
The staging is simple, 3/4 two-shots, 3/4 crowd scenes, upshots, down shots and 3/4 close ups. However, it’s the acting makes the comic so endearing and beyond academic. Obelix is so polite that you just want to hug him and you never see Asterix lusting after women or slogging around feeling sorry for himself. Asterix and Obelix solve problems, bring home the elixir and save their villages. There are no bevies of bimbos fawning over them as a night=time reward, no otherwise strong female characters going against character and kissing the hero before God and everybody at the end of the tales. It’s eat, drink and be merry in security of one’s HOME. Home is worth risk and sacrifice. It is food, shelter, and identity. All other rewards fall within it’s realm once it’s won and Asterix and Obelix know it.
Why aren’t there male character like this nowadays? I’ll cite Frank Oz’s answer to the question: “Why aren’t the Muppets the same as they are now before…well, y’know :’-( ”
Frank: Because there are different people.
The current generation in Hollywood consists of and panders to a “Me” generation that expects reward without personal growth: “Why can’t the goofy looking guy get the cute girl? Where’s that story?” Well, dweebs, you got your wish and now there isn’t a story in the industry that doesn’t use that now stock trope, no matter how inappropriate it is to the story. How to Train Your Dragon was a near perfect film—until the girl kissed the protagonist. The hero grew as a person and he wasn’t such a bad underdog to begin with, but that stunt was totally unnecessary. It ruined his character for me. Uniting the world of dragons and humans should’ve been enough for the hero. He didn’t need the promise of a female to conquer every night as well. She would’ve been in his friend throughout life. That’s a given. Why beat it over the audience’s head? Then don’t get me started on characters by Seth Mc Farlane and Matt Groenig. The latter has more integrity. It’s evident in his Life in Hell series, but the former’s past works, is evident that he wouldn’t know how to convey valiance in a character and I fear that more writers like him will be prevalent in the film industry’s future for a long-long time.
Damn postering Patriarchy…
Anyhoo, Asterix is a jewel or a comic. Check it out for yourself. Read it for the art, read it for the characters. After a few volumes, perhaps you’ll be the next generation of industry writers who will learn how to write an imperfect male character who valiant, fun and knows to be sated with true goals in life. The goals with results that benefit others.