CATS IN COMICS: Cohl

It’s been a long time between bowls of milk and fishes on plates in this series of mini-profiles of cat characters I have enjoyed in comics! And as a departure in this post I focus on a feline character of my own creation, Cohl, from the comic Blotting Paper: The Recollected Graphical Impressions Of Doctor Comics.  Cohl is a cat of French origin who loves to read comics and to draw, especially with pen and ink on quality art paper. Although he favours bande dessinée, the Euro-Comics, and more Marcinelle than Bruxelle School, he has been prepared to read some manga and is beginning to find it quite appealing. Mon Dieu!

BlotPaperCats-01360

First appearance of Cohl, the cat at the back, in black-© 2012 Michael Hill

Cohl#3:96

Cohl likes to read comics-© 2013 Michael Hill

Cohl#4:96

He also likes to draw-© 2013 Michael Hill

Cohl#5:96

He is capable of concocting a cunning business plan-© 2014 Michael Hill

Cohl#6:96

After a brush with Modernism in Berlin he begins to organise his own life better-© 2015 Michael Hill

Cohl#9:96

He enjoys riding his Ghost bike through Tiergarten, really, really fast yet trying not to give his syrah too much bottle shock-© 2016 Michael Hill

Cohl#7:96

Spending many relaxing and uninterrupted days reading comics in his little flat and planning to create his own graphic novel-© 2016 Michael Hill

Cohl#8:96

And dreaming of how life could be if it would-© 2016 Michael Hill

Read all the CATS IN COMICS posts:  Busch   Cohl    Doraemon    Krazy Kat    The Rabbi’s Cat  plus Cohl’s adventures in the Blotting Paper Production Reports:  Issue #1: No.1   No.2   No.3   No.4   No.5   No.6   No.7   No.8   No.9   No.10   No.11   No.12   No.13   Issue #2: No.14   No.15   No.16   No.17   No.18   No.19   No.20   No.21   No.22   No.23   No.24   No.25   No.26   No.27   No.28   No.29   Issue #3: No.30   No.31   No.32   No.33   No.34   No.35   No.36   Issue #4: No.37   No.38   No.39   No.40   No.41   No.42   No.43   No.44   Issue #5: No.45   No.46   No.47   No.48

 

COFFEE TABLE eighth fix

Continuing with my plan to profile a comics coffee table art book every month or so and make a scene of it, this time round it’s a tip of the hat to Hergé and his creation Tintin. This post is new. There are links to the older ones at the end. I have assembled collected editions of the complete set of albums in the reduced size format, a copy of the Tintin magazine Le Journal Des Jeunes De 7 A 77 Ans, some scholarly works, items of clothing and accessories, a DVD set and a previously published, related bande dessinée franco-belge exhibition review.

Tintin stuff (Art direction and photography-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Tintin stuff (Art direction and photography-© 2013 Louise Graber)

Tintin magazine, No. 467, October 1957.

Tintin magazine, No. 467, October 1957.

The Benoît Peeters study of Tintin and Hergé.

The Benoît Peeters study of Tintin and Hergé.

The Michael Farr Tintin companion book

The Michael Farr Tintin companion book.

The Adventures of Tintin in albums, as the French call them, totalling 24 in all including the unfinished final one, were executed in the attractive ligne clair or clear line drawing style that was developed by Hergé and his colleague and collaborator Edgar Pierre Jacobs. I never read these as a child. I was given comic books by Carl Barks and Hank Ketcham then and didn’t get to Tintin till my late-adolescence and early adulthood and only briefly at that.  It wasn’t until the English translations had been published that they began to appear. They were the first comics I found in libraries. Librarians seemed to like acquiring them. I suspected the fact that they came in hardcovers and not the soft, pamphlet form of US comics made them seem more like books and right for library collections. And groups of boys tended to monopolise the borrowing of them to the extent that it was really difficult to find them on the shelves. Re-reading the Tintin comics now with their beautiful colour and the drawing, the adventures in unfamiliar geography, the abusive babble from Haddock and the amusement provided by the surprising amount of slapstick I am taken back to boyhood whilst my appreciation of bande dessinée and the Ninth Art is extended.

A volume of the collected works in the reduced size format.

A volume of the collected works in the reduced size format.

Another Tintin study book-this one by Harry Thompson (no relation).

Another Tintin study book-this one by Harry Thompson (no relation to the twins).

Comic Strip, Passion’s Trip exhibition, Sydney, Alliance Francais de Sydney November 18-December 20, 2002, review by Michael Hill, first published in International Journal of Comic Art, Vol.5 No.1 Spring/Summer 2003

The “Tintin” Qantas Flight 714 finally touched down in Sydney in November 2002. Originally carrying Tintin and his associates to a scientific symposium in Sydney in the Herge comic Flight 714 to Sydney (1968) his party left the plane in Jakarta and went off on a private jet and another adventure. Now, 34 years later, Tintin, in the shape of a cargo of beer, chocolates and comics, three of Belgium’s significant export commodities, as well as members of the Royal family and an exhibition of French language Belgian comics titled Comic Strip, Passion’s Trip has arrived.

For a country that exports considerable quantities of comics (65% of publication exports) and which refers to comics as the Ninth Art and so has a museum devoted to comics, it was no surprise that the exhibition was opened by members of the Belgian monarchy, Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde, giving the exercise the Royal seal of approval. The exhibition formed part of an economic mission organised by the Wallonia-Brussels Sydney Trade Office. 300 different titles in French plus a further 70 in English were shipped to Sydney and put on sale in Dymocks, one of the city’s larger bookshops, creating a mini-venue for Euro comics to compete with the growing presence in the local retail market of Japanese manga and Hong Kong comics.

The exhibition was staged at Alliance Francais de Sydney, a combination gallery, café and French language teaching centre. It was a noisey location next to a city bus stop but this was a bonus for waiting passengers as they could admire the window display of merchandise and old comics and the staged acrobatics of a large model of the André Franquin character Marsupilami. The exhibition had undergone a serious design process by the curator Jean-Marie Derscheid and had a multi-strand focus: the exhibition of actual comic books, original art and rough process art, a display revealing the workings of the artist’s studio, a child’s bedroom decorated with comics merchandise and videos, and a gigantic mock-up comic book album, 82cm (heigth) x 56 cm (width), beautifully bound and designed, contextualising Belgium comics and featuring brief biographies and examples of the work of 20 significant artists: Didier Comes, André Franquin, Greg, Hergé, Hermann Huppen, Edgar Pierre Jacobs, Jijie, Lambil, Raymond Macherot, Morris, Peyo, Francois Schuiten, Jean-Claude Servais, Tibet, Maurice Tillieux, Tome and Janry, Will, and Yslaire. References were made to Spirou magazine and to two emergent schools of comics: the Brussels School and the Marcinelle School.

The bed in the child’s room had a Tintin doona cover and bed sheets, a Gaston Lagaffe reading lamp, a Marsupilami alarm clock, various posters and a cupboard containing Lucky Luke figurines. Surprisingly there was not a Smurf in sight. The room also had a small television and vcr with a collection of Belgian animated cartoon series. Amusingly, by the end of the opening night, the child’s room was littered with empty beer bottles from the large crowd viewing the exhibition, giving the installation a bizarre visual association between beer and comics in the nursery. The child’s room, the mock-up of the studio and the giant book brought to the exhibition features not available in the normal process of reading the comic books.

Another section of the exhibition consisted of individual displays of the work of particular artists. These included examples of original artwork and a copy of the comic album that was accessible for visitors to read (some appeared quite soiled near the end of the exhibition) and collaborative partnerships including Hermann, Geerts, Midam, Yslaire, Morris, Jacobs, Herge, Francois and Luc Schuiten, Francqu and Van Hamme, Dufaux and Marini, Lambil, Marc Bnoyninx, Tome and Janry, Constant and Vandamme

Upstairs in a small seminar room there was a mock-up called  ‘the artist’s studio.’ Large blow-up photographs on the walls showed the interiors of various comic book creators’ work spaces although these were not identified. A working drawing table had been set up with pencils and other equipment, again more of a generic than specific representation, and there was a video corner screening a documentary on one of the featured artists, Frank, at work on illustrations for the comic book about Australia which had been scheduled to be released for the exhibition. His watercolour sketches of Australian animals were impressive. In the current ‘making of’ climate being reinforced by DVDs of particular films, this part of the exhibition seemed timely.

Although there was no exhibition catalogue a special edition comic book The Source by Frank was specially commissioned and published for the exhibition. Set in Australia, even though the creator had never been there prior to the exhibition (Frank came to Sydney for the opening) his story was based in the desert and although his use of colour was accurate some of his content was neither sensitive nor politically correct. Based on an attempt to move what he insensitively refers to as Ayers Rock, a giant natural rock formation now known as Uluru having reverted to the control of the indigenous owners several years ago and consequently treated as a sacred place, Frank plays with Aboriginal art and icons, a practice which local artists respect as the cultural domain of the indigenous people. Conscious of the lack of local knowledge perhaps, and in tongue-in-cheek fashion, the exhibition points to “our delightfully cliched images of Australia: kangaroos, boomerangs, mythical Aborigines and smouldering red deserts.”

But this exhibition was about culture in any case: the culture of a country where comics have been elevated to the level of art, are treasured, and are collected by libraries and museums; and a culture where comic books are also treated as consumables, collected, handled, read, and integrated into everyday life as objects of desire.

The exhibition brochure with Illustration by Frank.

The exhibition brochure with illustration by Frank.

CupofCoffee-1RRead the coffee table entries:  COFFEE TABLE first fix(Day of the Dead/Halloween comics)    COFFEE TABLE fourth fix(Football comics)    COFFEE TABLE eighth fix(Hergé and Tintin)   COFFEE TABLE tenth fix(Shigeru Mizuki). There is also my review of an art exhibition by Nick Stathopoulos that features portraits of Tintin: DOMO ARIGATO MR.ROBOTO: Toy Porn 2 Review and my profile of Joann Sfar’s bande dessinée The Rabbi’s Cat.

 

CATS IN COMICS: The Rabbi’s Cat

This cat can talk! The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar.

This is a wonderful talking cat from Algeria that lives with a rabbi and occasionally visits Paris. One day it ate the rabbi’s parrot and in so doing, gained the gift of speech. Being a smart cat it denied eating the bird and instead demanded conversion to Judaism. The design of the cat appears loose and improvised. Whilst it is rather thin and scrawny in physique it is big in terms of personality, intelligence and cheek. This richness of character and determination affords the cat the capability of comprehending foreign languages(he speaks Arabic, French, Latino and a bit of Spanish) and of learning the Torah. The rabbi’s cat is a marvellous, witty and charming cat that pleases itself, as cats do. It has appeared in several comics and most recently in an animated feature film of the same name and is the creation of the very talented Joann Sfar, a jury prize winner at Angoulême for The Rabbi’s Cat graphic novel. The cat likes to hang out with the rabbi’s daughter and snuggle up close to her. It even tells her that it loves her. She tells it to shut up as she prefers it when it’s quiet or not around. It’s also inconvenient for both of them when her boyfriend visits. The cat loves a bit of a scratch, preferably on the ear by a female foot with painted toenails. Resilient, resourceful, stubborn, smart, curious and decidedly nocturnal, this cat is difficult to ignore.

This cat considers taking up painting to impress his love.

The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat Du Rabbin) film is a charming animated adaption of the graphic novels by Joann Sfar who also co-directed the film thus ensuring an authentic visual adaption of the bande dessinee. I saw the film at the 2012 French Film Festival in Sydney and I have been reading the graphic novels for a couple of years. You can watch the trailer of the film here. Sfar is a prolific and award winning comics creator with awesome talent who is now transferring his talents to filmmaking. Sfar had previously directed the highly stylised live-action film Gainsbourg (vie héroïque) of the life of the famous 1960’s French pop singer Gainsbourg (that’s Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte’s dad). The film won the French Oscar, César Award, for Best First Film. The Rabbi’s Cat (Le Chat Du Rabbin) film also won a César for Best Animated Feature and the similar prize at the 2011 Annecy International Animated Film Festival. It is a traveller’s tale in more ways than one dealing with the cat’s progress from ordinary cat to talking cat having swallowed a parrot, its enforced separation from its beloved mistress, the rabbi’s daughter, and its struggles with the rabbi in its attempts to convert to the Jewish religion. Then there is the overland journey in an antique Citroën half-track, all terrain vehicle from France to Africa with the rabbi, a Russian artist and others in search of African Jews in Ethiopia. The film is ambitious covering material from three of the graphic novels although some characters and sequences have been altered or omitted. Its visual design has also been modified into a more simplified cartoon look suitable for animation production from Sfar’s sumptious illustrative style but the images remain rich and varied. It contains plenty of satire including a few barbs aimed at Tintin and his dog Snowy whom the travellers meet in Africa and whom the cat finds somewhat obnoxious.

Poster of the film.

Poster of the film.

For a more formal analysis of The Rabbi’s Cat graphic novel see my post Gridlocking Joann Sfar’s Talking Cat on The Comics Grid. You can also watch an extract from a new documentary by Sam Ball called Joann Sfar Draws From Memory that shows Sfar cheerfully drawing in a restaurant with his pen and water-colours whilst dining and commenting on his cross-cultural background and port city upbringing.

Read all the CATS IN COMICS posts:  Busch   Cohl    Doraemon    Krazy Kat    The Rabbi’s Cat

 

Doctor Comictopus alias for Michael Hill Ph.D (a.k.a. Doctor Comics) designed by Michelle Park.

Doctor Comictopus alias for Michael Hill Ph.D (a.k.a. Doctor Comics) designed by Michelle Park.