Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ancient Moorcock and Druillet Team-Up causes "Girlish Glee" in excitable reviewer, news at six

Okay, lately my inner teenager has been thoroughly indulged. E-mails from Walter Simonson, Michael Moorcock, and Brendan McCarthy. The ongoing mystery of whether or not I just sold comics to Macca on eBay. Now, I've got to admit, if getting an email from an idol is thrilling, then getting a book in the post from one fills you with giggling, girlish glee. I know I'm gushing (and all this unintentional alliteration is giving me actual toothache), but c'mon, I'm stoked - I've loved the work of Moorcock since I came across a copy of Elric at the End Of Time (of all things) as an impressionable thirteen year old. Getting to call him "Mike" still amuses me. Seeing the postie's bemusement at handing over the gigantic flat, thin, airmail package was pretty funny, too.

So, there it was: ELRIC - THE RETURN TO MELNIBONE, by Moorock and Druillet. I had expected the book to be slim (it was originally a portfolio, augmented with further illustrations and text over time), but didn't realise just how damn big it was: it's beyond treasury edition size, heading towards tabloid. The artwork is still stunning: the Kirby influence of Druillet's (pretty much) contemporaneous LONE SLOANE work is unapparent, leaving his native architectural eye. The pace is lanquid, stately, with the absence of any of Lone Sloane's dynamicism. With the visual language of comics all but removed, it reminds one of the alienness of old Japanese prints and the sense of derangement you get when first encountering the book illustrations of Mervyn Peake. It really does cast you adrift in a strange, hostile land.  Before this, the only Druillet work I owned was an old Loane Sloane omnibus published by Dragon's Dream collecting THE SIX JOURNEYS OF and DELIRIOUS, and the last Lone Sloane work, CHAOS, published by Heavy Metal (where his work has became muddy and inconsistent). The guy may have certainly improved as a draftsman later, but the sheer imagination on display in this earlier work cannot be faulted.

Its a shame all of his work isn't in print in English anymore, and I'm tempted to just buy them in french from, but then that's something I say more and more often about the work of Hugo Pratt and Moebius, too. The recent team-up between DC and Les Humanoids seems to be providing definitive back catalogues in English for the works of Enki Bilal and François Schuiten, but man, would I kill for a chance to plug the gaps in my Corto Maltese collection (the NBM and Harvill Press editions are getting to be as rare as hen's teeth).  The anglophone comics industry is, of course, pretty much ruled by the Americans, who love their Japanese manga, yet seem uninterested in the European scene. Any coverage I've read of the recent Angouleme Festival from the U.S. perspective is of the "
ugly American" variety: "hey wow, there's this massive comic book festival you've never heard of, and guess what? Those crazy frogs don't even give a rat's ass about your favourite superheroes!"

I'm exaggerating, but not by that much.

Yet a big hit in the european BD market can sell millions of expensive album format books, whereas a big hit for DC or Marvel these days is to sell a couple of hundred thousand small, relatively cheap monthlies. And I remember 2000AD selling that many copies every week at the end of the 80s, in the UK alone!

There's a lesson in there somewhere, but damned if I can figure it out. Maybe Warren Ellis can.