McKinney, Mark: The Colonial Heritage of French Comics. (Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 17.) Liverpool: Liverpool Univ. Press, 2011. (270 S.)
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|Resource type: Book
ID no. (ISBN etc.): 9781846316425
BibTeX citation key: McKinney2011
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Keywords: Belgium, Ethnicity, France, Postcolonialism
Publisher: Liverpool Univ. Press (Liverpool)
Although France has changed much in recent decades, colonial-era imagery continues to circulate widely in comics, in part because the colonial archives are easily accessible, and through the republication of colonial-era comics that are viewed as classics, such as Hergé’s Tintin series and Alain Saint-Ogan’s Zig and Puce series. This new study situates comics in debates about French colonialism, arguing that cartoonists now use representations of colonial history in their comics as a way of intervening in discussions about contemporary France and its relationships to colonial history and its former colonies.
An introductory chapter uses the notion of inheritance to read the colonial dimension of comics such as Hergé’s classic Tintin books Le secret de la Licorne and Le trésor de Rackham le rouge (cf. the upcoming Spielberg movie based largely on these two books and on Le crabe aux pinces d’or). The study then focuses on the colonial heritage of French comics in three areas.
First, the work analyzes the prevalence of imperial and colonial themes throughout the multi-volume Zig and Puce series by French cartoonist Alain Saint-Ogan (1895–1974), who was a major inspiration for Hergé (the Belgian cartoonist copied many elements from Zig and Puce into the Tintin series). The chapter explores how and why the entire Zig and Puce series was republished twice during the 1980s and 1990s, and interrogates the canonization of Saint-Ogan as a founding father of French comics.
The volume then analyzes, in chapters 2 and 3, the depiction of several French colonial exhibitions and related events in comics published from 1867 through 2009, beginning with the Exposition universelle of 1867 and concentrating especially on the Exposition coloniale internationale of 1931. The study compares colonial and post-colonial representations in comics, which offer many perspectives, ranging from laudatory to highly critical. The dozens of comics analyzed include episodes in Zig and Puce and in Louis Forton’s Pieds nickelés that were serialized while the 1931 Exposition was in progress, but also recent comics by cartoonists of Pied-Noir, Vietnamese, Algerian, Caldoche or ethnic majority French background. The study also investigates reactions by comic-strip artists, both in 1931 and recently, to the counter-exhibition put on by the Surrealists and the Communists.
Comic-strip representations of trans-African expeditions, especially Citroën's Croisière noire (1924–5), are the subject of chapter 4. The colonial-era comics studied again include Zig and Puce and the Pieds nickelés, but also Hergé's Tintin au Congo, as well as Le mariage de Monsieur Lakonik, by Jean Bruller (a.k.a. Vercors). The chapter also analyzes post-colonial returns in comics to colonial trans-African expeditions. Some are imbued with nostalgia, including for the erotic Black Venus figure, whereas others (or sometimes even the same works) critique aspects of colonial ideology: for example, Jérusalem d’Afrique, volume 5 of Joann Sfar’s “Le chat du rabbin” series, which includes a parody of Tintin au Congo.
The short concluding chapter examines a post-colonial shift in representations in comics that is especially striking in some works by cartoonists whose ancestors were colonized by the French. The colonial heritage of comics can be both a burden for them and an opportunity to publicly reflect on the past and its meaning for the present.
The appendices provide a handy overview of the comics and the people, places and events that are represented in them.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: the colonial heritage of French comics
1. Colonialism, imperialism and racism in Saint-Ogan's publications
2. French colonial exhibitions in comics
3. Colonial exhibitions in French comics: A renewed tradition
4. French trans-African expeditions in comics
Conclusion: the rotting corpse of colonial representation and its eerie aura
Appendix 1: Colonialism and imperialism in Alain Saint-Ogan's Zig et Puce series
Appendix 2: French colonial exhibitions in comics
Appendix 3: French trans-African expeditions in comics
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