I had a big Jacques Tardi “phase” a while back–and in particular, I was really enamored of the bits and pieces of C’était la Guerre des Tranchées that had appeared in various anthologies up to that point. In fact, the “duotone” style of drawing that I’ve been using in most of my longer work (Farewell, Georgia, Midnight Sun, and Amelia Earhart – This Broad Ocean) is derived directly from my interest at the time in Tardi and the American strip cartoonist Roy Crane, who used duoshade board to get a gray tone effect much like Tardi’s. So I was of course really excited to hear that Fantagraphics was doing a series of translated Tardi books, including C’était la Guerre des Tranchées–now titled It was the War of the Trenches. I’ve had the French Casterman edition for a while, but I got my new Fantagraphics copy last week and just for fun I thought I’d take a look at the two side by side.
The first thing I noticed was the covers, of course. I think on a purely aesthetic level, I prefer the Casterman cover, but after my grousing a week or two back about publishers not keeping their series designs consistent, I’m sure not going to complain about the cover; it looks fantastic next to the other books in the series to-date, West Coast Blues and You are There.
The trim size is somewhat smaller as well. I’m sure there’s some reason for this that probably has to do with the retail book trade in Europe vs. in the U.S., but it’s a not a huge reduction in page size. The French edition is 9 x 12 inches, whereas the Fanta edition is 8 1/4 by 10 3/4. It’s slightly smaller, but thankfully not Gus and his Gang smaller.
Interestingly, the Fanta edition is printed on matte, rather than glossy, paper. I generally prefer matte paper stocks to glossy stocks and this isn’t really a noticeable change here other than the blacks being a little less black, something that just comes with the turf when printing on matte paper as far as I can tell.
My French language skills are barely “caveman level,” so I can’t really make any comment on the translation (and also, I haven’t actually read it yet), but the Tardi font that they’ve made for the book looks fantastic. Here’s a sample where you can see Tardi’s original hand lettering side-by-side with the font used for the Fanta edition. You can also see the size difference between the two editions and even see a bit of the difference between the way the blacks appear in each.
The most curious difference between the two editions is their weight. They’re presumably both the same length as far as page count goes, and they’re just about the same size, but the French edition seems like it weighs a ton compared to the Fanta edition. I put them both on my postal scale and indeed the French edition weighs nearly a half pound more. I guess maybe glossy paper weighs more per-sheet than uncoated matte paper? (You’d think the American would be the one overweight, haw haw haw!)
Anyway, this is a great-looking edition of this book and I’m really looking forward to reading it for the first time complete, in English, start to finish. This Fantagraphics series is maybe the third–or even fourth–time that a U.S. publisher has tried to get Tardi’s work to “stick” with an American audience. I hope they’re successful.