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May
29
2017

London: 40 Years of 2000 AD Exhibit/Paris: Les Super Héros

Over the past spring break, my family and I took a trip to London and then to Paris. Since it was our family vacation I mostly managed to kept my comics-centric interests in check during the trip, but I couldn’t help but make a couple of detours to check out comics-related things. So, here are a few thoughts:

London:

Our visit to London overlapped with the tail end of the Future Shock: 40 Years of 2000 AD exhibit at the Cartoon Museum. I would never have known about London’s Cartoon Museum if I’d not been specifically searching for comics exhibitions pre-London visit. And that’s too bad, because the museum itself is great and this particular exhibit was truly amazing.

The museum is, though, definitely off the beaten path. You really have to be aware of the place’s existence and be actively seeking it out in order to find it. It’s at 35 Little Russell St, Bloomsbury, London, which is a narrow street that tees into a pedestrians-only throughway, so it’s not somewhere you’d likely just happen upon.

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The exhibit itself was great, though. As an American growing up in the ’80s, my exposure to 2000 AD was mostly through the Eagle Comics reprints of Judge Dredd and other 2000 AD stories. The USA-specific Brian Bolland covers of those Eagle reprints made me a fan for life of his work and it was a real treat to see some Bolland originals at the exhibit. I’ve also always been a huge fan of Carlos Ezquerra, who remains to this day my favorite Dredd artist, and there was plenty of Ezquerra on display as well.

Backing up, though… here’s what the general layout of the exhibit looked like:

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In addition to the copious amounts of original art on the walls, there were a few odds and ends like this case full of 2000 AD issues:

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BUT, back to that copious original art! I took a handful of pictures of the artwork before I saw a sign admonishing people not to take pictures of anything other than the general layout of exhibits. But, at that point I’d already snapped a bunch of pictures–and, hey, I figure I’m safe from Comics Museum Interpol now that I’m back in the People’s Republic of Trumpistan. So, here’re a few pics I took. First, a bunch of amazing art by Massimo Belardinelli, Gary Leach, and Dave Gibbons:

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Check out this fantastic McMahon Scorched Earth spread… and to the right of it some original Carlos Ezquerra Stainless Steel Rat pages:

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Second only to Ezquerra in my book is Brian Bolland, He would eventually pretty much retire from doing interior pages at all, so it was especially great to see a bunch of his Dredd pages on display here–alas, though, not the one featuring the most iconic Dredd image of all, Bolland’s “Gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel.

Seeing Bolland inking up close is pretty stunning. It’s not surprising that he’d eventually focus solely on covers, given the amount of time it must take to crank out pages like this.

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It was interesting that pretty much all the artwork had balloons/lettering added on vellum, as you can see in that top close-up. The artwork beneath shows through, but I guess that’s something that wouldn’t pick up in a photostat? There were tons and tons more 2000 AD art on display–all sectioned by character–but I stopped taking pictures when I realized it wasn’t allowed.

The Cartoon Museum also has an upstairs gallery that houses what I’m assuming are pieces from its permanent collection. I visited literally just an hour or so before I had to catch the train to Paris, so I only did a quick walk-around, but here’s the general layout:

IMG_20170411_110936Among the pieces up there was the original cover painting for the V for Vendetta collection. You can also spot here a Miracleman cover and a Kevin O’Neill LOEG page. Bonus points for the Rupert in the stairwell!

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The exhibit overall was really, really amazing and I feel really lucky to have been (completely coincidentally) in London when it was going on. Bonus: I bought some Moomin greeting cards at the museum gift shop:

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One final London note. While touring the city via bus, I noted this storefront with some sort of Beano display. I have no idea what this is, but wish I’d had time to investigate.

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Paris:

I was a little surprised that there wasn’t much going on in Paris as far a comics exhibitions go while we were there. Before leaving, I did though turn up this Joann Sfar show at the Dalí museum. Here’s a big ad for the same show I spotted at several Paris Metro stations:

IMG_20170411_195027If we’d had an extra day, I’d probably have gone to it, but from what I read in advance it didn’t seem like there would be much actual original comics art there, so I didn’t prioritize it. Before I move on to the one comics thing I did get to, I’ve got to throw out this one generally art-related anecdote:

While in Marais we decided to wander into a department store, Le BHV, just for fun. We mostly looked at clothes and toys, but out of the corner of my eye I spotted an arts and crafts section. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the art supplies they had on-hand. BHV seemed like a higher-end department store–maybe equivalent to something like Bloomingdale’s here–but the arts and crafts section (do U.S. department stores even carry art supplies?) was better than 90% of the dedicated art supply stores I’ve been into in the U.S. This is maybe a third of the section:

IMG_20170412_122719 IMG_20170412_122726 IMG_20170412_122741 IMG_20170412_122818On to comics, though! I’d gotten some great recommendations from a Parisian friend for comics shops to visit. The one he recommended near Notre Dame, Un Regard Moderne, had odd hours and didn’t open until the afternoon, so sadly we missed it. He also, though, highly recommended Les Super Héros, which was near the Pompidou Center, which we were visiting anyway. And it is an amazing store. Here’re a few pictures that say more about the place than I could:

I wish I’d had had room for more books in my luggage (Delta lost our luggage at Heathrow, we bought more clothes, luggage found/returned, had to haul new & old clothes back, etc.) but sadly I bought just three books: a recent Winshluss book, a limited edition black and white edition of the new Christophe Blain Gus book, and a Toppi reissue.

Winshluss’s Pinocchio from a few years was one of my favorite books of that year (2011?). The art in Smart Monkey is quite different from that in Pinocchio, however. Most noticeably, it’s all black and white (which is unusual for French comics in general). The first three quarters or so of the story is wordless, with dialog only in the epilogue. It comes with a small minicomic which reprints a short story featuring the same monkey character which appeared in a Top Shelf collection a while back.

The Blain book is a limited black and white edition of the newest Gus book, Happy Clem, the fourth in the series. The Toppi book is Momotaro, an adventure set in medieval Japan. Boom has been publishing some English translations of Sergio Toppi books here in the U.S., but I don’t think this is one of them. I can’t read Italian at all (Toppi’s native tongue) but I can kinda muddle through French, so this is better than nothing!

A week is hardly enough time to take in amazing cities like London and Paris, so I hope to return soon to one or both of them–and when I do, I’ll surely be able to spend more time exploring each city’s comics culture. Maybe I’ll even make it to Angoulême eventually…

 

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