Tuesday, July 15, 2008

La Bande Dessinée à Rennes

Yesterday I celebrated Bastille Day in the beautiful city of Rennes in Brittany. I had come for an academic conference on Arthuriana, but it didn't start until today, so I spent le quatorze juillet on a stroll around the city with my camera at the ready. Its half-timbered houses are kind of intense:

The concierge at the youth hostel had kindly marked some noteworthy sites on a map for me, so I knew to look out for streets like this one, whose dense crowding, as much as its use of timber, attests to its age:

But—and this I swear—I was not deliberately looking out for this window display, just across the street from the church of St-Sauveur:

Apparently, my comics-store-locating fu is still very much active. Luckily for my wallet and my suitcases, the store was closed for the holiday, though I was tempted by this item:

I was less tempted by these items for sale at a specialty art boutique, although I do enjoy les aventures de Tintin:

The figures in the next window of the store, both Smurfs and Tintin-related, were even less appealing, though I do still own a few Smurfs from my childhood days. But then, my wee plastic Smurfs didn’t cost hundreds of euros:

More appealing—and a hell of a lot more affordable—were the Tintin items available at M’Enfin Librairie, a BD-specific bookstore (which was also, thankfully, shuttered). I’d consider paying 9 euros for a stuffed Milou/Snowy doll:

And I kind of wish the store had been open so I could have sent Isaac one of these Tintin postcards (buddy, you’re getting a card with touristy scenes of Rennes; deal with it):

Of course, if I had managed to get into the store, could I have stopped myself from buying some of these mini-comics, gloriously displayed on a spinner rack?

Among the store’s more expensive merchandise, I was most impressed by this diorama based on the cover to Coke en Stock (The Red Sea Sharks):

Compared with the 250-euro Smurfs, that Tintin set’s a bargain at 49.95 euros. Here’s the original cover (photographed from the postcard), for the sake of comparison:

Another (closed) bookstore showed some of the advantages of buying comics in France as opposed to the States. Not only do they have fresh works by Dupuy & Berberian…

… but they’ve got a jump of several months on us Americans when it comes to Art Spiegelman’s reissued version of Breakdowns (which I’d previously seen in Paris as far back as Purim):

Believe it or not, I passed still another BD-specific bookstore, the aptly named Album/la référence BD:

Here it was the Studio Ghibli merch that tempted me, but again I was spared by the store’s being closed. That also protected me from this intriguing mix of my medieval-literature and modern-comics interests, a BD series based on the Roman de Renart (the medieval “beast epic” whose vulpine protagonist gave his name to the modern French word for fox, renard, replacing the Old French goupil):

(I also included the neighboring comic based on the work of Raymond Queneau, given the influence of his oulipo movement on the oubapo movement that has enriched French comics—of which more in a later post).

At this point, I was quite prepared to see no further evidence of comics in Rennes. But there were to be three more sightings in my first twenty-four hours here. At the restaurant where I ate dinner, one of the dishes on the menu was a fish tartine called “Le Capitaine Haddock” (I didn’t have my camera with me, but take my word for it). And earlier I passed by a gaming store that caters to the D&D crowd but which also had some comics- and horror-nerd items for sale. I thought this pairing of world-destroyers from Lovecraft and Marvel Comics was quite fitting, really:

Incidentally, my sightings today weren’t all comics-related, as I kept my eye out for Arthurian sites and objects, as well; but these little comics-related statues of Tintin and Galactus do remind me of one of the many Arthurian items I spotted—for even the windows of antique stores cater to the doll-collecting nerd, albeit of the Round Table variety:

The most delightful Arthurian and comics-related sightings, however, had to be those toward the end of the afternoon in the rose garden of the enormous Parc du Thabor (which apparently features over 900 types of rose in just one small corner of its grounds). Among the many rose varietals I saw were flowers named for King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Courtoisie. But there was also this flower, which definitely crowns the BD-related features of Rennes:

And with that delightful tribute to the co-creator of Astérix, I bid you adieu for now!


DerikB said...

Woah! A Zazie BD!

Ben Towle said...

If only the stuffed Snowy came with a stuffed liquor bottle...

Janice said...

Les Schtroumpfs! A l'ecole francais 'du gouverneur' il y a eu une equipe qui s'appellait les Schtroumpfs; je me souviens toujours de leur chanson (Nous sommes les Schtroumpfs, OOMPH OOMPH, et nous sommes BLEUS! Nous sommes venus ici pour GAGNER CES JEUX!).

Et je te souhaite un heureux quatorze juillet (un peu en retard, oui, mais quand meme.) Veuille excuser le manque d'accents; je suis bel et bien paresseuse.

Bon(s) voyage(s)!

Mike said...

Thanks, Janice! Your comment reminds me of one of my own childhood summer camp experiences, when I was a camper/student at Duke's TIP Summer Program in 1987 and my residential group was nicknamed the "Smurf cadets." In a sign of things to come, I produced the illustrations for a booklet that depicted all of the members of the group as appropriately-dubbed Smurfs. (The experience was also notable for me as being my first experience with having my pencils inked by someone else, our RA going over the pencils to make sure they'd reproduce well. Suffice it to say that I'd much rather have Isaac ink my pencils.)

I am also reminded of a later summer at TIP, when we fourth-year students had the maturity to mock the first-year students during a camp-wide "Quad Olympics" event by chanting the Smurf theme while the first-years paraded by in their signature blue outfits. I think we got docked some points for poor sportsmanship.