Michel's new Paul Book at TCAF

“Paul is back with new Job” / Tandem News / Chris Twomey / July 1, 2003

The new graphic literature for adults is the focus of the first annual Toronto Comic Arts Festival being held this Saturday, March 29th at Trinity St. Pauls. Among the guest artists and publishers exhibiting their work will be a rising star from Quebec, Michel Rabagliati, who will be launching his new book influenced by the best of European funnies.
Rabagliati's Paul Has A Summer Job is the sequel to his award-winning debut, Paul In The Country, which won him Best New Talent of 2000 from the prestigious American comics industry prize, the Harvey Award (named for important cartoonist and Mad magazine founder Harvey Kurtzman). However Rabagliati's economically drawn stories about the coming-of-age of a Quebec teenager in the 1970's, owe more to the "bandes dessinees" adventures of Tintin and Asterix he read as a kid than to American style comics.
"Well, here in Montreal, we read only comic albums from France and Belgium, like Tintin, Gaston, Spirou and all that. I didn't even know that the superheroes existed except for Batman on the television. I must say I was really into Tintin from my early years and I'm still reading it. I'm finding it still pretty pertinent. It's like a free school - all you have to do is read Tintin and you almost know how to do comics."
The clean style of European comics popularized by the Belgian artist who created Tintin, Herge (Georges Remi, 1907-83), was called the "clear line" school, distinguished by an essential black line shaping characters rather than the more classical figures of 19th century illustration. Rabagliati's retro work has been compared to the simpler style (like Tintin, Paul has dots for eyes!) but has more of the sketched quality of the art of Madeline creator Ludwig Bemelmans (an Austrian who emigrated to the US - 1898-1962). A graphic artist since 1981, Rabagliati found he had a Tintin-instilled instinct for storytelling when he began cartooning seriously in the 1990's.
"In the storytelling language I am not bad, because I had that in my head from all the masters' work I read by Herge and Franquin and all those guys. In 1993 I started illustrating but with the computer. So that is the reason I don't have a really adult style for the moment. Actually I've been drawing (by hand) for five years only. So for me I'm a beginner in comics! Usually I make illustrations for magazines and logos for advertising and they are pretty different from my comics. People don't recognize my style in those projects - they don't have any black lines."
When he was approached by the young Canadian publisher Drawn & Quaterly to design logos for their first anthology, Rabagliati discovered this new world of independent comics that told personal stories on autobiographical themes. It was the inspiration he needed to begin creating the sweet stories about the culture-specific life of his alter ego, Paul.
"For me it is the easiest way to work. I tried to make some fictional characters in the '80's but it didn't drive me at all so I quit. In fact it was all those new authors at D&Q that gave me the kick to do it, like Chester Brown (Yummy Fur) and Seth (Palookaville). My books are 90 percent autobiographical with 10 percent fiction, because you have to make a good story with the material."
The Toronto Comic Arts festival will be held Saturday March 29, 2003 at Trinity St. Paul's (427 Bloor Street West, just west of Spadina). The day-long event will feature exhibit booths, live painting demonstrations and artist signings. Guests include professional artists Chester Brown, David Mack, Seth, Jose Villarubia and Darwyn Cooke (who was key in relaunching DC Comic's Catwoman on the eve of a new Hollywood franchise for the character).


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