While I'm here, I meet with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, whom I've known a couple of years. He started off as a comics writer, on the magazine PILOTE, and briefly worked in editorial on L'ECHO DES SAVANES before becoming one of the founders of the legendary METAL HURLANT, the seminal French anthology that significantly changed the course of European comics. From there, he became involved with film as a producer and writer, and with TV as a pundit and presenter. A series of French Asian-film DVDs bears his name as curator. He knows everybody. Next week he's off to New York to see Martin Scorsese, and the week after that he's in Japan to see Takashi Miike. He never seems to stop. He puts me on the phone with the head of Humanoids, the company that METAL HURLANT became, while chugging Coca-Cola and stabbing his Palm to death, every second of his life seemingly listed in there.
And Dionnet said this; When he was first reading comics, there was a wall between readers and the creators, that doesn't exist now. Creators weren't always credited on the page. They had to find signatures and study pages. He didn't know he could write comics. It took an artist to grab him and say to him, you will write comics now. He didn't get that other people, real people, got to do this thing.
And, like anyone with the passion, it turned out he could. (He worked with serious people, too: Tardi, Druillet, Bilal.) But that's the big change between then and now. Now we know these are people, and that literally anyone can have a go at making comics.
As you flick through Artbomb, reading the biographies supplied by the creators who support the site, bear that in mind. As bleak as the graphic novel medium can seem sometimes, these are not the dark ages. And that they're not is entirely down to people like Jean-Pierre Dionnet; the generation that saw the potential of the medium and wanted it bigger and better.
Note: METAL HURLANT has recently been relaunched, having ceased initial publication in 1987, in a more comics-shop friendly format. It is not to be mistaken for HEAVY METAL, which began as a magazine-size American version of METAL HURLANT. HEAVY METAL is probably better value for money, tends to reprint an entire self-contained album in each issue and has a more dramatic presence, but comes off as publisher Kevin Eastman's hobby, and creatively has been pretty dead. METAL HURLANT is the more beautifully-produced package, but is smaller and, in these early issues, feels a little light on content and less sure of itself. That said, one's obviously on the way up and one's obviously on the way down, if you get what I mean.
In this general theme; yes, yes, minicomics next, I have hundreds of the bastards here.