New to the bookshelf: Capitales Européens en BD

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The French comic book publisher Glénat has just released this new book, Capitales Européens en BD. Celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Rome that created the European Union, it collates a large number of excerpts from recent comic books that are set in European capitals.

Citizens of some of the E.U.’s newer member states might be disappointed not to see their cities represented; the collection omits a few states without explanation. I’m pretty sure that if the editors had looked hard enough, for instance, they could have found small scale local artists depicting Sofia or Ljubljana. Ultimately the collection offers snapshots of Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, Bucarest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Lisbon, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Nicosia, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm, Talinn, Warsaw and Vienna. The emphasis remains largely on the known centres of European comic book publishing, with the largest entries for Brussels, Paris and London. The majority of artists included seem to be of western European origin, a shame considering the potential this book had for showcasing central and eastern European talent that might be unknown to a wider audience more used to the artists and authors included.

Fans of these Franco-Belgian albums will enjoy the collection, but it does unwittingly offer perhaps the strongest argument yet for non-European commentators to fall into the trap of describing a single ‘European’ style of comics illustration. The complex classical architecture of western Europe is beautiful rendered by the precise line drawing of authors such as Tito or Borile, Rivière and Carin. All four seasons of Paris, past, present and future are rendered full of atmosphere and some dark flashes of mystery. Occasional sparks of artisitic independence and brilliance emerge, such as the views of Madrid drawn in striking monochrome by Cava and Bel Barrio.

You can order the book direct from Glénat (€14.99, with prefaces in French, English and German, ISBN: 9782723457842). The caveat I suggest is that you should at least flip through a copy before buying, so as to not be disappointed by what is largely an ‘old-Europe’-centric album. I had naïvely hoped to have seen Slovenian artists included, even if they were young and outside the mainstream of European comics publishing. Is there really not one Hungarian comic book illustrator who could have shown be Budapest?

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    "no words no action" was an experiment in academic blogging. The blog recorded the progress of reading, research and investigations that lead to a Masters in Architecture dissertation at the University of Sheffield in autumn 2007. You can find out more about the author's interest in blogging here.

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