26 November 2020
Returned the Jacques Tardi Céline to the library this week, but not before getting some of the illustrations scanned and saved. I would’ve gladly scanned them all if that hadn’t been extravagance. (There are no pages of this several-hundred-page volume without at least one illustration. It’s a lot.) They can’t be rightly appreciated apart from their context in the book they make up, though, in any case. In some sense, for that matter, it’s fair to say, can’t rightly be appreciated by someone who like me cannot read the text.
Tardi is a cartoonist at base, I think it’s important to have in mind, thinking about how this unusual book comes to be thirty-odd years ago (on the cusp of one of the century’s major global inflection points). He’s a cartoonist who obviously isn’t confined by cartooning and comics, but it’s equally plain that he’s happily rooted there, in those forms. That observed, I think it matters a good deal, where this book’s concerned, that it’s one that never at any point feels like comic, ‘graphic novel,’ as a book — in large part because, simply enough, for all its wealth of pictures, its backbone uniformly throughout remains the novel’s straightforwardly typeset text — but one which nevertheless also certainly relies in various ways on what it is that comics, peculiarly, do, maybe most strikingly where it reaches for the cinematographic, something I think Tardi knows you don’t achieve (except in a baldly direct-allusion way, at any rate) by way of the qualities of any image singly but only through images’ relation, composed in a set of pages.
Below, most of the scans I made. (I got a couple of the NSFW illustrations as well — mildly erotic in some cases, grotesque in others, none without strong flavor of the sardonic — that matter to the book, but didn’t seem of any great value to include here.) The full spreads I took in two runs and joined in Photoshop; you can find traces of the joins if you look close. You can click to view larger.