Mickey in France – Part 1: Cafe Zombo by Loisel
Glénat, French publisher of bande dessinée (comic books) has recently partnered with Disney to license French language comics featuring Mickey Mouse and friends. In a three part series, we will take a look at three of the artists and their work.
French comic book artist Regis Loisel, working with Disney and the French Comics publisher Glenat, has produced a most interesting comic book inspired by Floyd Gottfredson’s work in the late 20’s and early 30’s.
The following is from a Glénat interview with Loisel, translated by our friends at Google Translate (My notes in red):
How was this project born?
It’s simple. Between authors, with our publishers, we often talk about our memories, what brought us to comics. Me, it was the universe of Disney, Mickey and Donald that I saw in the cartoons and in the albums (Franco-Belgian Comics, called bande dessinée, are often also called albums) that I bought when I was a child. One day, Jacques Glénat (The Publisher) , who had just obtained the rights for the Disney license, remembered it and offered to make my own Mickey album. The occasion was too beautiful! I was delighted to learn that there were other authors at the time, that a collection of Mickey lovers was forming. I was in a thousand places to imagine that Cosey was, like me, an absolute fan of the old Mickey of the 1930s!
Why have you plunged the characters of Disney in a period as dark as the Great Depression?
Because I wanted to find the atmosphere of old palisades (Perhaps this should be bungalows?), these wooden houses, the bucolic and rural scenery that we already see in Magasin Général. It also allowed me to talk about themes related to the 1930s: expropriation, unemployment, the domination of the powerful over the people, robotization – which I have transformed here into “zombification” – of the workforce … Problems that are still relevant. Without going to the pamphlet (Perhaps he means “without getting too preachy”), I found it interesting to confront Mickey with these political and social realities, which correspond to the “graphic” period of the character that interests me most.
Why choose the horizontal format, “Italian”?
Again, to pay tribute to the era and precursor that was the comic strip – to whom the comic strip owes its name of “band” (as in bande dessinée, or strip?). “It was exciting to find a dynamic in the constraints of this format, where you can not really play on the size of the boxes. Limited to four or five images maximum, each strip, taken separately, must tell something. It does not mean that there is a gag every time, but there must be events, that the reader be surprised non-stop. And we must come to think horizontally. The characters can move slightly up and down, making waves, but the movement is formed in the essential from left to right. This makes the narration simpler and more effective, more attractive. I really loved working that way.
Unlike Gottfredson’s minimalism, you feel a real concern for detail in the sets. Was it a deliberate bias?
It’s true, Gottfredson’s sets are very minimalist – which had been suggested to him by Disney, to go to the basics. Looking back, I realize that, too, I could have done simpler. But the idea was not to copy and paste Gottfredson either. So I had a lot of fun in framing and staging. It was indeed a bias. It had to move, that the reader always had something to put under the eye. Let him want to see behind this little barrier or these pines in the background … This feeling that we have when we look at the old cartoons. And it’s also very natural at home. If one looks at my previous albums, General Store or Peter Pan for example, one realizes that the narration often passes through a very nourished decor. This is not to say that I will put it everywhere and no matter how, but I try to create lines of force with the scenery.
How did you graphically fit (deal with?) the characters?
Very quickly, because I was fed (influenced?) by that. As I said earlier, when I was a kid, my models were Mickey and Donald, but also Krazy Cat or Bugs Bunny … I often do scribbling animal characters. It is a mechanic of drawing that I know well because I practiced it enormously – one of my first albums, Norbert the lizard, is besides (also) in this vein – and it is a universe in which I n ‘ Have no trouble returning. The challenge then is to arrive at drawing these characters in the continuity of a cartoon, and put them in a situation …
The world of Mickey obeying a specific “charter”, were you confronted with constraints when making your album?
I actually thought that I was going to be subjected to a form of censorship but apart from some words of the vocabulary like “moron” that had to be replaced by “imbecile” or “idiot”, I did not have to complain. Obviously, I had to remove all the cigars from Pat Hibulaire or Rock Füller, the kind of big crooked hippopotamus in my history. But I wanted absolutely that it corresponded to this caricature of the time, that of the banker ventripotent who is rigged behind his desk with his cigar. So I made him chew a big sausage, and the image works. Except that he also has no right to eat meat, so it is a vegetarian sausage. Even if it is not seen at first, it is spinach and zucchini that there is in it!
Writing a Mickey story today, what does this mean to you?
It is a dream, an act of love. I always wanted to do that. And even if I prefer Donald’s universe* far, Mickey is the character that interests me the most, graphically. But not just any Mickey: the one from the early 1930s, until 1935-36 say. To make him discover Horace, his early companion, was also a way for me to rediscover this black and white and roundness, in the continuity of Felix the cat, who lived in his first stories, where there was a kind of naivety Formidable (?). To be honest, it had been a long time since I had taken such pleasure in drawing and I sincerely hope that this collection will continue. I find it amazing to see Disney cohabiting with universes of authors like those of Keramidas, Trondheim, Tebo, Cosey … who, like me, were all lulled by the adventures of Mickey.
* It should be noted that Donald Duck, through the comics of Carl Barks, has been extremely popular in many European countries for generations.