Blutch's "Variations" cover detail

Blutch’s “Variations”

Writer: Blutch
Artist: Blutch
Published by: Dargaud
Original Publication: October 2017
Number of Pages: 64

 

The Set-Up

Blutch redraws a page of Valerian originally drawn by Jean Claude Mezieres

“Variations” is Blutch redrawing classic BD pages by favorite Franco-Belgian artists he grew up reading.

With various degrees of changes, he redraws sample pages from the likes of Crepax, Uderzo, Morris, Manara, Mezieres, Tardi and a couple dozen more.

This is high concept meta ninth art, right here.

The example above is a variation from the ninth volume of “Valerian and Laureline” titled “Chatelet Station, Destination Cassiopeia.”  I have to be honest: It wasn’t my favorite in the series.

 

 

The Book Layout

The book layout for Blutch's Variations is double page spreads all the way down.

It feels like a fancy art book. Each page of art gets a two page spread.  On the left is the name of the book and artist the page comes from. The actual art displays on the right side.  The book does not include the original art page.  I’m sure that would have been a rights issue.

All artwork is presented in black and white.  This is a pure pen-and-brush-and-ink exercise.

The book has a two page introduction written by Blutch explaining not only what the book is, but why the book is.  Why does this book exist?

For classic BD connoisseurs, you likely don’t need to ask that question, but Blutch’s introduction is entertaining and well written.

 

How Did I Read It?

There is no English translation of this book, and I doubt there will be.  Most of the material presented in this book isn’t even translated into English yet.  It seems silly to publish this book right now.

That said, EuropeComics.com is kind enough to print a translated edition of Blutch’s introduction on its website.  As a bonus, they also present three Before and After pages, from series you’re likely to know about if you’ve read this site at all this year: “Lucky Luke,” “Bluecoats,” and “Valerian and Laureline.” Yes, I directly recognized two of those pages.  The “Lucky Luke” one is particularly close to the original, while the other two wander off, not just in panel count, but also in angles.

You can read these pages from a variety of angles.  How does Blutch’s style adapt to the characters known so well from their original artist’s eye?  How has storytelling changed over the years?  This newly drawn page may not be better, but does it feel more modern next to the original page, which is often a half century old? Does, indeed, Blutch improve upon any of these pages?

Many better questions we’re never going to know the answer to.  Specifically, what did Blutch learn from this exercise?  Did he learn any storytelling tricks?  Has his style changes from the process of drawing characters from such diverse artistic styles?

There’s a lot to be left up to the reader, if the reader so chooses.  You don’t need to think about all of this, though.  You could just enjoy the book for what it is at first glance: a book of art from a well-known creator doing some exercises in public.  Flip through, enjoy a “Greatest Hits” of sorts, and move onto the next book in your reading stack.

 

Recommended?

Blutch's "Variations" cover

If you’re a long-term reader of BD and are familiar with lots of old Franco-Belgian comics, you’ll either wonder why this book exists, or enjoy it for the new takes on old favorites.

If you’re relatively new to BD, you might just appreciate it for the artistic exercise. I think it’s a great idea and want to try one, myself.

Yeah, it’s probably a little bit self-indulgent, but it’s a fascinating book.

One quick cultural differential warning: Lots of topless women in this book. It’s not that Blutch is adding that. He’s redrawing the pages he’s chosen, but he’s also drawing pages by the likes of Crepax and Manara, so what else would you expect?

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #80.)

 

Buy It Now

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2 Comments

  • constablero November 28, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    so he copies art from other comic-artists? nice exercice.. but a printed book??? i don’t see no value!

    Reply
    • Augie November 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      It’s not a complete copy. He reinterprets some things. It’s kind of like a warm-up exercise to study great artists that created more great art that people like to see. Yeah, it’s not something I’d pay full price for, but it is an interesting thing. I can think of a few other artists I’d enjoy seeing their style applied to something like this, but I’m not holding my breath….

      Reply

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