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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Du Tac au Tac: Druillet, Hogarth and Buscema

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I thought I was done with Druillet for this week but no, there’s more. I hadn’t come across Du Tac au Tac before, a French TV show from the early 70s in which three (sometimes four) different comic artists are given a total of 15 minutes to improvise a drawing on a single board. The list of contributors is a who’s who of comic talent from France, Belgium, America and elsewhere. French TV site Ina.fr (which is pay-to-view) has 130 episodes in their archive, many of which have found their way onto YouTube. Druillet was a regular contributor, as was Moebius.

I’ve singled out this episode from 1972 for the astonishing conjunction of Druillet with Burne Hogarth, two artists with a considerable influence on my own comics work. Without the example of Heavy Metal magazine in general, and Druillet in particular, I might not have bothered trying to adapt Lovecraft’s stories into comics in the 1980s; at one point I was prepared to put together a book of stories-plus-illustrations along the lines of Berni Wrightson’s Frankenstein. Burne Hogarth, meanwhile, casts a Tarzan-shaped shadow over the darker shadows of the Reverbstorm series, his work being quoted throughout, especially in the appropriation of the bizarre and sinister Ononoes from the Tarzan Sunday strips. The third artist present, John Buscema, is notable if only for representing the comics creation that I like the least: the over-muscled, flat-groined, stupidly-costumed, always-fighting, corporate superhero. As it is, Buscema doesn’t fare too well in this exchange, sketching a half-hearted Silver Surfer while Hogarth (who was left-handed; don’t think I knew that) draws a profile of Tarzan in pastels, and Druillet works furiously with markers to create a typical melange of bat-winged demon, alien glyph and screaming head. I’ve not watched any of the other episodes yet but for those interested there are two channels of the things here and here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Sorcerer: Druillet and Friedkin
Ô Sidarta: a film about Philippe Druillet
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Philippe Druillet album covers
Druillet’s vampires
Salammbô illustrated
Druillet meets Hodgson

 


Sorcerer: Druillet and Friedkin

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Earlier this week I finally got my hands on the recent Blu-ray reissue of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977). Having only ever seen the film on the travesty of a DVD that appeared in 1998 I’m going to enjoy watching this at the weekend. Brits ought to know that (for now) the only edition available seems to be the US version although it is region-free, and if you buy from a UK film dealer on eBay you won’t get hit with import duties.

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Sorcerer designs by Philippe Druillet.

By coincidence, Sorcerer has a minor connection with Philippe Druillet, although his contribution was so minimal that there’s not even a mention of his name on the obsessively detailed Sorcerer film blog. If you’ve seen the film (or Henri-George Clouzot’s equally good earlier version, Wages of Fear), or even read George Arnaud’s novel, you’ll know that the crucial part of the story concerns a potentially suicidal expedition by four men in two trucks, each of which are carrying crates of nitroglycerine through hazardous terrain to the site of an oil-well fire. Friedkin and writer Walon Green expand the story without aping any of Clouzot’s set-pieces (something few directors today would resist), while Friedkin adds some details of his own, notably in the design of the trucks which have distinct “faces” and their own names—”Lazaro” and “Sorcerer”—hence the film’s title which also nods misleadingly to The Exorcist. The truck design was Druillet’s contribution although there’s very little of this apparent on-screen, understandably so when his sketches show fantastic designs that would have no place in the dishevelled jungle town where much of the film takes place. Later sketches by production designer John Box can be found at Wikipedia.

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Sorcerer designs by Philippe Druillet.

What interests me most about this connection is its being another example of the surreptitious influence of French comics on American cinema during the 70s and 80s. Moebius is the most obvious example of this but it’s also there in the influence of Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal on the look of Blade Runner, and in Enki Bilal’s design of Molasar in Michael Mann’s The Keep. Since the 1980s we’ve seen a greater industrialisation of conceptual art for the cinema, as a result of which directors are less inclined to look outside Hollywood for their stylists. And now that the treadmill of superhero franchises is grinding away relentlessly, Continental comics and their creators are even less visible than before.

Probably the oddest thing about the Sorcerer/Druillet connection is that the commercial failure of the film in 1977 has often been laid at the door of Star Wars, the advent of George Lucas’s dismal saga being regarded, with some justification, as the opening of the gate to the barbarian hordes. (Friedkin’s film might also have fared better had it not been titled as though it were an Exorcist sequel.) The irony here is that George Lucas happened to be a big Druillet enthusiast, although there’s little evidence of this in his films; in addition to writing an appreciation for Les Univers de Druillet in 2003, he also commissioned Druillet to create a one-off piece of Star Wars art in the late 70s. Knowing this it’s tempting to imagine Lucas creating a very different kind of science-fiction film in 1977, one with some Continental weirdness at its core. But when the world has already been deprived of Jodorowsky’s Dune it’s best not to dwell too much on might-have-beens.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ô Sidarta: a film about Philippe Druillet
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Philippe Druillet album covers
Druillet’s vampires
Salammbô illustrated
Druillet meets Hodgson

 


Ô Sidarta: a film about Philippe Druillet

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“Qualité très médiocre,” says the uploader of this 10-minute film by Michel Jakar about French comic artist Phillipe Druillet but that’s okay with me when we’re given an opportunity to see Druillet at work in 1974. (Ô Sidarta, as Druillet-heads will tell you, is the name of Lone Sloane’s spaceship.) Jakar captured the saturnine artist on 35mm (!), accompanied by a buzzing electronic score from Alain Pierre; the drawing we see Druillet creating was later used on a poster when the film was being shown around festivals. Cut into the shots of the artist at work are pages and panels from the Lone Sloane story, Délirius (1973), and a later album, Yragaël (1974). Most fascinating for me was seeing Druillet flinging the ink and paint around at speed. This makes sense given the huge volume of pages he was producing in the 1970s, all of them crawling with detail and shading, but it’s still good to have suspicions confirmed.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles
Heavy Metal, October 1979: the Lovecraft special
Philippe Druillet album covers
Druillet’s vampires
Salammbô illustrated
Druillet meets Hodgson

 


Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles

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UK publisher Titan Books announced earlier this year that they’d be reprinting the first volume of Glénat’s excellent comic-strip adaptation of Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels in an English edition, a book that should be out in September. This was a surprise to me when I’ve complained for years that Titan seldom showed any interest at all in Continental comics, despite France and Belgium being over-burdened by world-class creators. I’ve been surprised again this week by the news that Titan will also be reprinting the English edition of Philippe Druillet’s The Six Journeys of Lone Sloane in March next year. Druillet’s books have been unavailable in English editions for decades so this is good news indeed, even if the attention is scandalously late.

As I noted in the post about Glénat’s Elric, Druillet illustrated Moorcock’s albino anti-hero in 1973. The artist is better known for his Lovecraftian depictions, however, even when—as in the adventures of Lone Sloane—the story could easily sustain itself without all those sinister temples, fish people, Cyclopean architecture and the menace of nameless gods. The Lovecraft influence, which can be found in some of his earliest illustrations, comes to the fore in Lovecraft: Démons et Merveilles, an HP Lovecraft story collection published in an expensive limited edition by Éditions Opta/André Sauret in 1976. Druillet provided ten colour illustrations plus a design for the boards. Some of these illustrations have since been used on paperback editions of Lovecraft in France, although many of them crop the artwork. Tentacles have become a perennial cliché in Lovecraftian art (I should know, I’ve drawn enough of them) so it’s worth noting how few there are in Druillet’s drawings.

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No tears for the creatures of the night

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No Tears (1978): A song and 12″ EP by Tuxedomoon. Sleeve design by Winston Tong.

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• An artwork from 2005 by Will Munro.

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• A make-up portfolio from 2012 by Belinda Betz. Photographer : Erwin Tirta. Model : Jesy Love. Make-Up Artist (Special Effects) : Belinda Betz.

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• A badge design at Zazzle.

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A Pinterest page. Tags: dracula, isabelle adjani, vampires, werewolves, witchcraft, francisco goya, edward gorey, joanna lumley.

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• A club night in St Gallen, Switzerland.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Blaine L. Reininger: An American Friend
Tuxedomoon: some queer connections
Made To Measure
Subterranean Modern: The Residents, Chrome, MX-80 Sound and Tuxedomoon
Tuxedomoon on La Edad de Oro, 1983
Tuxedomoon designs by Patrick Roques
Pink Narcissus: James Bidgood and Tuxedomoon

 


 




 

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The Crackdown by Cabaret Voltaire