Back in December I was thrilled to discover that Nicolas Devil’s large-format psychedelic/erotic comic book, Saga de Xam, had been scanned and uploaded to Scribd. The book was published by Éric Losfeld in 1967 in an edition of 5000 which quickly sold out, and has remained out of print ever since. Losfeld died in 1979 but it was always his intention that the book would remain scarce (although a second edition did appear after his death) with the result that copies today command high prices.
Six of the seven chapters had been uploaded to Scribd in December but the seventh and final episode of the time-travelling Saga’s adventures was frustratingly absent. So I’m pleased to report that the final chapter is now available for reading or downloading, prompted in part by the interest my earlier post generated. The seventh chapter sees Saga arrive in the present day (ie: 1967) where she encounters more human conflict in the form of the US military and marauding Hells Angels. The chapter ends with several Exquisite Corpse pages which had Philippe Druillet among their contributors; it was the appearance of three of these pages in the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival catalogue in 2010 that first brought the book to my attention. The very end of the book has a key to the alphabets used on some of the pages. I’d love to see Fantagraphics reprint this volume in a translated edition but those alphabets would create some difficulties. For the moment the PDFs at Scribd are the only place you can read this unique publication.
Continue reading “Saga de Xam revisited”
Saga de Xam, a large-format comic book published by Éric Losfeld in 1967, is another example of French erotic psychedelia that remained off my radar until I got my hands on the exhibition catalogue for the Musée d’Orsay’s Art Nouveau Revival show in 2010. The glorious drawing below was used as the background for the exhibition poster, and appeared inside the catalogue with two more pages from this rare and sought-after book, described in the catalogue as “the best and most precocious example of French BD directly inspired by American psychedelia”.
Éric Losfeld is a fascinating character, a kind of pop-culture equivalent of Maurice Girodias, the founder of Olympia Press. Both men published erotic novels, and both had problems with the authorities as a result; but Losfeld also found a niche in art and graphics, producing albums of erotic comic strips—Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella, Guy Peellaert’s Jodelle and Pravda, Guido Crepax’s Valentina, Philippe Caza’s Kris Kool—and lavish portfolios from the weirder end of the erotic art spectrum, showcasing work by Raymond Bertrand, Jean-Marie Poumeyrol and others. It’s common for Brits to consider France a more enlightened nation where sex and comic-art is concerned but in the 1960s comics in France were considered an unsuitable medium for sexual material. Many of Losfeld’s comic-books of the late 60s and early 70s endured the kind of censure that was occurring in Britain and elsewhere. An early non-erotic title was Lone Sloane: Mystère des Abîmes in 1966, the first Lone Sloane story by Philippe Druillet. This no doubt explains Druillet’s involvement with Saga de Xam a year later.
Saga de Xam: les créateurs.
The comics by Forest, Peellaert and Crepax all featured attractive (often naked) woman as their lead characters. Saga de Xam continued the trend, a story in seven chapters that reads like an amalgam of all the comics Losfeld had published up to that point, Druillet included. The book is credited to Nicolas Devil, and based on a scenario by film director Jean Rollin. (Druillet would later design some posters for Rollin’s vampire films.) Devil, aka Nicolas Deville, was one of Rollin’s art directors who also worked for a time as a comic artist and illustrator. For Saga de Xam Devil was the principal artist in the first six chapters, and wrote most of the text and dialogue. In the final chapter other hands are involved: Jim Tiroff, an actor from Julian Beck’s Living Theatre, provided a poem in English, while the artwork is an unusual exercise in the Surrealist “Exquisite Corpse” technique with Devil, Druillet and several other artists—Barbara Girard, Merri, Nicolas Kapnist—collaborating on a series of improvised splash pages. The final chapter also features arrangements of text that resemble layouts from avant-garde art magazines. Druillet’s contributions are easy to identify since they resemble invasions from his Lone Sloane series, even including references to the Necronomicon.
Continue reading “Saga de Xam by Nicolas Devil”
Catalogue for Art Nouveau Revival 1900 . 1933 . 1966 . 1974. Peacock feather not included.
Regular readers may recall my mention of the Musée d’Orsay exhibition Art Nouveau Revival which was launched late last year. I didn’t get to see the exhibition, unfortunately, but this week I finally ordered a copy of the catalogue, an expensive cloth-bound volume with essays (in French) by Philippe Thiébaut, Stephen Calloway, Irene de Guttry, Thierry Taittinger and Philippe Thieryre. Despite the ruinous postal charges incurred by the book’s weight this was worth every euro, it being the kind of polymorphous production which in solipsistic moments one can choose to believe was created solely for your own benefit.
Aubrey again, album covers from 1974.
Much of the subject matter has been explored here in various small ways, with the curators following the influence of Art Nouveau through Surrealism (mainly Dalí) to the psychedelic art of the 1960s and on into the Pop Nouveau (for want of a better term) which flourished in the first half of the 1970s. Among the familiar Aubrey Beardsley graphics and psychedelic posters there are also some pleasantly surprising inclusions, including illustrations by Philippe Jullian (yes, I’m still intending on writing about him at some point), yet more Beardsley album covers, film posters, and even some of the sillier films of the late-60s such as Casino Royale. Being a French exhibition there’s a section devoted to comic strips which includes work by Moebius, Philippe Druillet and Guido Crepax.
Sex and LSD, a spread from Playboy, 1967.
It’s common to see parallels drawn between the 1890s and the 1960s but the strange blooms of vulgarised fin de siècle style which burgeoned in the wake of psychedelia are seldom given much attention. One of the great things about this catalogue is the amount of ephemera the curators chose to include such as magazine ads and trend-chasing album sleeves. It was precisely this blend of 1890s + 1960s + 1970s I sought to capture in my recent cover for Dodgem Logic. As I said, it’s an expensive book but for anyone drawn to this aesthetic hothouse it’s also an essential purchase. Art Nouveau Revival can be ordered direct from the museum shop. Further samples follow.
Continue reading “The Art Nouveau dance goes on forever”