Tuesday 8 April 2014

They've got an awful lot of comics in Colomiers

They've got an awful lot of comics in Colomiers. And, by extension, I can only assume all over France.

Here you see me in the Bandes Dessinees section of Pavillon Blanc Mediatheque Centre D'Art in Colomiers, which is a small town outside Toulouse where I'm spending the week teaching comics. In this photo I happen to be looking at shelves of mostly American comics, translated into French, but just out of shot are another ten bookcases like this - half a floor of the building in effect - crammed full of comic books, graphic novels, bandes dessinees and manga. Mostly French in origin, there is so much of it I really had not quite realised how much there is, and how much people obviously genuinely read.

It makes one sigh with disappointment that, back home, the constant conclusion people seem to come to is that comics have lost the battle against games, TV, ipads and books without pictures (the biggest comic publishing company in the UK now refers to one of its biggest selling comics as a "picture-book series" and has to seek out "new licensing partners" to create "fresh narratives" for their "brands", rather than publish actual comics). Well not in France they don't.

That said, today I've been teaching in the International School of Toulouse where, to be honest, nobody is actually French and therefore they're largely unaware of the comics culture that surrounds them. On the plus side, they are the only people in France who've heard of The Beano, which is good news for me, but not as big a cultural achievement as we might like.

So, comics are big in France, they give half a floor of a shiny new arts centre over to them, and it's another example of a success story we should always be trying to emulate back home if we possibly can. I'm doing my small bit. Here, look at me girning in front of a flipchart with Asterix and a bit of French on it. Allons, allez maintenant.

Kev F Sutherland runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He's been writing and drawing comics for 25 years, he must know something.

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