Page 45 Review by Stephen
"YOU BURNED MY MUM?"
"It-it was an accident! She-she was phosphorescent!"
Astutely observed and phenomenally funny, expect much self-mockery!
You may be wondering how the above could possibly form part of these autobiographical entries from Boulet's online blog, and I'm half-tempted to leave you guessing. However, the incensed is Jesus, for the incinerated is the Holy Virgin Mary - or at least a statuette of the same which glowed in the dark, was tipped into a bin and thence onto a garden bonfire.
Talk about childhood trauma!
If I were to summarise the whole it would be in two lines after Boulet's successive string of humiliations after posing naked for a life-sized portrait for fellow Fine Art student Wilfried in Dijon, when he thinks his embarrassment is finally at an end.
"BUT: Destiny is the cruel cowboy, and you are the naive Mexican."
He's finally set free only for Fate, from afar, to take aim with all time in world and shoot him in the back.
It's this sort of lateral thinking which typifies the daily reports or reveries here which can fly off into all sorts of visual fancy, and it's exactly this sort of toe-curling "There but for the grace of God go I" which you can relish in the privacy of your own home while chuckling in the knowledge that Paris-based Boulet found it within himself to publish them on the worldwide web first.
The stories in this volume in a vast variety of full-colour treatments are from 2004 to 2005, interspersed with black and white postscripts or analyses adding further embellishments, retrospective context and balms to avoid potential litigation or diffuse angry feedback. How could you possibly be irate with someone so charming?
Incidentally these crisply delineated and comparatively svelte inserts make a feature of Boulet's strikingly carrot-coloured mop of hair, turning it into an instantly recognisable trademark. If he used the same process as the blog entries then they too were drawn straight onto paper in ink - no pencils - which give them both eras' pages a vibrancy which immediately put me in mind of Dan Berry, his THROW AWAY YOUR KEYS in particular.
Other comparison points for the general tone include the more episodic recollections from Eddie Campbell's ALEC; Pascal Girard (REUNION, PETTY THEFT), Joe Decie (THE LISTENING AGENT etc), Liz Prince (ALONE FOREVER et al) with more than a hint of Jeffrey Brown's cartooning shorthand (FUNNY MISSHAPEN BODY) behind these sleek, graceful lines.
Basically this: you're going to be entertained.
Deadlines and money matters are a constant concern here, as they are to so many overworked and financially under-rewarded comicbook creators, and there are two early Man Versus Machine anecdotes which once more made me think of dear Eddie Campbell in - amongst so many other instances - THE FATE OF THE ARTIST.
The first involves Boulet's battle with computers which as we all know have a habit of dying on us just when we need them the most. It is then that we need computer experts the most, and find ourselves at the mercy of rapacious corporations and their jobs-worth employees. You better pray you didn't bully those nerds back at school. But Boulet is resourceful and Boulet is resilient. He is tenacious. Also: smug at the counter in sunglasses.
Not so smug or adept is he when it comes to Man Versus Multi-Carriage Machines which should transport you, hitch-free, to your Swiss Comics Festival... so long as you catch them before they set off. Unfortunately Boulet like Campbell is one of the world's worst travellers, neither adept at catching trains or planes in time. Fail and - although we tend to revere the SNCF from this side of the Channel - it appears to be open-upgrade-surcharge-season and complications like you wouldn't believe.
Both sets of battles will be revisited many times over, but also the opportunities to make us thoroughly jealous during Festivals in both Switzerland and Korea - specifically Seoul which is six times the size of Paris (who knew?) and where absolutely everything appears to be "an hour away by bus". In spite of the buckets of booze, Boulet manages to comport himself much better there, is swooned over by teenage school children and delights in accumulating the most highbrow and classy cultural artefacts that the country has to offer. Possibly. In fact much of the comic relief in both Sienne and Sierre comes from his constant companion at comicbook festivals, the seemingly shameless Reno, fearlessly navigating foreign territory - no matter how drunk - populated by his fellow Festival-going and most esteemed creators, on occasion at night in nothing more than his Speedos.
More seriously, we tend to assume in England and American that everything is all love and light when it comes to BD in France, individualistic creators receiving both the recognition and the consequent rewards they so justly deserve, but there is a truly upsetting account of one year at Angoulême where the more serious and significant signals are drowned out by the crass noise of L5 promoting their godawful comicbook, their queue obliterating cartoonist Juju from view. With Boulet in anthropomorphic mode, this isn't the end of such similar travesties where fame triumphs over talent. It is to weep.
What else is on offer? Post-Festival come-downs, late-night parties, flat-sharing, cookery, Christmas lights, the curiously conductive properties of Cambert, demonstrations, a little score-settling and a missed opportunity on Valentine's day which ticked a recognition box for me also - in Paris too!
'How To Avoid Having Sex' comes with a killer phone-centric punchline you might want to take note of lest you be caught out as well, while you may more happily connect with the French maestro rediscovering his childhood in the form of classic Amstrad games, Jet Set Willy, Pyjamarama, Fruity Frank and Boulderdash.
Throughout Boulet experiments both in terms of narrative and style, and there's a double-page spread of 'Grimaces' with more rounded forms and expressions which put me in mind of animator Nick Park.
To say that the man's body-conscious would be misleading - he's more body-comfortable - and there's an anti-Charles-Atlas advert promoting a less threatening physique and a cuddlier tum which had me giggling away. But he's certainly in complete command of the human form, presenting page after page of beautiful, beautiful figure drawing with limbs that flap, flop and hang just-so, articulating in all the right directions, at all the right angles.
Come December this will still rank as one of my favourite books of the year for sheer expressive exuberance as Boulet battles through whatever life throws at him, tears of frustration, terror, self-pity or exhaustion never far from his eyes, cheeks or brow.
Top tip: should you ever want to terrify him at a signing - simply say with a French accent, and preferably while his head's down in concentration - "Pour Louis..."
That should do it.
Top tip two: Boulet is a Patron of The Lakes International Comic Art Festival which takes place every year during October in Kendal. At some point or another he'll be signing. Do not say I sent you.