Joe McCulloch weighs in on SF at TCJ

Joe McCulloch, the editor of The Comics Journal and a long-time champion of Chantal Montellier’s work, has published an extremely smart piece about her that I urge everyone to read. Here’s a taste:

For these three albums, all of them SF, the idea is to observe the broken pieces of the state of the future, and to discern, perhaps, some means of aggravating the cracks in it. Montellier’s “dirty future” is not just dirty, it is barely functional. Authority figures constantly make mistakes. Automated systems are filled with blind spots. This is to say, the “dirty future” aesthetic is employed by Montellier to a specific political end. The dystopia in Social Fiction droops from the loosening tape that holds it together, yet people still comply. Like most Métal hurlant contributors, Montellier lived through 1968, but unlike nearly all of them, she worked extensively in radical leftist venues prior to her narrative strip work; the sigh behind her pestilent societies is that of faded promise.

It’s not the first time McCulloch has written about Montellier: way back in 2012, he wrote a long, astonishingly sharp analysis of Montellier’s illustrations for Franz Kafka’s The Trial: A Graphic Novel (text by David Zane Mairowitz). Until yesterday, that had been Montellier’s only book-length work available in English. I learned a lot from that piece, and a few years later, in 2015, in response to Dan Mazur’s terrific overview of Montellier’s work, McCulloch wrote about her again. Here’s the first sentence:

If I had to name the European cartoonist I’d most like to see translated by an adventurous comics publisher à la New York Review Comics, it would be Chantal Montellier — one of the most accomplished and individual artists present for the rapid maturation of French comics in the 1970s.

Finally, in 2017, he wrote a fascinating piece about Montellier’s 20-page comic about Marie Curie (contained in Marie Curie: The Radium Fairy, translated into English by Lara Vergnaud), in which he laments that “for now these biographical projects seem to be the only avenue by which Montellier is allowed into English.” Later in the piece he reiterates his belief that “Montellier deserves a much larger translation push.” It has taken a while, but I hope that’s happening now.