Masters of the Ninth Art by Matthew Screech

Masters of the Ninth Art
by Matthew Screech
Liverpool University Press, 2005

An academic study of important bande dessinée artists and writers, ranging from those unknown outside France to the internationally famous, such as Tintin’s Herge and Asterix’s Goscinny and Uderzo (who I met briefly when I was about nine). The introduction notes that the description “ninth art” is rarely used outside France and Belgium and you can see why, it’s just as pretentious as slapping together three issues of a comic book and calling it a “graphic novel”. The Asterix and Tintin books most of us devoured in our youth are technically known as albums, which sounds much better. I’d love to draw a bande dessinée one day, but although it’s a more accurate term for “big comic book” than “graphic novel”, it’s even more pretentious by virtue of being in French. It’s sometimes abbreviated to “BD”, but that sounds more like a specific sexual act than a work of comic literature.

Anyway, it’s an interesting book, profiling many artists who have been famous in France for decades but are only just now being translated into English. Annoyingly, for those of us outside Liverpool University who don’t parler Francaise, none of the artist/writer quotations are translated, and I can just tell those guys have something to say.


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